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Out with the old, in with the new OSAA

The tech is there, and it's past due for the OSAA to start collecting stats.


Change is rarely a comfortable thing. We humans don't like being out of our comfort zone, and when a shift is needed, it generally comes at the last moment and only out of desperate need.

This day and age, though, is all about change. Look at cell phones, for example. When I was in high school, flip phones were all the rage. Flip phones.

   Now, they've become obsolete toys good only for the chewing purposes of toddlers. They are thrown aside when new technology is made available, and now it's difficult to find someone without a smart phone. The lone holdouts, generally a cantankerous great-uncle, stick to their ‘dumb phone' because making the switch would require learning about the varied do-hickeys and gadgets the new bit of tech possesses. That's alright. Individuals have the right of personal preference.

But to put it simply, the member schools of the OSAA can't be that way.

It's not a switch from dumb phones to smart phones, but something a little more obvious. Most schools have been using big, clumsy notebooks to keep their stats. The bench for most contests is filled with an army of assistants, each toting a thick stat book and a pencil.

It's a system which has been in place for the better part of the last 50 years, and while there's no sense in pressuring the coaches to get iPads or fancy computer systems for the purpose of taking stats, there is weight behind the argument the OSAA should ramp up the stats they take from each individual team.

In many sports, especially football, teams already upload stats to online databases like MaxPreps and Hudl. In addition to being a great resource for media, they're equally accessible to fans, college coaches and recruiters. And with the advancement of those and other outlets, coaches can upload much more than just a final score or players' scores. If the coaching staff is taking stats anyway, they already have assists, rebounds, fouls and a host of other useful numbers.

Now, I'm a stats guy. I salivate at the idea of having extra information to pour over when reading up on teams, and that's missing from the OSAA's website. We can find a final score, and if we're lucky, a roster with a jersey number, position, height and weight for each player.

Steve Walker, the sports information director for the OSAA, is in favor of the idea of upgrading the stats system. The conversation came up because stats weren't available from the league until the championship volleyball game, which seemed a little ridiculous. For basketball, which draws considerably more attention and is even more of a stat-driven sport, the need to implement a new system is immanent.

The arguments against the switch have some merit, I'll admit. Many coaches like to hold such ‘personal' information close, so as to maintain an edge on their opponent. Buying new equipment, such as a laptop for keeping stats at the scorer’s table, is costly, and in the current economic state it may be too much to ask. Training statisticians, which could be parents or even students, takes time and wouldn't be without bumps. The smallest schools in the state have only a handful of students and lack the personnel to run a sophisticated stats system.

The biggest reason, and it isn't even an argument, is because it would be an uncomfortable change, at least for a while. The use of technology in sports isn't a requirement, and many of the elder statesmen prefer to go ‘old school.'

Yes, it would cost money. Yes, it would take time to perfect, but aren't those a given any time a change is made. It's a stretch to say a new system is long overdue, but there are several examples of leagues who have made the jump. Many schools in big-time sporting states like California and Texas keep detailed records online via Maxpreps, helping their athletes to make national headlines. Even the community college league here in the Northwest has a database dating back to 2009.

All of the pieces seem to be there. The technology is available. The information is already being taken, just in a different format. All we need now is for the brass at the OSAA to sit down and have the discussion, and for the programs around the state to be open to the idea.

Convincing coaches and athletic directors to bite will be difficult. It seems like a lot more trouble than its worth, but as a resource, it's far more valuable than keeping numbers shut in a dusty old book. The leg work is already being done, it's just time to upgrade the medium.

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