Athol Daily News – Google Sheets & Championships: UMass Director of Hockey Analytics Katie Yates has made her mark

At this point, most people know the heroes who won the UMass men’s hockey team’s first national title. Players like Bobby Trivigno, Garrett Wait and Aaron Bohlinger are local legends, as is the man who built the program into the well-oiled machine it is today – head coach Greg Carvel.

But behind the superstars are the support staff who made the title run possible and ensure that success can be sustained after the celebrations are over.

One of those staff members is Katie Yates, the team’s director of analysis for the past two seasons, perhaps the most underrated member of the Minutemen hockey program.

“Sometimes you don’t even know what you don’t know,” Carvel said of Yates’ role. “(After games) she stays up all night, and when I get to the office the next morning, Saturday or Sunday morning, there’s a report and it’s complete and it gives enough information to make it a big difference.”

By the time Yates left UMass, she had two Hockey East championships and a national title to boot, a good measure of the impact she left on the program. Technically, she’s the winningest member of this current team, as she reminded them of after their second straight Hockey East championship last year. Before coming to UMass to work on her dual master’s degrees in business administration and sports management, she won another Hockey East title with the Boston University men’s hockey team, where she also worked in an analytical role.

It’s been a long and uncertain road for Yates, who almost didn’t end up at UMass and didn’t grow up knowing she wanted to work in sports analysis. His journey is far from over, but his time with the Minutemen will define the program for many years to come.

TO GROW

Yates grew up around sports for most of his life. You could say it’s in his blood – his two grandmothers were “the most obsessive Yankees fans”, and Yates and his three older brothers always played different sports growing up. Although she played PeeWee hockey, a future on the ice wasn’t her calling, so she began looking for ways to stay involved behind the scenes.

During her senior undergraduate year, she discovered a direction that interested her while working in a lab focused on sports biomechanics. As a result, she wrote her undergraduate thesis on the biomechanics of a field hockey shot.

“It kind of got me interested in the idea of ​​applying technology to math, science and sports,” Yates explained. “I didn’t really know it was a thing until then. So working in that lab was definitely a big eye-opener, in that it (being) something you could do.

Not done with school yet, Yates started her post-secondary studies at BU, where she took a big chance. She cold-called then-head coach David Quinn and asked if she could carve out a new role for herself as the one-woman analytics department. At the time, analytics was just beginning to gain traction in the hockey world – people were starting to get hired for jobs on NHL teams, but it was still a relatively new field for most.

“It was a huge learning experience because you’re a one-person show and it’s still kind of at the beginning,” Yates said of his time at BU. “Obviously there is a limit to what you can do and spend money on. So it’s kind of like me and my computer and what can we do from there.

“It was a huge learning experience in terms, as well as from a technology perspective,” she continued. “I think the first half of the first season was maybe a Google Sheet where I manually went through and put data in and then it just grew from there.”

CONNECTION WITH CARVEL

After a few years of learning and working with the Terriers, Yates decided it was time for a change. She looked for full-time jobs and applied for other graduate programs, casting a pretty wide net in terms of what her future might look like. She had some promising leads, including a lengthy interview process with another NHL team — then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and that door quickly closed. Disappointed and unsure of her future in sports analysis, she decided to go to Amherst, where she had been accepted into UMass’ Dual MBA Sport Management program.

“I thought about the worst case scenario, it gives me a bit of a platform to be able to get into some aspects of the sports business, even if it doesn’t stay in (the analysis), because I started to get to the point where I was like, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to pull this off,” Yates said. “I’d had a bunch of near misses, so maybe I was ready to go do something else .”

Just like she had at BU, Yates emailed Carvel to see if she could play an analysis role for the team. Carvel called her to talk about it, and by the end of the hour-long conversation, he was completely on board.

“I remember picking up that call and being so excited that he was excited — from day zero he was excited to have me, and that made me excited,” Yates said. “You always want to work harder for people who are like, ‘Yeah, you’re part of the team, we appreciate your input, we really want to do more and better.'”

While still a one-woman team, the experience and support Yates found at UMass allowed him to thrive with the Minutemen. The team-first culture that Carvel and her team had built suited her perfectly, and she found other people excited to work with her, such as the team’s athletic performance coach, Brandon Wickett. Although Yates appeared during the pandemic, making things more difficult, she had a few undergraduates working with her last season. But even with the help, Yates kept working hard.

“She provides those intangibles that I talked about with Bobby (Trivigno) and Colin (Felix) and the others…Katie is really grounded and she’s in the middle of it all,” Carvel said. “(Her integration into the team) was smooth, she’s so professional. It’s always about respect and trust, and she quickly gained everyone’s trust and respect.

FLY HIGH

Although she added value to the program, Yates’ tenure with the Minutemen still had an expiration date—she was going to stay there for two years while she completed her dual masters. So when Carvel saw a job offer for an analyst position with the Philadelphia Flyers, he dropped everything to show it to Yates.

“I kind of told him, ‘Oh, I’m going to go see it, I’m going to check it out,'” Yates said. “And then literally every day for the next week and a half, every time I saw him he was like, ‘Did you apply? He was pushing me on it.

Carvel knows Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher and had contact with the Flyers’ analytics department, but Yates didn’t really need it. She was more than qualified for the job.

“She was a very easy hire from what I was told, and she should be,” Carvel said.

Yates has one foot in both Amherst and Philadelphia at the moment, finishing his studies at UMass while virtually fitting in with the Flyers. With the Minutemen hockey season over, she no longer works for UMass, but has been thrown back into the world of sports analysis with Philadelphia. This time, however, it’s not just her and a Google Sheet.

“I’m like, ‘Wow, I’ve never had to deal with sharing code with other people before,'” Yates said. “It’s really cool to be able to have other people learn from what they’re doing. It’s been a huge learning experience, but I feel like the weirdest part of the transition is realizing, “Whoa, it’s not just about me and my computer anymore.” There are four other people working as well.

As Yates moves into the next chapter of her career with the Flyers, Carvel said she will be dearly missed by her hockey family at UMass. Carvel wasn’t sure what to expect when he first agreed to hire him, but saying ‘yes’ a few years ago turned out to be exactly the right move for the Minutemen.

“We’ve had her for two years and it was going to be how long, good, bad or whatever and, boy, she’s been a lucky charm for us,” Carvel said. “She’s just going to win another (Hockey East) championship and go sunset.”