How we found the best players on our paintball team (Part 3): Storing and Processing the Data

So if you’ve been following along in our last couple posts, you’ll remember that we had decided to start keeping stats and came up with a relatively easy way to record the data.

We still had a couple kinks to work out.

“The plural of anecdote is not data.”
― Marc Bekoff

Up till now we had been “keeping” our data in an old spiral bound notebook that I’m pretty sure had been floating around in my coaching clipboard since college. As anyone who has been near paintball in any form or fashion realizes, stuff gets damaged/dropped/kicked/blown away on a regular basis. Add on top of that, free form note taking is one of those things like “style” for which there is no accounting for.

As a quick side note: for those of you born in the 90s WDP (who made the Angel) and Smart Parts (who made the Shocker) sued each other over the invention of the first electronic paintball gun. The case was resolved in favor of WDP when one of the engineers presented an engineering notebook as evidence of prior art. Save those notebooks kids!

Back to our story: it was time for some standardization. Since one of my former nicknames was “Alexcel” I whipped up the following format for tracking scrimmages:

paper_form

You can find a full sheet PDF version with multiple games here:
paper_form

So now we had a way to consistently record the data. Question is, how were we going to store it? Enter: the computer!

A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history-with the possible exceptions of handguns and tequila
- Mitch Ratcliffe quotes

As you can guess from the fact that I have awesomely nerdy nicknames combining my name and mad Excel skills, I’m pretty handy with computers in general and databases and Perl in particular.

I’ll add a post in the future with the specifics for those of you who speak SQL as a second language but here is a quick overview:

  • We created a format to enter in the data
  • This script would then take the data and enter it into our database
  • The database had:
    • all of our players
    • teams we scrimmaged against
    • when each player in every scrimmaged was eliminated

This was a pretty big step forward. In plain English, it meant that we could could go to any practice point we played and answer questions like:

  • Who was out first?
  • Who was the last player alive in our first game?
  • Of our snake side players, who is usually the second one out?

I even remember two of our players asking me a question along the lines of: “Can you tell us how often we win if Brian is the first one out vs me being the first one out?”.

Before tracking the data, nobody could answer all of those questions especially a week or two after the fact. This reminded me of the first time someone brought a video camera to a practice. Someone would say “Well, I shot out three people after I bumped!”. You would check the video and turned out one of the guys was already out, one of them was a legitimate kill and the third was him shooting one of our players. In a word: awesome.

Having the stats though was, amazingly, even better! The stats saw everything since every elimination was recorded. On a camera, you only saw what it was pointed at. Plus, unlike a video, you had a permanent store of data that was easy to search and could store hundreds of eliminations with ease.

After I got over our my patently obvious excitement of having more data on college and local team practices at LLP than anyone in the history of paintball, I was faced with the next problem: how to slice the data.

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