Fall 2011

8
Dec

The last couple weeks have been heavy into production mode so much less pontificating of late, but here’s an update by way of mock-ups of the visualization application interface.

The Home Page.

This is where the user would first come to the website. They have options to visualize data, socialize (where they might view or upload photos, or make comments on a recent game, etc), or organize their user information or other more administrative-minded tasks.

—user clicks on “VISUALIZE”—

The Visualization Main Page.

This is the home base for all of the statistics tracking and visualization services in the app. The user is presented with a choice of visualizing games, practices, or a more macro-view of season-long data.

—user clicks on “GAMES”—

Game Date-Picker

The user now gets to pick which game they would like to see dynamically visualized. The calendar shows all of the games in colors to indicate whether it was a win, a loss, or has yet to be played.

—user hovers over one of the winning games—

Game Date-Picker: Hover State

To get more details on each game, the user can hover over the game icon. The pop-up tells the user who was playing in that game, the final score, and the top players of the game.

—satisfied it’s the game she wants to see, the user clicks on the game from April 30—

The Game Data Visualization: Goals and Assists

This is the main visualization page for a specific game. The user can view the locations of all the goals and assists throughout the game, and use the time scrubber/scrollbar to view any moment during the game itself. As the user scrubs through the game, goals and assists will appear as they are scored, and the leader board on the right will dynamically change based on the stats at that specific time during the game.

In this iteration, games are denoted by a yellow lacrosse ball with a triangular flag indicating the scoring team. If a line connects the ball and the flag, then the goal was assisted, with the assist originating from the point and direction of the flag. Flags attached directly to the ball indicate unassisted goals.

—the user clicks on Groundballs to see the game leaders—

The Game Data Visualization: Collapsible Statistics Panels

The user can collapse or expand certain statistics, sort data by team or statistic, in order to view as much or as little information as is necessary or desired.

—user wants to watch the game statistics change in real time in order take notes—

Auto-Play Feature

The user can press on the play button to have the game play automatically in real time so that the user can take notes or get a better feel for the rhythm of the game.

—user has all the mid-game info she needs and wants to see the final results—

Skip to the Final Results

When the user is finished with the intermediary data playback, they can simply press the “skip to the end” button to jump the scrubber to the end of the game and view the final game results across all stats.

Coming Soon

I’m currently building out this prototype and will continue to mock up other visualization views to make the system more complete!

Category : Fall 2011 | Process | Blog
5
Dec
The Concept

Capturing, tracking, and visualizing athletic performance data can be a significant factor in the development of athletes by creating an informative and motivational framework that defines measurable goals and allows the athletes to visualize their progress towards achieving those goals. Due to the associated costs of accurate and robust statistics collection, however, only extremely well-funded sports teams currently have the luxury of this training aid.

This thesis argues that by making sophisticated statistics tracking available to younger or lower-level teams without extensive financial backing we could improve the quality of training and coaching at a lower level, increase the retention of athletes that might otherwise drop out, contribute to a more rewarding emotional experience for the athletes, and potentially improve the performance of athletes across all levels of play by giving them access to these sophisticated tools early in their training.

Furthermore, if we could create a way for these athletes to track a greater range of performance data than is currently available through the use of sensor-driven passive data collection, then they would have access to a much more robust and accurate set of feedback that would allow them to push their performance to an even higher level and potentially provide for a richer or more rewarding experience.

The form of this thesis project will be a system of web applications (in the form of a suite of coordinating iPhone/mobile phone, iPad/tablet, and desktop/laptop-based apps) for members of the girls’ lacrosse community. This series of apps would allow users to collect, visualize, and effectively analyze team, player and game data in real time (where data spans a wide range of information from basic scheduling to statistics and commentary to photos of games or other team-related events). I also plan to investigate the viability of creating a lower-cost way to passively collect game and player data using physical computing. This part of the project would involve a system of sensors and wireless communication components that would allow a central database to track the activity of any player during a game or practice. Data that I hope to be able to gather through the use of these sensors includes the identity of the player currently holding the ball, running speed, shot speed and placement, and potentially even data as specific as where on the head of the stick the player is making contact with the ball.

The audience for this project can currently be defined as members of the lacrosse community that are frequent users of mobile technology, and who place some level of importance on the performance of their community’s girls lacrosse team(s). Due to the higher level of data fidelity and specificity that could be provided by the passive sensors, I am currently considering the age group of the target audience to be approximately high-school age girls and their parents and coaches. (Younger teams could also benefit greatly from the data, but require a much more complicated balance between tracking performance metrics and protecting the self-esteem of their players. These younger players, coaches and parents would still be able to use the system effectively, but would need to do so by limiting the amount of data visible to the parents and players through coach and parental controls. Because of this potential limitation, they are not considered the primary focus.) Different aspects of the project would cater to the various subsets of this demographic, such as coaching staff, parents, players, and community members/fans—of these users, I am focusing on two main groups: 1) parents and fans who wish to view and contribute to a running conversation of user-supplied data (in the form of game photos, comments, and videos); and 2) coaches, players and coach-minded parents who wish to track the performance of the team and its individual players in higher fidelity through the collection of statistics that they currently do not have the ability to measure or record.

The Impetus

Personal Origins

I arrived at this area of study through a serendipitous coming together of many of my lifelong interests. The general domain of data visualization and web design and development was the perfect combination of my experience in visual arts, design, math, economics, statistics, and coding—but the ultimate decision to pursue a thesis relating this domain to girls lacrosse took another leap. I wanted to find a user group that was already invested in the pursuit of better data capture and interpretation, (which describes essentially all athletic activities), but also wanted to find a user group with which I had personal experience that could better inform my designs. Girls’ lacrosse in particular is a small, albeit growing, sport that I have spent close to the last 20 years either playing, coaching, or both, making it a perfect fit. Through my thesis I can bring my mission to create clean, easy-to-use data collection and visualization interfaces to a community that has given so much to me over the course of my life, and which is still young enough that I might even have a chance of returning the favor.

Big Picture Significance

The significance of my research and thesis project span a few different areas, but is ultimately rooted in the idea of bringing sophisticated statistics tracking tools to a user group that could benefit greatly from their use but who currently do not have access to any comparable services.

Why It’s Important: For the majority of sporting events, winners are determined by having either the most or least of a certain statistic. But these top-level statistics are not the only ones that matter to the athlete; to be able to achieve that level of accomplishment in a sport, the athlete has to train not only hard, but also intelligently—and an intelligent training plan requires the athlete to assess their own personal strengths or weaknesses and then continuously track their progress in case any adjustments need to be made. This process can be done partially without the use of precise statistics, but general observation can only get you so far—and is always relative. When you need to know with 100% certainty that your running times have been decreasing, or confirm that your pitching accuracy is worse on curve balls than sliders (but perhaps only during the later innings), or compare your own progress with that of your biggest competitors, objectively collected (and sport-wide acknowledged) data is the only way to get a conclusive answer.

Why the current system needs to change: The current statistics tracking infrastructure hinges largely on the use of paper score sheets and is incredibly complicated, which leads to teams not even tracking the amount of data they feasibly could. In my three seasons of coaching youth lacrosse, I was fortunately able to evade scorekeeping duties thanks to a group of eager parent volunteers, but the fact that I preferred to avoid it speaks volumes. A coach should want to keep track of her players’ progress with as much detail as possible, and should consistently consult that data throughout the season in order to inform their practice plans and game strategy. I, on the other hand, did not once consult one of the chicken-scratch score sheets in any of those three seasons. The information they contained was minimal, hastily jotted down, and in many cases incomplete for stats other than goals and assists. These score sheets served as the mandated official records of the game (which require only the roster and total goals scored) and not much else.

The benefit of bringing this technology to a wider audience. Much research has been done into the benefits of tracking objectively collected performance data in order to maximize athletic potential. Athletes require objective feedback to be able to know where they currently stand as well as what goals they can hope to achieve (Hughes, 2008). This system of monitoring progress toward a set of measurable attainable goals is a critical factor in maintaining proper levels of motivation and focus in the athletes and coaches.

Making sophisticated statistics tracking available to teams without the financial backing and clout of a professional or otherwise high-profile team could increase the quality of coaching and training for athletes earlier in their sports career, and follows the model of the ever-increasing number of elite sports training camps (such as the huge number of Nike camps) that many youth and high school players attend during the summer to bolster their training. These camps bring together successful athletes who have the financial resources to register for, travel to, and attend these camps to study and train under the coaching leadership of some of the top college and professional coaches in the nation. Bringing some of the resources that athletes might find at one of these elite camps to teams of all age and skill levels would allow more athletes to experience even a small portion of this type of experience; this would better prepare them to advance their skills to the next level while simultaneously making them feel one step closer to being an “elite” athlete in a way that could boost their confidence and increase their motivation to work hard.

In addition, having a greater range of performance data supplied through sensor-driven passive data collection could improve the training and performance of athletes by increasing the number of feedback points from which they can glean information. By tracking a larger number of statistics, the athletes (and coaches) would have more information at their disposal to fine-tune their training plans, and the wider gamut of feedback points would be more likely to evoke pride a) in a wider range of athletes with varying skill sets, or b) more frequently for a single athlete. This combination of accuracy and motivating ability would allow the information collected to improve both the performance and emotional experience of the athletes being tracked.

Appendix

Throughout the thesis process, I have been constantly trying to synthesize my analytical and technical interests with my more emotional or visceral interests. The following quotes represent two ends of that spectrum in ways that are exciting in their own ways—the first appealing to my rampant inner nerd, the second to my soft spot for the sport that has so deeply shaped my life. Whenever I find myself doubting my ability to contribute to the bigger picture, I reread the introductory words of Mike Hughes and Ian Franks’ book on notational analysis and remind myself that if I am truly able to change the way that girls’ lacrosse is collected, notated, visualized and analyzed, then that could potentially effect change in the lacrosse community—and perhaps in other sports as well. And if I get overwhelmed, I just try to think about the meaningful impact that sports can have on people’s lives and let my desire to share that feeling with girls that are just discovering the sport drive me forward.

 

On notational analysis:

“For anyone who wishes to understand their own sport, and thereby the structure and tactics of other sports, there is no better way of understanding the real logic behind the structure of the game. The more coaches and layers that come to understand that notation systems are going to improve players’ performance, their team’s performance and especially the coaches’ performance, then the better for sport in general.”

Mike Hughes and Ian M. Franks, Experts in sports data and notational analysis

 

On the emotional power of women’s lacrosse:

“I am thankful for this small yellow lacrosse ball. Though small and generic when first seen, it has become a lifeline of sorts to me. It holds the power of friendship, family, livelihood, and molded many of the truths I hold dear. […] That ball allowed me to meet so many people. It allowed me the opportunity to play the game of lacrosse where I was constantly surrounded by teammates, many of whom have become great friends. […] It is this little yellow ball that I am thankful for, for it has given me more than I can ever give it.“

Sue Heether, Head Coach of the US Elite Team and Three-Time World Cup Champion

Category : Fall 2011 | Writing + Research | Blog
28
Nov
THESIS CLAIM.

Capturing, tracking, and visualizing athletic performance data can be a significant factor in the development of athletes by creating an informative and motivational framework that defines measurable goals and allows the athletes to visualize their progress towards achieving those goals. Due to the associated costs of accurate and robust statistics collection, however, only extremely well-funded sports teams currently have the luxury of this training aid.

This thesis argues that by making sophisticated statistics tracking available to younger or lower-level teams without extensive financial backing we could improve the quality of training and coaching at a lower level, increase the retention of athletes that might otherwise drop out, contribute to a more rewarding emotional experience for the athletes, and potentially improve the performance of athletes across all levels of play by giving them access to these sophisticated tools early in their training.

Furthermore, if we could create a way for these athletes to track a greater range of performance data than is currently available through the use of sensor-driven passive data collection, then they would have access to a much more robust and accurate set of feedback that would allow them to push their performance to an even higher level and potentially provide for a richer or more rewarding experience.

REASONS.

Sensor-driven data collection as a way to improve performance and experience:
A greater range of performance data supplied through sensor-driven passive data collection could improve the training and performance of athletes by increasing the number of feedback points from which they can glean information. By tracking a larger number of statistics, the athletes (and coaches) would have more information at their disposal to fine-tune their training plans, and the wider gamut of feedback points would be more likely to evoke pride a) in a wider range of athletes with varying skill sets, or b) more frequently for a single athlete. This combination of accuracy and motivating ability would allow the information collected to improve both the performance and emotional experience of the athletes being tracked.

Making sophisticated statistics tracking and visualization available to more athletes:
Making sophisticated statistics tracking available to teams without the financial backing and clout of a professional or otherwise high-profile team could increase the quality of coaching and training for athletes earlier in their sports career, and follows the model of the ever-increasing number of elite sports training camps (such as the huge number of Nike camps) that many youth and high school players attend during the summer to bolster their training. These camps bring together successful athletes who have the financial resources to register for, travel to, and attend these camps to study and train under the coaching leadership of some of the top college and professional coaches in the nation. Bringing some of the resources that athletes might find at one of these elite camps to teams of all age and skill levels would allow more athletes to experience even a small portion of this type of experience; this would better prepare them to advance their skills to the next level while simultaneously making them feel one step closer to being an “elite” athlete in a way that could boost their confidence and increase their motivation to work hard.

WORKSHOP: The in-class workshopping materials

THE ORIGINAL BRAINSTORM SENTENCES:

_Visualizing performance data can allow for better comprehension of that data, and as a result provide enhanced feedback and motivation for continued progress.
_High quality data visualization is not currently available to younger or less well-funded sports teams—by providing all levels of teams and players with sophisticated statistics tracking we could increase the quality of training at a lower level, potentially increasing the performance of athletes across the spectrum.
_Collecting and tracking data creates objectively measurable goals and measures of progress that allow for greater, faster, and more efficient growth.
_Allowing for a greater range of objectively collected data on a person’s performance can encourage progress through providing better and more accurate feedback and a greater array of attainable measurable goals.

COMPONENTS TO INCLUDE IN/SUPPORT MODIFIED THESIS STATEMENT AND REASONS:

Capturing, tracking, and visualizing athletic performance data
_Creation of measurable goals
_Motivation to work towards continued progress
_Faster and more efficient improvement and growth

Creating a way for athletes to track a greater range of performance data than currently available via sensors and/or collaborative digital scorekeeping
_Enhanced/more accurate feedback on personal and team performance
_Increased gamut of feedback points to evoke pride a) in a wider range of athletes with varying skill sets, or b) more frequently for a single athlete, providing added motivation to continue working hard

Making sophisticated statistics tracking available to teams without the financial backing and clout of a professional or otherwise high-profile team
_Increasing quality of training at a younger age/lower level (ex: Nike camps)
_Increase retention of athletes that might otherwise drop out through a combination of providing encouraging feedback and potentially increasing the rate of their development in the sport
_Potentially increase performance of athletes across the spectrum through giving them sophisticated tools early in their training (and giving this access to teams and athletes of all types, not just those athletes wealthy enough to attend sports camps)

Category : Fall 2011 | Writing + Research | Blog
14
Nov
JULIE: The Player

Julie is 16 years old and a sophomore in high school. She plays lacrosse with the Wildcats, a U-17 club team that practices twice a week and travels to games on weekends. She works hard in school while still making time for a social life, and takes pride in her athletic accomplishments. She and her best friends compete amongst themselves, constantly bragging about goals they scored or interceptions they made in the last big game. She has been working diligently throughout fall ball with the Wildcats in hopes of starting on her high school team this spring, and wants to play lacrosse in college after graduation.

Julie has been working extremely hard at practice in order to earn that starting midfield spot but can’t always tell if she’s making progress. She continues to log goals and assists as she has in the past, but has no way to quantify any progress she’s made in her defensive skills or in certain intangible contributions, such as getting back on defense, forcing turnovers, or maintaining possession of the ball. She asks the coach for feedback from time to time, but can’t get any objective data about her progress with which to strategize about how to keep improving.


1. Julie attaches the two unique RFID components for the Wildcats’ new stat tracking system to her stick and goggles so that the sensors can detect ball possession and track her position and movement on the field.

2. Later that day, Julie and her teammates try them out at practice. While they are working on their fitness and skills, the system tracks Julie’s running speed, shot and pass speed, shot placement, and defensive performance.

3. That weekend, the team uses the sensors to track the same statistics that they did during practice, as well as others like ball possession, forced and unforced errors, draw controls, and other hard-to-measure statistics.

4. After the game, Julie goes home and looks up her performance on her laptop, analyzing her progress througout the season so far, thinking about ways she can work harder in a couple areas that aren’t improving as quickly as she would like, and patting herself on the back for her great defensive recovery times that afternoon.

5. While celebrating her greatly improved hustle on defense, Julie decides to check the stats of her best friends and compares their defensive recovery stats from that afternoon’s game to her own.

6. Once Julie has confirmed that she bested her friends in today’s game, she shares the comparison view of her stellar performance with her friends, successfully claiming bragging rights for the day.
Category : Fall 2011 | Process | Writing + Research | Blog
6
Nov
ESSENTIAL DESIGN QUESTIONS.

Q: How might a collaborative data collection and visualization tool for girls’ and women’s lacrosse be able to improve player development and performance?

Q: What benefits would players, parents, coaches, and community members gain by working together to create a strong support base for girls’ sports in their community?

Q: What new forms of data could we potentially measure that would allow players, coaches, parents, and fans to become more engaged in the sport of girls lacrosse while also improving player and team performance?

WORKING HYPOTHESIS/IF-THEN STATEMENT.

If members of the girls’ lacrosse community (primarily coaches, players, and parents) were able to personally collect, analyze and visualize game and season data in real time, then they would be much better positioned to encourage the physical, emotional, intellectual, and social development of individual players as well as the continued growth of the girls lacrosse community as a whole.

Furthermore, if this data spanned both traditionally collected game data and an entirely new set of performance metrics enabled through the use of “smart” sticks and goggles, then: 1) coaches would be able to better analyze their team’s performance and tailor their practice plans and game strategies accordingly; 2) players would have a more accurate barometer for their personal progress and would instantly be able to see a visual representation of all their efforts throughout their season or career; and, 3) parents would be able to literally see how their child is progressing in games and practices through the data visualization interface, enabling them to encourage their daughter as she works on her weaker areas and to congratulate her on the specific areas of progress she has already achieved.

WORKING DESIGN QUESTIONS.

Q: What new types of game and personal performance data would be helpful for players, coaches, and parents to be able to measure and visualize?

Q: What technologies would allow the collection of these types of data?

Q: What type of user would benefit the most from this type of system?

CURRENT THESIS CONCEPT AND AUDIENCE.

Concept: The current concept requires the creation of two disparate yet intertwined components:

1) An easy-to-use web application (in the form of a suite of coordinating iPhone/mobile phone, iPad/tablet, and desktop/laptop-based apps) for members of the girls’ lacrosse community. This series of apps would allow users to collect, visualize, and effectively analyze team, player and game data in real time (where data spans a wide range of information from basic scheduling to statistics and commentary to photos of games or other team-related events).

2) A way to passively collect game and player data using physical computing. This part of the project would involve a system of sensors and wireless communication components that would allow a central database to track the activity of any player during a game or practice. Data that I hope to be able to gather through the use of these sensors includes the identity of the player currently holding the ball, running speed, shot speed and placement, and potentially even data as specific as where on the head of the stick the player is making contact with the ball.

Audience: Members of the lacrosse community that are frequent users of mobile technology, and who place some level of importance on the performance of their community’s girls lacrosse team. Due to the higher-tech training-based emphasis featured in the sensor-driven data collection portion of the project, the age group of the target audience has been pushed slightly higher since some of my earlier briefs, with the most likely target now being high-school age girls and their parents and coaches. Because different aspects of the project would cater to the various subsets of this demographic, such as coaching staff, parents, players, and community members/fans, I am tracking two main groups of users: 1) parents and fans who wish to view and contribute to a running conversation of user-supplied data (in the form of game photos, comments, and videos); and 2) coaches, players and coach-minded parents who wish to track the performance of the team and its individual players in higher fidelity through the collection of statistics that they currently do not have the ability to measure or record.

DOMAINS AND PRECEDENTS STUDIED.

As the physical computing aspect of the project is a very new one, I am still currently collecting research and exploring the opportunities that wireless athletic data collection might create. An in-depth investigation of this sphere is forthcoming in future briefs once I have more time to synthesize my findings.

USER PERSONAS.

In order to better understand the need for this type of system, I started drafting personas for the three main subsets of my audience: the parents, the players, and the coaches. A description of the town and community in which they interact is included to give additional context.

The Location: BAY AREA SUBURB, NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
The Bay Area currently has a burgeoning, yet still young, girls lacrosse scene. Play is competitive and some great NCAA players are coming out of the region, but the number of teams is still small compared to areas in New England or Maryland. Lacrosse community members in the area are working tirelessly to rally more support in the region and surrounding areas, which has contributed greatly to lacrosse being the fastest growing sport in the country.

The town in which the following personas interact is a small but wealthy one in which parents take their children’s sports very seriously. Travel and club teams are the norm, and parents are constantly shuttling their kids around from field to field for practices and games. Due to this prevalent culture, parents that have not necessarily been “lacrosse parents” before are generally already accustomed to the culture of practices and travel games from other sports like soccer or baseball, and consider participation in sports a large part of their family life.

The Mom: CHERYL
Cheryl is 44 years old and has three children: Julie (16), Frankie (14), and Joey (12). All three of her children play lacrosse and soccer in the spring and fall on school and travel teams; in the winter, Julie plays basketball while her brothers play ice hockey, and Frankie and Joey also play baseball on a travel league during the summer. Because of her children’s busy athletic schedules, Cheryl’s life as a parent revolves around sports practices and games, and she goes to as many games as she can in order to support their hard work as well as to simply enjoy watching them play.

Cheryl is very close with her parents, and tries to keep them updated on the kids’ lives, including their progress on the sports field. She constantly takes pictures of the kids at games with her iPhone and frequently texts or emails updates to her (reasonably tech-savvy) parents to keep them in the loop, and often will call them on the phone to recap after any big games. Cheryl has a hard time keeping all of these piece-meal photos and videos organized, and would love a way to have all of this information managed in one location that would make it easier to share it all with her parents and other loved ones so that she could spend more time watching the actual games! She would also love it if she could look at her photos alongside those of other parents taking similar photos, and especially alongside those taken by Sophie, the self-appointed team parent-photographer who takes professional quality photos with her DSLR on game days and currently just posts them to a separate Flickr account.

The Player: JULIE
Julie is 16 years old, just entering the spring of her sophomore year of high school. She plays lacrosse with the Wildcats, a U-17 club team based two towns over that meets twice a week for practice and travels to games on the weekends. She loves school and works hard to excel in her classes while making time for friends and a social life, and takes pride in her athletic abilities and successes. She and her best friends, who also play on the Wildcats, have a running competition between them to egg each other on, constantly bragging about how many goals they scored or interceptions they made in the last big game. She has been working extra hard throughout fall ball with the Wildcats in hopes of starting on her high school team this spring, and pictures herself playing lacrosse in college after graduation two years from now.

Julie has been working extremely hard at practice in order to win that starting midfield spot but can’t always tell if she’s making the kind of progress that she is aiming for. She continues to log goals and assists as she has in the past, but has no way to quantify any progress she’s made in her defensive skills or in certain intangible contributions, such as getting back on defense, forcing turnovers, or maintaining possession of the ball. She asks the coach for her feedback from time to time, but can’t get any objective data about her progress with which to strategize about how to keep improving going forward.

The Coach: MICHELLE
Michelle is 33 years old, and currently works as a senior web developer at a small digital creative agency. In her personal time, she is the head coach of the Wildcats U-17 girls lacrosse team, a competitive club lacrosse team that selects players from the surrounding towns, which she has been coaching now for 3 years. Michelle coaches alongside her assistant coach Mike, who is 45 years old, works in town at a small investment firm, and whose daughter Jenny is on the team. Both Michelle and Mike played lacrosse in college at a competitive level, and Michelle has coached multiple successful teams over the last eight years. Her coaching style is intense yet supportive, and she focuses simultaneously on personal skills/fitness development and more complex team strategy and dynamics.

Michelle tracks whatever game data she can collect using parent volunteers as scorekeepers at games, and takes notes during and after games and practices, but would love to have a way to track the progress of her team and individual players at a higher level of fidelity. No matter how closely she pays attention during games, she can never look at (let alone analyze) all of the players at the same time—but having information on off-ball movement (how the individual players move as a team) at any given moment could help her fine-tune the team’s performance going forward. She would also love to be able to see data describing the progress of things that she currently does not have the ability to measure or record, such as players’ speed getting back on defense, foot speed/acceleration in the critical scoring area, or shot speed and placement. This would allow her to potentially move around some players in order to take advantage of unique strengths that they may possess, strengthening the overall team.

PRELIMINARY USER SCENARIOS.

The Mom: CHERYL
Cheryl finds out about the user-content part of the Wildcats’ new data collection system, and uses the photos/videos stream feature of the app to post updates and view other parents’ photos and video that she may have missed. The various forms of media, whether photo, video or comment, are uploaded and posted on a chronological timeline, which is viewable by anyone invited to view the url. Instead of texting or emailing pictures and updates to her parents as she did before, she now sends them the url to view the comments timeline at the beginning of the game so that they can stay updated in real time and she can finally watch the whole game.

Later, when Cheryl gets home, she views the page again to view any images that were uploaded later that evening, and to see stats on her daughter Julie and her friends. Proud of her daughter Julie’s performance, she sends images of her progress over the season to friends and family and congratulates Julie on all her hard work.

The Player: JULIE
Once the Wildcats attain the new data collection system, Julie installs the different components to her stick and goggles and wears them during both games and practices to track her running speed, shot and pass speed, time spent possessing the ball, and other hard-to-measure statistics. After practice she goes home and looks up her performance on her laptop, analyzing her progress througout the week or season, thinking about ways she can work harder in a couple areas that aren’t improving as quickly as she would like, and patting herself on the back for her great ground ball performance that afternoon. While celebrating her ground ball accomplishments, she also checks the stats of her best friends and compares them; once she has confirmed that she bested them in today’s contest, she sends the view of her stellar performance along to claim bragging rights for the day.

The Coach: MICHELLE
Having convinced the Wildcats club to invest in the new data collection system, Michelle now collects and analyzes hard-to-measure data on all her players during practices and games. By comparing players’ less obvious skills or strengths against each other, she realizes that Julie, who has been playing low attack, has great speed getting back on defense, and that Charlotte, who has been playing midfield, has amazing shot speed and accuracy, and has been losing speed over the course of the season. Seeing this information, Michelle decides to switch Julie to midfield and Charlotte to low attack, and makes a note to ask Charlotte about any potential nagging injuries that might be slowing her down in the midfield.

Later, during a game, she has the application visualize data in real time, using information about the average running speed of her players to gauge if one of her midfielders needs to come out for a sub and catch their breath, or deciding to leave in one of her non-starting players longer than usual because she’s having an uncharacteristically effective game. After the game, Michelle uses the data that the system collected to understand any issues they might be having, such as who is possessing the ball the most, who is having trouble holding onto the ball, who is having trouble staying on their defender or getting back on defense, who is performing particularly well in a given role, and so on. As she takes notes on the game and thinks about her practice plans for the coming week, she takes special note of the information she now has access to about where the team and its players could improve, and where they are succeeding as a team.

NEXT STEPS.

// Continue to research sports statistics visualization.
// Storyboard, sketch, and brainstorm for the visualization side of the web app.
// Continue researching the use of RFID and sensors in wireless data collection to see what is possible and how it could benefit the audience I am targeting. I need to finish collecting and synthesizing these findings in order to gain a better idea of the bigger picture.

Category : Fall 2011 | Writing + Research | Blog
31
Oct
ESSENTIAL DESIGN QUESTIONS.

Q: How might a collaborative data collection and visualization tool for girls’ lacrosse be able to improve the development of young girls through encouraging lifelong participation in sports?

Q: What benefits would players, parents, coaches, and community members gain by working together to create a strong support base for girls’ sports in their community?

Q: What new forms of data could we potentially measure that would allow players, coaches, parents, and fans to become more engaged in the sport of girls lacrosse while also improving their performance?

WORKING HYPOTHESIS/IF-THEN STATEMENT.

If members of the girls lacrosse community (primarily coaches, players, and parents) were able to personally collect, analyze and visualize game and season data in real time, then they would be much better positioned to encourage the physical, emotional, intellectual, and social development of individual players as well as the continued growth of the girls lacrosse community as a whole.

WORKING DESIGN QUESTIONS.

Q: What features would allow a collaborative scorekeeping and data collection tool to simultaneously facilitate game data collection while also engaging players and fans?
Q: What features would allow this project to give the game data and other player statistics life beyond the game?
Q: What benefits would coaches, players and parents involved in the girls lacrosse community (primarily youth level) gain from being able to easily collect, see and analyze their data visually?

CURRENT THESIS CONCEPT AND AUDIENCE.

Concept: To create an easy-to-use web application (in the form of a suite of coordinating iPhone/mobile phone, iPad/tablet, and desktop/laptop-based apps) for members of the girls lacrosse community. This series of apps would allow users to collect, visualize, and effectively analyze team, player and game data in real time (where data spans a wide range of information from basic scheduling to statistics and commentary to photos of games or other team-related events).

Audience:Users of the web and mobile devices that are involved in the lacrosse community, primarily at the youth-level. Different aspects of the project would cater to the various subsets of this demographic, such as coaching staff, parents, players, and community members/fans. At this junction, however, I am focusing on the data collection process as it relates to community members filling the scorekeeper role. This could include supplementary coaching staff (or even the head coach if all other resources are exhausted) but as I am trying to make my interface intuitive tor anyone that would try to use it, I am currently gearing my research and designs towards the “lowest common denominator” of stat-recording expertise: parents and other community volunteers.

DOMAINS AND PRECEDENTS STUDIED.

As I was concentrating on implementation this week, I didn’t do as much outside research as I normally would during a given week. Research this week was also accordingly focused on the visualization of sports data as well as the procurement of that data.
As a refresher on the clear and dynamic display of sports statistics, I took another look at Steve Varga’s iPad app Pennant. While not necessarily always adding to the comprehension of the data, the interactions between the user and the information are fluid and (in my personal opinion) extremely satisfying. The graphics are always unique in their form factor, and will definitely be an inspiration going forward for ways to add visual (and emotional) interest to game data.

Varga’s Pennant

In addition I did a fair amount of trolling for lacrosse data to work with as I develop my prototypes. I was able to find historical data for NCAA championship matches down to the forced errors and goalie saves, and will be using that data in future implementation prototypes.

PROTOTYPE/RESEARCH OBJECTIVES.

This week I spent some my research and prototyping time trying to figure out some of the logistics of my prototypes, and created a couple early-stage web apps. My objectives were largely to see what challenges arose while building, and more importantly just to get my hands dirty on something other than the scorekeeping prototype so that I would have a better basis for thinking about the designs and system going forward. (This was a rather pragmatic research/prototyping period—after midterms I needed to take a brief mental break and just make some things to get my brain back on track!)

METHODOLOGY.

These preliminary mini-apps will serve as a jumping off point for the data visualization side of the project, as well as for the picture and video viewing features.
Figures 1, 2, and 3 show the sequences of visualizing data between different games using an HTML5 canvas element and javascript animations. The data (and the analysis tools thereof) are over-simplified in this example as I was focusing on making a smooth transition between the game states—I will refine this (and the different views from which the user will be able to interpret their data) in coming iterations.

Figures 1-3. Simple Data Visualization Interface (Early Stages)

In this current state, the user can see a handful of statistics from a series of games over time. To see the data from the next game, the user can then either press the left and right arrows on either side of the game title, or press on the stats themselves and it will cycle through the group of games in sequence.
Figures 4 through 7 show the current early-stage prototype for a photo/video playback interface, in which the videos are attached to specific goals on the field. In this scenario, if a parent or fan had caught a play involved in that goal on video (or as a photo) they could have uploaded it and attached it to that goal—this screen would be the interface that would allow people to then view these videos after that had taken place.
To see the video (in this case, although it could also be a photo or album of photos) the user can just click on the goal (represented by the yellow lacrosse ball). Once the user clicks the goal, the video pops out and begins playing, automatically setting the game clock to the time of the corresponding goal that it is attached. The user can then pause or continue to play the video, or click the goal again to hide the video and move on to the next one.

Figures 4-7. Prototype of Photo/Video Playback Interface (Early Stages

This prototype will also, when more fleshed out, feature a slider that allows the user to scrub through the game clock and see the goals and other marked events appear on the field as they occurred during the game. This would allow the user to feel more connected to the game and almost “watch” the game over again as a collection of multimedia clips and comments.

RESULTS AND CONCLUSION.

The two prototypes are admittedly still very rough, but I am pleased with the progress so far. I am continuing to sketch out richer experiences for both facets of the project and will be working a lot of the interface kinks out via paper prototyping, not purely by building, to speed up the process—but getting my head back into the web programming world was a necessary part of getting the ball rolling again.
The data visualization prototype is much less well-developed than the video playback one, and will be undergoing a lot of storyboarding and paper prototyping going forward. I need to continue to think about what types of interactions would benefit users and bring new meaning to data, so that these animations can serve a higher purpose than just “looking cool.”
The video/photo prototype is still fairly rough as well but I’m excited about where it’s going and plan to sketch out a much richer scenario in the next week. The general idea of being able to see these things happen both spatially and temporally is present, however, and has helped me consider other ways in which I can show users game data in a multi-dimensional, more useful way. I am also really excited about the idea of giving people a way to watch back a game as though it were happening in real-time and will continue to develop the sketches with this is mind.

NEXT STEPS.

// Continue to storyboard, sketch, and brainstorm for all the various facets of the web app.
// Continue to research sports statistics visualization for ideas on the unique visualization techniques that are suited to this type of data.
// Reframe the context for my project slightly. I have gotten slightly off track lately and have felt myself getting pulled towards the rabbit hole of gender issues in sports—and while I still feel that this is an important part of my project, it was never the main emotional core for me. I need to do some thinking and diagramming to establish why I’m doing what I’m doing and what the context really is.

BIBLIOGRAPHY.

Vargatron. 2011. Pennant. Version 1.2, updated 4/12/2011. Accessible via the iTunes store at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pennant/id419062917?mt=8.

NCAA. “2011 NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Tournament Statistics and Records – NCAA.org.” Retrieved 10/26/2011 at http://www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/public/ncaa/resources/stats/w+lacrosse/2011champs.htm

Category : Fall 2011 | Writing + Research | Blog
19
Oct

Since they were a little hard to see in the last design brief, I wanted to pull out the system diagram for the scorekeeping system separately. (Click on the images to see a bigger version.)

The Main Scoring App

Individual Statistic Counters

Collaborative Media Timeline

Simple Game Clock and Score View

The Complete System

Category : Fall 2011 | Process | Blog
17
Oct
ESSENTIAL DESIGN QUESTIONS.

Q:  How might a collaborative data collection and visualization tool for girls’ lacrosse be able to improve the lives of young girls through encouraging lifelong participation in sports?

Q: What benefits would players, parents, coaches, and community members gain by working together to create a strong support base for girls’ sports in their community?

WORKING HYPOTHESIS/IF-THEN STATEMENT.

If members of the girls lacrosse community (primarily coaches, players, and parents) were able to personally collect, analyze and visualize game and season data in real time, then they would be much better positioned to encourage the physical, emotional, intellectual, and social development of individual players as well as the continued growth of the girls lacrosse community as a whole.

WORKING DESIGN QUESTIONS.

Q: What features would allow a collaborative scorekeeping and data collection tool to simultaneously facilitate game data collection, engage players and fans, and give that data life beyond the game?

Q: What benefits would coaches, players and parents involved in the girls lacrosse community (primarily youth level) gain from being able to easily collect, see and analyze their data visually?

CURRENT THESIS CONCEPT AND AUDIENCE.

Concept: To create an easy-to-use web application (in the form of a suite of coordinating iPhone/mobile phone, iPad/tablet, and desktop/laptop-based apps) for members of the girls lacrosse community. This series of apps would allow users to collect, visualize, and effectively analyze team, player and game data in real time (where data spans a wide range of information from basic scheduling to statistics and commentary to photos of games or other team-related events).

Audience:Users of the web and mobile devices that are involved in the lacrosse community, primarily at the youth-level. Different aspects of the project would cater to the various subsets of this demographic, such as coaching staff, parents, players, and community members/fans. At this junction, however, I am focusing on the data collection process as it relates to community members filling the scorekeeper role. This could include supplementary coaching staff (or even the head coach if all other resources are exhausted) but as I am trying to make my interface intuitive tor anyone that would try to use it, I am currently gearing my research and designs towards the “lowest common denominator” of stat-recording expertise: parents and other community volunteers.

IMPETUS [BY WAY OF] DOMAINS AND PRECEDENTS STUDIED.

In order to better explain the impetus/need for my project in the girls lacrosse community in particular, this week my domain and precedent research consisted of digging through journal articles and books related to gender roles in sports (at both the player and coaching level), and the impact of sports on girls’ emotional and physical development. I also spent time looking for additional examples of projects that strive to foster confidence and life skills in young girls.

// Research observations regarding gender roles and girls’ involvement in sports
Gender in sports is a well-researched topic, which wading through the literature simultaneously overwhelming and fruitful. I read a number of journal articles discussing the differences in motivation and participation levels of young girls vs. boys and how societal pressures can play a part. I also still have a few books on order investigating the role of parents, family and gender on youth sports that I am looking forward to reading more thoroughly when they arrive in the mail.

I also read some articles relating to the general state of girls in athletics, and the ways in which young female athletes perceive themselves and their peers. In one of these articles, titled “Tomboys, Dykes, and Girly Girls: Interrogating the Subjectivities of Adolescent Female Athletes,” the authors Adams, Schmitke, and Franklin (2005) discuss how girls have long been at odds with the sports world but are making great strides, citing examples of high-school age girls that have participated in sports and seem to be breaking through the gender roles and restrictions.

In the early days of girls’ entrance into sports, they describe, even advocates for gender equality in sports participation “sought to remake sports into a more feminine sphere by downplaying the competitive and aggressive aspects of sports” (p. 18). This pattern of dampening the competitive spirit of athletic contests for female athletes can be seen throughout the history of women’s sports, but has been largely overcome thanks to victories such as the passing of Title IX.

Further into the article, Adams, Schmitke and Franklin describe the confidence, intensity and lack of gender-driven inhibition with which many girls today, having grown up under the effects of Title IX, carry themselves:

In experiencing the joy or ‘sense of awe that is associated with transcending previous boundaries’ (Castelnuovo and Guthrie 1998:10), the girls in our study certainly viewed sports as key to their lives and central to their sense of self. As these female high school athletes talked about the rush they receive in competing against others, in the self-discipline they must exude to be competitive (e.g., competing with broken wrists, bandaged knees, and hurt ankles), and the sheer pleasure in bonding with other females in spaces that were once considered off limits, they do indeed seem to be interloping into spaces once reserved for males. (p. 25)
As illuminated in these high school girls’ accounts of their experiences playing sports, they understood the world of sports as one of the main vehicles by which they have attained confidence, independence, assertiveness, and joy in the physicality of the body. These are the qualities that Girls Studies scholars have argued are sorely lacking in most adolescent girls. (p. 31)

No longer contained by “lady-like” sports or physical activities, these high school athletes were able to compete at a high level without being pressured into submission, with the intensity and competitiveness that was previous reserved only for male athletes. The girls themselves even recognize the immense emotional and developmental gains they have achieved through participation in sports—a level of self-awareness and confidence that is encouraging to see.
What I found interesting about this article in particular was not just that the girls made great strides in confidence, and feelings of independence and happiness, but the fact that the girls specifically mentioned wanting the same sense of harsh competition and hardship, whether that be in the form of playing through injuries, pushing themselves to their mental limits, or facing fierce competition. This desire supports my project’s goal of giving young female athletes access to a wide array of real statistical measures of how they “stack up” with either their competitors or their past performances.

// Examples of self-esteem and skills-building programs for girls
The Rock ‘N’ Roll Camp for Girls, run by the Girls Rock Camp, is an excellent example of a program seeking to empower girls through learning skills and participating in a team dynamic. The camp’s mission statement reads as follows: “The Rock ’n’ Roll Camp for Girls, a 501(c)3 non-profit, builds girls self-esteem through music creation and performance. Providing workshops and technical training, we create leadership opportunities, cultivate a supportive community of peers and mentors, and encourage social change and the development of life skills.”
This type of program, while based in music and not athletics, touches on many of the same goals that I am tackling with my thesis project. It is not simply a self-esteem boost—Girls Rock Camp empowers young girls with a set of technical and artistic skills that are often considered to be predominantly reserved for boys (namely, being in a rock band), giving them the confidence that they need to succeed in our current male-dominated society.
I plan to take a similar approach in my own work. By encouraging girls to stay involved in sports by providing them with real-time feedback, increasing their own sense of value (through access to tools that previously might have only have been accessible to the town’s high school boys’ team), and strengthening community support around the team and girls lacrosse in general, I strive to give more girls the opportunity to build confidence and life skills that will greatly benefit them down the road.

PROTOTYPE/RESEARCH OBJECTIVES.

This week my prototyping time was spent trying to think through the system of users and devices that would be in place during a game, and how it would allow my product to improve the scorekeeping and game-watching experience for players, coaches, scorekeepers, and fans alike.

METHODOLOGY.

To investigate this system (and to be better able to describe it to others) I created a series of diagrams illustrating the dynamics on and around the field during a game as they currently exist, and the system that I am proposing as a potential improvement.

Figure 1. Player Positions in Girls’ Lacrosse

Figure 1 simply outlines the positions of players on the field for one team, as context for the following diagrams. Each team fields 12 players (eleven field players plus the goalie), which are spread along the length of the field.

Figure 2. Starting Positions and Field Layout at Start of Game (including parents/fans, coaches, scorekeepers, and subs

In Figure 2, we begin to see the sheer number of people involved in a girls’ lacrosse game. This diagram shows the starting positions of both teams, including coaches, scorekeepers, parents/fans, and substitute players. This is the configuration that the players assume at the beginning of the game, as well as at each draw control (the event that restarts play at the center of the field after each goal).
Figures 3 and 4 illustrate the two most common states that you would find the players in during a game: a settled offense (Figure 3) where the players are setting up around the opponents goal looking to create scoring opportunities (much like basketball), and a fast break (Figure 4) where the players quickly transition from one end of the field to the other after a turnover.

Figure 3. Average Player Configuration for the Majority of the Game (Settled Offense)
(The play remains on one end of the field until the ball is turned over)

Figure 4. Example of Potential Player Configuration during a Fast Break
(The play moves quickly down the field until the attacking team can set up a settled offense)

The interesting thing to note about these two main types of field positioning is that they offer the scorekeepers minimal close-range vision of the events taking place. For the majority of the game that is spent in some form of settled offense, as well as for all of the goals and most major penalties, the action is approximately 50 yards away; the portions of the game that are spent either restarting play with a draw control or in fast break are the only times that the scorekeepers are close to the action, but these moments are by definition fleeting. In order to get more accurate scorekeeping, we would need to utilize someone a little closer to the action, or in a perfect world, be able to include an entire group of people to help keep track of the many smaller (yet still incredibly valuable) statistics throughout the course of the game. Figure 5 highlights this issue by illustrating the current paper-based scorekeeping system used today: one book and a few scorekeepers trying to write everything down.

Figure 5. Current Paper-Based Scorekeeping System

Figures 6 through 10 illustrate some of the different components involved in the collaborative scorekeeping solution that I propose in my thesis project. Figure 6 illustrates the main iPad app, which could serve as the only scorekeeping interface if no other tablet computers or mobile phones were available. If there happened to be two tablet devices available, I also plan to have a different view that focuses on just one of the two teams (not pictured), so that all scorekeeping related to the home team would be on one device and all scorekeeping related to the away team would take place on the other. This would allow multiple scorekeepers to score simultaneously, or could even just be used as a way to make more space for the desired statistics of each team.

Figure 6. The Main Scorekeeping Application (iPad/tablet)

Figure 7 illustrates the Single Stat Counter component of the application, which would allow “satellite scorekeepers” to connect to the same game data session and be in charge of a single stat’s collection. The number of these counters would be limited only by the number of mobile phones on hand or number of volunteers, (whichever is smaller). With this functionality, girls that are on the bench could stay engaged in the game by being in charge of ground balls, completed passes, or forced turnovers, respectively. In addition, parent volunteers could be in charge of certain stats that don’t impact the outcome of the game (such as completed passes or forced turnovers) from the fan side of the field, freeing up the minds of the scorekeepers, coaches, and players.

Figure 7. Single Statistic Counters (iPhone/mobile)

Figure 8. Photo-Taking Interface that Links Photos to Game Timeline (iPhone/mobile)

Figure 8, above, illustrates the game photos component of the system, where parents and fans from anywhere on the sidelines could take pictures and submit them immediately to a timeline of the game as it is taking place. These photos would be immediately accessible on the game’s main page, and viewable by anyone—even players’ grandparents 2,000 miles away—and would be linked to the time they were taken on the game clock. I would also love to include the ability to comment on the photos as they are submitted to create a sort of crowd-sourced narrative as the game transpires. While this would not replace game photos taken with professional cameras, it would provide an alternative if none of the parents can take on the role of “team photographer.” In addition, even if one of the team parents was the official team photographer, this could create an incredibly rich stream of data that would easily complement any professional photography without trying to replace it.

Finally Figure 9, below, illustrates how fans that aren’t necessarily part of the closer-knit team community could still interact with the system by having a quick and easy way of viewing the current score and finding out how much time is left on the game clock. (In the all-too-common absence of larger illuminated scoreboards, little paper flip-style scoreboards are used in their place and sit on the scorer’s table. Needless to say, this can be tricky to see from across an entire field if your eyesight isn’t at it best! And the game time is often controlled out of sight, making it impossible to know how much time remains without asking the ref from the sidelines.) While this isn’t the most interactive of the different modes, it would provide a useful service to fans on the sidelines that aren’t interested in keeping tabs on ground balls or snapping pictures.

Figure 9. Basic Game Info Screen for Fans (iPhone/mobile)

Figure 10 and 11 show the entire system working together in two versions: the first with just images for the sake of clarity, and the second including all the labels from the preceding explanations to be able to read about all the details in one place if desired.

Figure 10. The Complete Digital System

Figure 11. The Complete Digital System with Annotations

RESULTS AND CONCLUSION.

While a little on the visually complex side once you get to the full annotated system diagram, I am happy with the way the system is fleshing out so far and excited about the possibilities for this type of collaborative data collecting. Mapping out the various aspects of how I envision the system working on game day allowed me to better visualize the interactions between the players, parents/fans, coaches, and scorekeepers, and will help as I consider new features that might improve the project further.

NEXT STEPS.

// Continue researching girls’ participation in sports, as well as the impact of different coaching styles on player performance and development (ie: a emotionally supportive/fairness-based approach vs. a more competitive meritocracy/skill-based approach).
// Continue to refine interface sketches for the scorekeeping portion of my project and begin to create sketches for other screen states.
// Begin mocking up the iPhone/mobile app views for the various “satellite” features of the application (e.g. single stat counter modes, score-only view, photo interface, etc).
// Work with real game data (already collected from historical NCAA Championship game box scores) to create prototypes for the data visualization aspects of the project.
// Seek out more contacts in the girls’ lacrosse community (parents, players, coaches, and any volunteers that frequently perform scorekeeper duties) to consult with on various aspects of the project.

BIBLIOGRAPHY.

Adams, Natalie, Alison Schmitke, and Amy Franklin. 2005. “Tomboys, Dykes, and Girly Girls: Interrogating the Subjectivities of Adolescent Female Athletes.” Women’s Studies Quarterly 33 (1/2, Women and Sports): pp. 17-34.

American Association of University Women (AAUW). “Title IX Athletic Statistics.” Accessed 10/12, 2011. Retrieved from http://www.aauw.org/act/laf/library/athleticStatistics.cfm.

Chawansky, Megan. 2005. “That Takes Balls: Toward a Feminist Coaching Methodology.” Women’s Studies Quarterly 33 (1/2, Women and Sports): pp. 105-119.

Figler, S. K. 1981. Sport and Play in American Life: A Textbook in the Sociology of Sport. Saunders College Pub.

Girls Rock Institute. “Rock ‘N’ Roll Camp for Girls.” Retrieved from http://www.girlsrockcamp.org/programs/girls-rock-institute.

Hayes, Frances. “‘Girls ROCK’ Program Teaches Self-Esteem.” Wilkes Journal-Patriot. Retrieved from http://www.journalpatriot.com/news/article_84e42dfa-b6e9-11e0-a148-001a4bcf6878.html.

Koivula, Nathalie. 1999. “Sport Participation: Differences in Motivation and Actual.” Journal of Sport Behavior 22 (3): 360.

Messner, M. A. 2009. It’s all for the Kids: Gender, Families, and Youth Sports. University of California Press.

Morris, Bonnie J. 2005. “Teaching Athletics and Gender: A Pedagogical Narrative.” Women’s Studies Quarterly 33 (1): 233-245.

Whitaker, Gail and Susan Mostad. 1985. “Male Coach/Female Coach: A Theoretical Analysis of the Female Sport Experience.”Journal of Sport and Social Issues 9 (2): 14–25.

Category : Fall 2011 | Process | Writing + Research | Blog
10
Oct
ESSENTIAL DESIGN QUESTIONS.

Q:  What benefits would coaches, players and parents involved in the girls lacrosse community (primarily youth level) gain from being able to see and analyze their data visually?

Q: How can I create a system of scorekeeping and integrated visualization and analysis tools that are able to simultaneously facilitate game data collection and give that data life beyond the game?

WORKING DESIGN QUESTIONS.

Q: How can I improve on the confusing process of paper-based game statistics collection with a screen-based interface?

Q: How viable is a web-based app as an alternative to a native application? What (if any) are the sacrifices that I would have to consider in choosing this path over the iOS path?

CURRENT THESIS CONCEPT AND AUDIENCE.

Concept: To create an easily-accessible, purely GUI interface for members of the girls lacrosse community to collect, visualize, and effectively analyze team, player and game data in real time (where data spans a wide range of information from basic scheduling to statistics and commentary to photos of games or other team-related events).

Audience: Users of the web and mobile devices that are involved in the lacrosse community, primarily at the youth-level. Different aspects of the project would cater to the various subsets of this demographic, such as coaching staff, parents, players, and community members/fans. At this junction, however, I am focusing on the data collection process as it relates to community members filling the scorekeeper role. This could include supplementary coaching staff (or even the head coach if all other resources are exhausted) but as I am trying to make my interface intuitive tor anyone that would try to use it, I am currently gearing my research and designs towards the “lowest common denominator” of stat-recording expertise: parents and other community volunteers.

IMPETUS.

For the majority of sporting events, winners are determined by having either the most or least of a certain statistic. A soccer or lacrosse game’s winner is decided by whoever has the highest goal count. A golf match’s winner is decided by the lowest number of strokes. In any time-based race, whether in a swimming pool, a track or a 100-mile ultra-marathon course, whoever has the lowest time becomes champion. But these top-level statistics are not the only ones that matter to the athlete; to be able to achieve that level of accomplishment in a sport, the athlete has to train not only hard, but also intelligently—and an intelligent training plan requires the athlete to assess their own personal strengths or weaknesses and then continuously track their progress in case any adjustments need to be made. This process can be done partially without the use of precise statistics, but general observation can only get you so far—and is always relative. When you need to know with 100% certainty that your running times have been decreasing, or confirm that your pitching accuracy is worse on curve balls than sliders (but perhaps only during the later innings), or compare your own progress with that of your biggest competitors, objectively collected (and sport-wide acknowledged) data is the only way to get a conclusive answer.

So why don’t we just keep track of all that stuff if it’s so valuable? Unfortunately, scorekeeping during most sporting events is no easy task. One-on-one sports like singles tennis make it somewhat simpler since there are really only two people you need to worry about, but when you start to add more players to each team, the number of people whose actions you need to watch, analyze, and record increases twofold. By the time you get to women’s lacrosse, you’ve already passed up ice hockey at six per side, men’s lacrosse at 10 per side, and soccer at 11 per side, and are fielding twelve players per team; that’s 24 girls that you need to keep track of if they have (or are near) the ball, not to mention recording substitutions, off-ball plays, and so on. Sports programs with large amounts of resources can successfully perform this type of scorekeeping by having several dedicated scorekeepers—for example one might be manning the clock and logging substitutions, another might be tracking major events like goals, assists, or fouls, and a third might be tracking smaller constant events like completed and incomplete passes, ground balls, and so on—but for smaller programs this becomes much more logistically difficult.

Programs with a supportive parent base will often help alleviate this issue by having parents serve “timer duty” or another similarly created position, so that the coaches are freed up to pay more attention to the game. But even with this solution, there is a fairly steep learning curve to be able to record these stats quickly and accurately. Recognizing the events on the field at all is a large part of this challenge if the scorekeeper is not well-versed in the rules of the game, but that is not the only obstacle to efficient non-expert scorekeeping; even for those with a reasonable amount of skill for recognizing the events, the current system of recording these stats is a total nightmare.

DOMAINS AND PRECEDENTS STUDIED.

In order to better explain the need for my project in the lacrosse community, most of my domain and precedent research this week was spent on looking at the paper-based scorekeeping solutions that exist today.

// Exhibit A: Women’s Lacrosse Official Game Score Sheet, Vail Lacrosse Shootout 2009
On the simpler end of the spectrum, we find examples like Exhibit A above, an image of the official score sheet for the Vail Shootout 2009’s Women’s Elite championship game. While the sheet is not inherently confusing, it is overly simplified—(for example, unless you make edits to the template by hand as the scorekeeper did here, you can really only record goals scored and goalie saves)—and it tells you very little of value about the proceedings of the game. There is no way of knowing which team had ball possession the majority of the game, or how many groundballs each team picked up, or even who contributed assists to the scored goals. For simple administrative record keeping this is adequate, but it is nearly useless if the players want to learn anything from the game’s events.

// Exhibit B: Men’s Lacrosse Official Game Score Sheet, Vail Lacrosse Shootout 2009
Exhibit B shows a men’s score sheet from the same tournament that has provisions for much more detailed stat keeping. (Men’s scorebooks tend to be better prepared for stat collection in general, which is another impetus for this project that I will elaborate upon in a future research brief.) While the stats being tracked here are largely not useable for women’s lacrosse (the rules vary significantly between the two, making it impossible to use one sport’s scorebook for the other without serious compromises) it shows with just a quick glance how adding in that next layer of detail in order to track useful game statistics comes at great cost of clarity. Rosters are crudely taped to the pages, information is cramped and hard to read, and there is no way to add extra space for players who happen to rack up many more goals, groundballs, etc. than their teammates.

// Exhibit C: Women’s Lacrosse Official Game Score Sheet Template, Big Red
In Exhibit C, we can see a girl’s lacrosse equivalent of a score sheet that has added in allowances for recording more complex game data, but with a similar loss of clarity (not to mention the fact that it’s written in Comic Sans!). They attempt to address the issue of needing to record data quickly by providing a number crossing-off style interface (each stat has a certain amount of numbered circles that you can cross out instead of having to tally them up at the end); however when using this system, space is allocated for marking down a certain amount of shots, goals, assists, etc for each player, regardless of how many minutes (if any) they will be playing or how many goals they may or may not score. Because of this, a lot of text has to be squeezed into the page, much of which simply will not be used throughout the course of the game.

// Exhibit D: Women’s Lacrosse Official Game Score Sheet Template, deBeer Lacrosse
In Exhibit D, we can see the two-page spread that is used in the official women’s lacrosse scorebook template produced by deBeer (one of the largest brands of lacrosse equipment and accessories in the lacrosse community). The most obvious change from the examples above is the fact that it spans two pages in an attempt to allow the recording of more detailed game data. This helps spread out the information, but right from the start the scorekeeper now has to deal with two full pages of tables and tick marks when jotting down game events. The benefit of this system is that the left side of the spread is somewhat simplified and is only used for recording player information, goals, assists, and the time of these events.
The second page, however, becomes an amplified version of Exhibit C’s score sheet, with numbered tick marks for twice as many potential statistics crammed into the same amount of space. This design is well laid out and relatively clear given the spatial constraints, but again we have the issue of huge amounts of wasted space (reserved for a large amount of stats that will never happen) and the right-hand stats page is overwhelming to say the least. (In addition, you are only able to track stats for one team in this model, making it impossible to compare numbers against players from the opposite team in real time.)

EXPERIMENT/RESEARCH OBJECTIVES AND MEASURABLE GOALS.

This week my research revolved largely around the game data collection process, designing for the corresponding interface, and investigating ways in which I might be able to implement these designs. Research objectives included the following:
// Continuing to explore the sketching/visual prototyping process to investigate interface options for the data recording application.
// Building out one of these sketches using HTML5/CSS3/Javascript to test whether or not I can achieve the effect of a polished native application using these technologies.

RESULTS AND CONCLUSION.

Design of the Application Interface:
// This week I continued to refine my prototype sketches for the game data collection interface, adding in some extra functionality and working on the layout and aesthetic. As with last week, some challenges have continued to present themselves (such as how to decide which stats get “front page billing” and which require an extra screen or keystroke to be entered); these challenges will help me zero in on what the interface would need to be to maximize functionality without sacrificing clarity going forward.

I currently have working sketches for two of the application states/screens: the main scorekeeping screen that would be used by the main timer and scorekeeper (which allows stat recording for both teams), and a sample of a player position and substitution screen that would allow the user to use a simple drag and drop interaction to update which players are currently in the game and what positions they are playing.

Main screen:

Main screen with player selection menu:

Player positions and substitutions screen:

Viability of Web Application as Implementation Method:
In order to test whether or not web-based applications would be able provide the seamless type of user experience I am hoping to achieve for the game data recording portion of my project, I began to build out the prototype sketches into an actual functioning web application. I am working purely from a user interaction perspective at this stage so the data is not currently being stored anywhere; once I polish the interface and decide more definitively what types of data I want to be storing, I will start thinking in greater detail about the structure of the back end. Currently, the buttons and goal recording system are functional at a testing level and are running through a combination of CSS3 and Javascript.
The application is sized at iPad native resolution, with meta data in the html to make it appear like a native app when launched from a home screen shortcut (i.e. no address/bookmark bar from the Safari browser, no pinch zooming, and no elastic scrolling). The touch interactions proved to be slightly tricky to handle in certain situations as the timing of how an iPad processes a finger/gesture event is much different (specifically, slower) than how a computer processes a mouse event, but this preliminary exploration period is helping me acclimate to developing in a touch screen environment instead of my normal laptop-based development.
Images of the current state of the app are below:

The detail shots below illustrate the state changes of the timer button, the hover/click/press states of the stat counters along the bottom of the main screen, and a close up on the goal marking system. At the moment, the goals are marked by clicking on a part of the field (at the location where the goal took place). When the user clicks, a yellow circle, which represents a yellow lacrosse ball, is placed at the mouse location and a goal is added to the team that is shooting on that goal’s scoreboard.

I am very happy with how the web application is coming along so far, and currently have no run into any major sacrifices compared with a native app. I will continue to push the edges, however, to see where potential strengths or weaknesses might lie.

NEXT STEPS.

// Continue to refine interface sketches for the scorekeeping portion of my project and begin to create sketches for other aspects of the proposed application.
// Continue to build out other parts of the application as web applications to test the viability of the interface beyond the main page.
// Start thinking more seriously about the visualization side of the project in order to maintain a solid grasp on the overall balance of the project. This will involve both sketching out potential interface designs and considering in greater depth the role of these visualizations and the types of interactions that should or should not be included.
// Follow up with contacts in the lacrosse community for feedback on the project as a whole.

BIBLIOGRAPHY.

Women’s Lacrosse Official Game Score Sheet, Vail Lacrosse Shootout 2009. Retrieved from http://www.vaillacrosse.com/2009/womens/elite/

Men’s Lacrosse Official Game Score Sheet, Vail Lacrosse Shootout 2009. Retrieved from http://www.vaillacrosse.com/2010/mens/elite/

Big Red Scorebooks, Women’s Lacrosse Scorebook. Retrieved from http://www.bigredscorebooks.com/lacrosse.html

deBeer Women’s Lacrosse, Women’s Lacrosse Scorebook. Viewable at http://www.debeerlacrosse.com/products/debeer/accessories/scorebook.php

Category : Fall 2011 | Writing + Research | Blog