Friday, May 4, 2012

Game Changers?

The long national nightmare is over--no, not that one--VFTD is done commenting on, for now, boring stuff like APPA & the UPC. So breathe a sigh of relief. And I won't say anything more about divisional teams either--until the next time I do.
Instead I want to comment on a piece posted by the kids at Social Paintball. The idea is that video, with cameras like the Replay, has the potential to revolutionize the game and that while talk of stats is currently all the rage the real value in stats is how those not playing the game interact with the game and its players. Regarding statistics as a useful tool we still have a long way to go. The conceptions are new as is the process. It will take time to discover not only what is possible but also what if anything is valuable in the context of improving the game. So on that score I think the jury is out. On the value of stats as a means of interacting with the game and providing handles for talking about the game I think stats are great and even essential. But as a coach I am also concerned about the potential for statistics to be a distraction. What I don't want--and will continue to take measures to counter--is any sign my players are playing for their stats. So far the stats are a curiosity and an opportunity to grab temporary bragging rights over confirmed kills between matches with nobody taking any of it too seriously. Playing for stats (as an individual) on the other hand is destructive of team goals and unity and cannot be allowed. There's no telling how much of a problem it might prove to be but the potential exists for stat chasing to be a team killer.
In the Social article a useful comparison is made between stat driven baseball and film study in football. It's not that football doesn't have stats or useful ones but that the nature of the game is more dynamic and critical elements of performance can't easily be quantified into a pattern of numerical relationships--and that the same is true of competitive paintball. I think this is correct. If so, then digging a little deeper might be informative. What football teams don't do is use television broadcast feeds for film study--and for the most part webcast video is equally incomplete. The TV broadcast and the webcast are both narrative reprisals of the game or match; they are telling the story of the game. That isn't the sort of visual recapitulation that is useful. What is useful is a full field view all the time. It is essential to evaluating any or all of the players to know all the spatial relationships all the time the game is playing out.
Okay but what about cameras like the Replay? Again, because of the limited data, they provide only a limited utility as a training tool. As a unique visual record of a point or a match they're great. At the available frame rate they capture a lot of info that might not, at first glance, appear to be present but is. Will they or any other video capture revolutionize the game? I doubt it. A proper visual record could be a useful training tool but it wouldn't be a game changer. The same kind of teaching already goes on--at least some places--and where it doesn't it isn't for lack of video. Stats and video are after all simply tools and the one aspect we haven't discussed is how those tools are put to use. Without coaches and team leaders who have a comprehensive understanding of the game as it's currently played the tools are almost worthless. A real game changer would be a wider, deeper pool of those capable of taking the game to the next level.


Mike said...


Could you not argue that the distraction of statistics is one that athletes (and coaches) in all other major sports are expected to overcome as they play? I think that's a challenge you, the players, and other coaches will have to embrace and walk the line between using it as a useful tool and not allowing it to inflate egos.

Lawrence said...

I'm flattered you read and took the time to comment.

While a static overhead would be ideal, I still can't help but still think that someone, somewhere won't review what we have and try to use it to a competitive advantage.

Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

Defensive-type stats are tough to quantify. In football, if a corner back is covering a receiver so well that the QB doesn't even attempt to pass that way, the corner back gets no interceptions.

How do you quantify holding a lane so well that no one goes through it? You shot a lot of paint, but got no eliminations.

How do you quantify making a move that allows a teammate to get an elimination?


Baca Loco said...

I'm fine with the egos. They need them to survive here. My concern is that they consciously or subconsciously change their game to improve their stats. If the PSP says Player X is the best based on stats that's a powerful incentive to focus on stat generation.

Moving the goal posts much? Now it's competitive advantage but in the article it was game changing technology. :) You can think it all you like but thinking it won't make it so.

Exactly why stats are frequently misleading--even useful ones. And another reason why in evaluating a player's game reviewing the totality of the game is required to get a true, full picture. That and somebody who actually knows what they're seeing.

Anonymous said...

Change into what?

All this talk about change, it seems there is little imagination.

A moderate change? An extreme one? What changes?

The clock is ticking...

Anonymous said...

I think the R7 footage would add another dimension to the PSP webcasts entirely, I'm all for strapping one to every player's gun and using the footage for instant replays or to be edited after the fact to make polished webcast footage.

IMO The cameras add a lot of value to the webcast format in that they give a more exciting view of what's going on, and I think this will help make paintball more fun to watch for outsiders.

As far as stats go, I have no opinion. I agree with Baca when he says that the individual pursuit of stats hurts the team, but then, that type of an ego on a player presents a challenge for a coach.

Tempering wild egos of the most talented youth into a passion to help the team win is something that the greatest coaches have done in lots of sports (Phil Jackson/Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant comes to mind).