From the Press Box: There are some numbers the public should not know

Obsession over stats working against team unity

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Opinion and Insight

One of the greatest resources of statistical information for every varsity sport, at every school in Iowa, has been unavailable to coaches and the media — not to mention the public — since the early afternoon of Nov. 5.

For several years quikstatsiowa.com as served as a statewide repository for just about every statistic imaginable for both boys and high school girls sports in Iowa. As such, it is an indispensable tool for the sports media. Recent visits to the site uncover only the following message, a disaster of as yet unmeasured impact for the sportswriters of Iowa, if not for the coaches themselves.



QUIK STATS is currently not accessible due to technical difficulties. Multiple hard drives have failed and engineers are attempting to recover the data. Our best hope is that Quik Stats may be up and running again sometime next week. Until further notice, please be advised that Quik Stats is not functional. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

The IHSAA and IGHSAU.

The way around such the loss of such a storehouse of knowledge, facts and history is for writers to keep hard copies of all they produce. That quikstats helps create those copies to begin with only exacerbates the matter.

When I began covering sports in Perry in February of 2005 the quikstats website did not exist, so hard copy was what sportswriters relied on. It took me all of one afternoon at my former place of employment to overcome the shock of how little — amazingly and terrifyingly little, by my standards — was kept on hand in regards past seasons, stats, etc.

It was, to be honest, like starting all over again. If I may say so, in my nine years there I compiled massive amounts of data; enough that two three-drawer filing cabinets could not contain the score sheets, box scores, notes, stories, etc for every Perry and Woodward-Granger (and, for a few years) East Greene varsity team. What has happened to all those bulging manila folders I do not know — I suspect they were discarded, if so, a great disservice has been done.

ThePerryNews.com has been providing the kind of sports coverage fans in Perry and the surrounding communities have come to expect, as our numbers attest. However, without access to hard copies to back up historical searches, I have had to rely on quikstats and pray the site never experienced what has apparently now happened — a brain drain of tremendous impact.

The crashing and — for all I know, the death — of the quikstats website comes just as sportswriters are preparing for the upcoming basketball and wrestling seasons. For those who, like this writer, do not have access to past seasons without the help of quikstats, the idea of just how to preview a season without having the concrete numbers of the prior year will require some journalistic acrobatics.

The effect will impact more than sportswriters, as I am sure both the IHSAA and IGHSAU are nervously hoping the data can be retrieve. Coaches, too, will now not have access to opponent numbers and more.

I have no inside angle on what happened, but it appears, from here, that the site was the victim of a massive hack, a cyber attack that, so far at least, has succeeded splendidly.

Very often quikstats would logjam and slow down, often as important state tournaments or meets neared. Not all coaches, of course, were prompt about posting their numbers, and the enforced deadlines often meant scores of coaches trying to hastily input data all at once, thus jamming the site.

Which leads me to a thought I and several of my colleagues with whom I have been in contact with think might be a good idea: When (if?) the site returns, it should be password protected as best as possible, to limit access to coaches and the media and keep the public off the site.

Deny access to the public? A journalist is advocating shutting the public out? Absolutely.

In recent years my fellow sportswriters — and this is a topic widely discussed among us at state events, all-state meetings, etc., whenever several are gathered together — a disturbing trend has appeared in high school sports. A great many coaches will tell you, privately, that they, too, have noticed the same change: An obsession over statistics and a growing sense of ‘I’ among athletes.

The argument that this increasing and noticeable obsession is the fault of the media holds no weight — sportswriters make a living, in part, by spewing stats. They always have and always will. The difference is that they (if not the coaching staffs or statisticians themselves) were once the sole source of such numbers. You read the sports pages to not only find out what happened, but also why and how, and statistics help tell that story.

Now those numbers are available to everyone, including the kids themselves, and if you think high school kids all over Iowa are not pouring over stats in huge throngs you are still standing at the dock — that boat has sailed, and the stat rats are running wild.

Naturally, not all kids are doing so. Indeed, it is likely only the so-called stars and those who think they are stars who are checking up on quikstats, but that still generates a substantial percentage. Worse, parents are beginning to become obsessed with how many tackles Johnny is credited for, how may kills Suzie was said to have made, why Josh was not given a RBI on that play, why Rebecca’s rebounds were fewer in your story than I counted from the stands.

I have personally been approached, several times, by parents who questioned stats that either I had kept and reported or else had been provided by the coach and which I had then written about. It goes without saying that I was less than impressed by these interactions — believe it or not, I am only interested in accurate numbers, not whose kid generated them.

Now we have athletes overly concerned with where they stand in relation to the rest of the team, or against the other schools in the conference, or against so-and-so, or where they rank in the class, or the state, etc. All of which detracts from team comraderie and helps destroy unity.

It is understandable that athletes want to know what they are batting, how many points they have scored, how many digs they made, etc. In some sports — track and swimming are two good, if not the only, examples — times recorded are crucial. In others, nothing will be hurt by the withholding of numbers.

You want to know how you did? The sports report will tell you, and you can keep track from there. No need to obsess over how everyone else is doing — instead, how about trying to do better yourself, and help the team at the same time?

There is a reason names are not on the back of prep jerseys.

Worried about accolades, think you are worthy of college sports? The honors and the recruiters will find you, trust me.

Instead of worrying, just play — the numbers will take care of themselves.

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