Data to Make Kid’s Sports Fun

How does a father enjoy his child’s athletic career?  Data, of course.

I began using data when my son became deflated after nearly every game.  Being seven, he often saw the battle on the court or field as coming down to a loss.  Then, he’d internalize it.  All losses were his fault, any win due to someone else.  When he played defense, he would moan how he sucked because he hadn’t scored a goal.  Even when there was no score, his focus would find mistakes and ignore the successes.

Then he took on being a soccer goalie.  In his mind, every goal was his fault.  No team.

Now, my son is a passionate kid.  He takes losing seriously, and the car ride home is often long and tense.  After a 0-6 season of futsol (indoor soccer) the previous season, things did not look much better.  In goal, my son got hammered.  But, this year I kept a simple statistic: Goals saved to goals allowed.

That first game: 23:1

Now, I counted a save as any time he put his hands on the ball and it could have gone in.  He did not play the second half, and they lost 0-4.  He was upset.  But, walking to the car, I noted his saves and the ratio.  I also mentioned the other goalie’s ratio: 7:1.  Instantly, he felt better.

The next game he had 84 saves.  They hammered him.  No defense to speak of.  No offense to take the ball past the half.  84 saves.  For 40 minutes he only gave up 3 goals, but from exhaustion and mental fatigue he let in another 5 in the last 10 minutes.  Still, 84.  He could not believe it (nor could I).

I got hooked.  I’m not one to stand on the sideline with a clipboard and get too detailed.  Still, I like to know what’s going on beyond the score.  Many parents have opinions, often biased towards their own kid.  But data tells a story that is more true than not.

For example, this spring my son’s team spent a lot of time on its heels, with the ball on their side of the field and the defense doing all of the work.  I wondered how much.  A simple statistic is how much time the ball spends on each side of the field.  That offers a simple ratio.  The Sunday I did it, it came pretty close to 50%.  That marked a huge improvement over past weeks, and it was good to know it.  This weekend I am going to look at how often offensive players go solo up the field, and how often they pass and use their teammates.

Simple insights appropriate for the age.



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