Many baseball purists lament that scorekeeping is becoming a lost art. You may see this even at youth baseball games: Parents are hesitant to keep the scorebook, and when they do, the notations they use are hard to decipher or too simplified (e.g., “O” for out).
Tracking stats may not be absolutely necessary for rec sports, but it can be a big help in the long run, both for coaches and players. The kids like seeing their statistics — and many do mentally keep track themselves, no matter how much parents emphasize that the numbers aren’t important — and coaches get a detailed view of what their teams are excelling at and struggling with.
So what’s the issue? Often, the paper-and-pencil format of scorekeeping seems like work. This is where a stat tracker, such as one possibly available with league management software and apps, can help. Instead of trying to remember what number position shortstop is (it’s 6, by the way), a user just taps on that position on a smartphone or tablet to signify the player was involved in the play. And instead of doing math to figure out a shooting percentage, an app computes the numbers; no calculator required. But the benefits of a stat tracker go beyond convenience; here are some ways how:
Cumulative statistics can show what a youth team and its players are doing well. Here’s a real-world example: A 10-year-old baseball player who hadn’t hit the ball all season seemingly was struggling. But his coach looked at the game stats and discovered something surprising — the player had the best on-base percentage on the team and led in steals. He had no luck hitting the ball but only swung at good pitches and was drawing more walks than anyone else. As a result, his coach moved him up in the batting order and kept working with him on hitting the ball. A stat tracker can identify trends such as this and allow coaches to adjust as needed.
Sometimes perception is different than what the statistics bear out. For example, a coach may remember his team making key free throws at the end of the game, but realizing via the stat tracker that the players were 3-for-17 from the line and need to work on that during practice. Of course, what a coach sees during games is important, too, but combining that with statistics can help him or her devise a plan for practices that shores up any areas in which the players are collectively struggling.
As already mentioned, a stat tracker can identify team and player strengths and allow coaches to use that information to prepare for games. Moreover, if every team in the league is using a stat tracker (or a game official running the scoreboard is also keeping stats), coaches can do a little scouting beforehand. Does an opponent have a player leading the league in home runs? Play your outfield a little farther back when he comes up. How about a basketball foe who fouls out often? Plan to drive at her more. Has an opposing football team racked up a crazy number of passing touchdowns (at least a crazy number for a youth team)? Work on defending the pass. Little adjustments, suggested by the stats, can make a big difference on game day.
For youth sports teams — especially rec teams — statistics shouldn’t be a means to point out to individual players what they are doing wrong. Striving for improvement is one thing; pointing out where a kid is failing is another. Using a stat tracker to highlight the positives, rather than to dwell on the negatives, keeps the sport in perspective while boosting a player’s confidence with numbers that show he or she is contributing, doing well, and, hopefully, improving.