In recent years, the book (and later, the movie) “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” has transformed Major League Baseball. Michael Lewis’ book showed MLB teams and players how statistics could be used to find success.
The NBA has also looked deeper at stats recently. In addition to the traditional stat sheets that included points, shooting percentage and rebounding, NBA players now know their hustle, box out and defensive stats. The NBA made these stats available last year to show players the importance these categories have on the game.
As data and the analysis of that data is improving, professional athletes are putting more and more emphasis on statistics to improve their games. So what does this mean for youth athletes? How are stats impacting the game for young players, and how are they used?
See below for four ways youth sports clubs can use statistics to benefit players and teams.
Track Athlete Production
Tracking athlete stats can show coaches how kids are actually performing. Sometimes coaches are blinded by how athletes look while they are playing the game. They might look sharp and athletic and have good form, so the coach assumes the player is performing well. But is that athlete really producing? Without looking at statistics the coach has to rely on their perception of the player, which could be skewed.
Take this conversation from the movie version of “Moneyball” between two scouts, Artie and Barry:
Artie: “I like Perez. He’s got a classy swing, it’s a real clean stroke.”
Barry: “He can’t hit the curveball.”
Scout Artie is so in awe of the player’s physical look and swing he didn’t pay attention to his actual stats. Looking at the statistics, a scout would see an athletic player who has the potential to be great, but needs help hitting a curveball.
If the coach doesn’t see the stats then they might not be able to help an athlete improve. Ignoring the numbers can also cause a coach to overlook a player who might not have great form, but is actually producing good statistics. This allows coaches to better instruct individual players knowing exactly what the athletes’ strengths and weaknesses are at any given time.
It also allows coaches to put together better game plans. When determining lineups, coaches can use statistics to have real data in front of them to see how athletes are actually performing.
“Without stats in youth sports, coaches have to rely solely on their perception which can sometimes be skewed. Stats provide the facts.” Click to Tweet!
Motivate Youth Athletes to Work Harder
Some parents will argue that stats shouldn’t be kept on youth players. Why put more pressure on kids while they’re developing skills by tracking their statistics? Why give them one more thing to worry about? But, look at the flip side. Tracking stats allows kids to actually see the improvements they’re making. This can reward youth athletes for working hard, or it can motivate them to practice harder if their numbers aren’t where they want them to be. Coaches can determine how often and in what manner to share statistics with players.
Coaches and leagues should consider giving athletes access to end-of-season stats to help players determine what to work on for next year. Seeing their numbers from the previous season can motivate athletes to work hard over the offseason to improve in specific areas before tryouts.
Stats aren’t the only thing you should be compiling end of season. Learn more about player evaluations here!
Help Determine Rosters
The great thing about statistics is the numbers are black and white. When evaluating players, the stats don’t lie. Statistics can help clubs determine rosters by looking at the concrete numbers. The data can then back up all roster decisions. Showing parents or players an athletes’ stats can help explain why the athlete was placed on a specific team. It also clearly outlines the areas the player should improve on before next year to enhance his or her roster placement.
Determine What Skills Need to be Practiced
Tracking player and team stats can help coaches detect what skills should be worked on during practice. Instead of planning practices around general, overall skills, coaches can pinpoint the exact areas where his or her team needs improvement. Coaches will also know which players have the lowest stats in that particular area, and therefore need the most guidance. This can help coaches and their staffs determine the format for running the drill.
After running the exercises, coaches can then track how well their drills are working by looking at the stats. If the data improves, then the extra practice helped. If the stats are status quo, then the drill needs to be tweaked to be more effective for the players.