How we found the best players on our paintball team (Part 2): Collecting the Data

As I mentioned in my previous post, I suddenly found myself with a burning desire to figure out who my best players were.

Unfortunately for me, I had no idea on how to go about doing that.

So how do you measure chaos?

One of the best quotes I’ve ever read about paintball was that, unlike just about every other sport, there is no center of the action. With no “game ball” that allows you to easily focus on where the next big play will happen how do you even know that something is happening? Even if you did, how would you track it? I guessed that I might need ten people just to get all of the detail.

On top of that, I didn’t even have ten people. It was just me and occasionally an assistant coach and, if I was lucky, somebody’s girlfriend.

Thankfully, necessity is the mother of invention and all that jazz and I had an epiphany!

Remember kids, the only difference between science and screwing around is writing it down

I heard that quote from Adam Savage long after we started keeping stats but it certainly applies here.

I don’t remember exactly how the idea came to me but I thought to myself “What if we just write down when people are out? All we need is a pen and paper and we can track who gets out in what order.”

So projects that sound small turn into hundreds of man hours of science!

First Steps

The very first iteration of keeping paintball statistics started at practice. As we scrimmaged other teams, I made a list of the five players on our side and the five players on the opposing side. Initially, I just wrote down the order of each person getting out.

Something along the lines of this:

  • Tom 1st out
  • Mike 2nd
  • Other team Guy #1 3rd
  • etc

This was pretty cool! It felt like doing science. Real science about something I really cared about.

As I often said to people when describing this whole process, I really understood how researchers feel when they make a breakthrough: not only did I not know what I had just discovered, nobody knew. Not anywhere. This was groundbreaking!

Like all great scientific endeavours though, we faced a new challenge.

“The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.” ― Willie Nelson

While it was great to see who was getting out in what order, we were really missing the key points about those outs: when they occurred.

For example, if a player was the first person shot out and that happened in the first five seconds of a game, it was a lot different than being the first person shout out two minutes into a game. How were we going to track this?

Easy. We added in that great tool of coaches throughout history: the stopwatch.

Now, instead of just writing down the order, we also started writing down the time of each elimination. This opened up all kinds of interesting possibilities. We could track who got laned out. Who was able to hold out against a 1v2 for the longest.

How we did that is in part 3

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