Published on February 28, 2022 by Morgan Black
Samford junior Austin Streitmatter has always had a love for sports. He played numerous sports growing up in Tampa, Florida, until Thanksgiving Day 2009, when a neurological disorder gripped his body and temporarily halted his playing days.
At 9 years old, Streitmatter was diagnosed with dystonia, a movement disorder which causes muscles in the body to involuntarily contract. Two years later, he underwent an intense brain surgery to control the symptoms of his condition. Through the surgery, known as deep brain stimulation (DBS), electrodes were implanted and connected to a pacemaker-like device. These electrodes send currents to the brain to neutralize the automatic faulty signals and allow voluntary signals to take control.
Of the five institutions in the world that specialize in the treatment of movement disorders of this kind, specifically for pediatric patients, one of them was the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at the University of Florida Health Center in Gainesville, Florida, only 90 minutes from the Streitmatter home. Streitmatter was the 14th patient to undergo this procedure at UF Health.
“When I look at my life, this is the part where I first began to feel God present,” he said.
Ever since undergoing DBS, Streitmatter says that his life has been pretty much normal, and he was even able to return to playing sports a year post surgery. After his recovery, his love for sports grew and his passion for the support side of sports evolved.
“I realized at a young age that preparation off the field is just as important as what happens on the field,” he said. “I became so eager to understand how we can use that preparation to maximize on the field performance.”
Enter Samford University and its Center for Sports Analytics.
During the spring of his senior year of high school, Streitmatter was connected with Professor Darin White, founder and executive director of the center.
He said, “I had a call with Dr. White to learn more about the program which reaffirmed my decision of what I wanted to do for a career and that Samford was the place I needed to be to get there.”
Streitmatter enrolled at Samford in fall 2019. Then, as a sophomore, he declared his double major in marketing and management with concentrations in both sports marketing and data analytics.
Two years later, Samford launched an extensive multidisciplinary program that pairs the latest technology, data analysis and sports medicine to enhance the training regimen of its student-athletes. Project SAMson, as it’s known, harnesses the power of data analytics so that all Samford student-athletes can benefit from enhanced strength and conditioning training, reduced injury risk, advanced injury prediction and treatment, and data-driven return to play protocols. In addition, the program aims to prepare individuals for a career in sports analytics.
“This is awesome, this is what I came here for,” he said when he first learned about Project SAMson.
Through Project SAMson, Streitmatter has worked with Samford strength and conditioning coaches to implement data analysis projects for several teams. His work has led to numerous team and individual student-athlete successes.
For the women’s soccer team, he completed a project that analyzed skill and energy output for the 2021 season which culminated in team analysis prior to the team’s NCAA tournament win over Auburn University. He has developed predictive modeling tests for all Samford student-athlete fitness levels and has analyzed power output for the volleyball team which led to the identification of one player’s unconventional mechanics due to prior injury. With this discovery, he worked with the coaches to develop specific training protocols for her individual rehab and development.
Jonathan Farris, director of Olympic strength and conditioning, said, “Austin has done a tremendous job for strength and conditioning. He has the innate ability to turn complex statistics and simply illustrate them so it is easy to understand. We have benefited from his talents and appreciate his willingness to help our department.”
Matt Mazzei, associate professor of management in Brock School of Business, is Streitmatter’s faculty mentor in the Center for Sports Analytics.
He said, “Austin is the exact type of student we are seeking in our sports analytics curriculum. He has an innate curiosity, an incredible appetite for learning and an extraordinary aptitude for analytics. When an opportunity came open with the launch of Project SAMson, Austin immediately jumped into an integral role and engaged with a passion that was contagious. Over the past year, he has demonstrated strong communication skills while working with Coach Farris and many of the other Samford strength and conditioning coaches. Austin is a natural leader in the group, working with faculty and coaches in brainstorming ideas for new projects and deliberately seeking out opportunities to mentor underclassmen in data analytic and data visualization skills. He has an exceptionally bright future, and we are proud to have him on the Project SAMson team.”
For Streitmatter, playing sports will always be his first love. And now, with the help of Samford’s business programming, and his involvement with the Center for Sports Analytics and Project SAMson, he is on a trajectory that will allow him to truly change the game through his knowledge of the business side of sports.
During summer 2021, Streitmatter completed an internship with Stats Perform, an international sports data and analytics company which provides analysis for use across various sports sectors. During his internship, he created broadcast graphics and analysis for Major League Baseball.
He is on track to graduate in spring 2023. Once a Samford alumnus, Streitmatter looks forward to beginning a career as a sports business analyst which will allow him to utilize data to tell stories and create solutions.
Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 66th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 104th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,683 students from 47 states and 19 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.