It probably came as no surprise to hoop fans that perennial powerhouse Duke was at the forefront of the technology revolution, becoming the first college program to use a cutting-edge iPad app from SportsBoard to tally stats live while at practices or games and produce “Moneyball”-like analytics.
Not many in the lacrosse world would have guessed Christopher Newport University —a Division III college in Virginia that didn’t even win half its games last year—would be the birthplace of the “Moneyball” era in college lacrosse.
But last month, CNU coaches and managers started emulating Duke Men’s Basketball for lacrosse. Yes, technology is enabling tech-savvy coaches to bring to their own sports what would’ve otherwise only been doable at the most elite level. Within minutes of practice ending, CNU Lacrosse was generating Player Efficiency Ratings reports for their players, which means they could provide relevant performance data on a timely basis that was not just stats, but player efficiency.
Christopher Newport Coach Todd Boward reacted to the news that his team could immediately begin using SportsBoard’s latest creation as if it were a life-changing moment.
“This is just crazy,” Boward screamed. “I mean it’s nasty. You just don’t even realize how cool this is for my players and my coaches.”
Another new Lacrosse Scout feature is an interface to SportsTec’s Sportscode and Gamebreaker video analysis software, eliminating hours spent manually tagging film. Christopher Newport, as well as several of SportsBoard’s 60 Lacrosse Scout collegiate customers, are now using SportsBoard to live-stat their practices and games to generate Player Efficiency Ratings reports and auto-tag their video.
“Player Efficiency Ratings are going to be huge for us in terms of evaluating player performance,” said J.L. Reppert, assistant men’s coach at Navy. “We anxiously await an interface with SportsBoard and DV Sport to be able to tag video of our practices and games.”
Marywood Coach Scott Dagliesh, an early adopter of SportsBoard, said he “can’t wait to use SportsBoard for generating Player Efficiency Ratings. It will add another level of competition in practices, bring out my players’ competitive nature, and motivate everyone to want to be at the top of the chart after every practice,” he said.
“Enabling our customers to save time is what we are all about,” states Gregg Jacobs, Founder of SportsBoard. “If we can help our customers eliminate 2-4 hours of administrative clerical time after each and every practice or game, especially in 3-game weeks where every hour between games matters, that’s huge!”
As one of SportsBoard’s first customers, Boward began using SportsBoard ‘s paperless system to streamline the recruiting process more than a year ago. Boward believes the ability to create rapid player performance ratings will transform SportsBoard, founded just 18 months ago, and the game of the lacrosse.
“This is more important than recruiting,” he said. “Recruiting is an educated guess most of the time. Player Efficiency Ratings and analytics are for players already in your system give you a more efficient way to train your players.”
Boward said he isn’t leading the technology revolution to be a trendsetter. He’s simply looking to survive in a very competitive environment.
“We had a 6-9 record last year,” he said. “I’m tired of being average. So we had to think “outside the box” and find other ways to do things. It’s also really hard to get into my school, which is why we have to make the most of the kids we get.”
A longtime “Moneyball” fan, Boward began looking at basketball and hockey as sports that were using stats to make players more accountable. In the fall, he began making off-season fitness more competitive. In January, he turned his attention to practice–recording player efficiency stats such as shots on goal, goalie saves, dropped passes and deflections.
Beginning with warm ups, cameras and stat teams focus on the goalie and shooter. Stats on goalies and shooters are kept on every competitive drill. Even though Boward’s data was detailed, his process was far from efficient. It took three hours for managers to transfer paper copies of stat reports into excel and then onto Google spreadsheets. Breaking down offensive and defensive videos and loading them into film exchange networks was almost another three hours.
“For a school with one full-time coach, me, and three part-time assistants, we were spending way too much time trying to make our players better,” he said.
Boward said his two newest tools could save his overworked staff hours up to 25 hours of work per week, giving coaches more time to focus on player development and game strategy. Lacrosse Scout’s live stats feature includes detailed shot charts showing where goals are scored and where saves are being made.
“The name of the game is preventing goals,” Boward said. “So now our goalies can start focusing on areas where they are having problems.’
In competitive sports, the bottom line has almost always been the “scoreboard.” SportsBoard is changing the rules of the game.
“It’s great when you can tell an attacking man that he is only scoring on 17% of his shots,” Boward said. “I mean what can you really say to that?”
Boward said he has no doubt that his players will begin buying into his fixation with statistics.
“I think it will give them a reason to believe in what we’re doing,” he said. “They’re seeing us rolling up all these stats and they’re seeing it being put into use, instead of it sitting around the coaches’ office.”
And how long will it take for “Monyeball” hysteria to take over lacrosse like it has the baseball and baseball communities? “It depends if somebody doing this has success,” Boward said.” If I’m rolling up 12-13 wins, people will want to know how; because it’s the same kids I had last year.”