Before this spring, attending a Charlotte Knights game would have been a meaningless night out for Tierra Faulkner and Jeryn Lindsay.
The Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology students didn’t know a sacrifice bunt from a sacrifice fly in the months prior to going to a game at BB&T Ballpark in May.
But because of their participation in a school-sponsored internship in which they attended Berry games and practices and analyzed the team’s statistical data, Faulkner and Lindsay grew to like baseball so much they felt they were a part of the team.
Along with fellow student Joseph Williams, Faulkner and Lindsay were members of Berry’s first StatSquad, named after a curriculum developed by Davidson professor Tim Chartier and sponsored by National Amateur Sports.
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Throughout the school year, StatSquad students assisted the school’s athletic department in collecting and analyzing statistics for eight sports. In early May, the students were rewarded for their efforts when they received the 2015 WTVI/CPCC STEM Award in the sports division.
“It gave me something really cool to do with my time,” said Lindsay. “In the basketball season, when the team lost, we felt like we lost, too. We felt like we were a part of the game.”
The Berry StatSquad collected and analyzed sports data through SAS, a computer software program taught at the school.
The students kept track of traditional statistics such as rushing yards in football, points and rebounds in basketball and hits and strikeouts in baseball. But they also pieced together data few casual fans see.
Early in the 2014-15 school year, National Amateur Sports piloted the StatSquad program at four Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools: East Mecklenburg, Cornelius Hough, Mallard Creek and South Mecklenburg high schools.
Berry Athletic Director Bryant Bailey said he was disappointed his school wasn’t selected as one of the pilot schools. He spoke with Berry administrator Sharon Jones about initiating the StatSquad program as an internship.
Jones endorsed the project and recommended two students she had taught in a computer science class: Faulkner and Lindsay.
Williams, also a member of the Cardinals track and field team, was recommended by another teacher.
The StatSquad began working with the fall sports teams. Williams, a senior, assisted the volleyball team while fellow senior Faulkner and Lindsay, a junior, provided support for the football and girls’ tennis teams.
“I had liked football, although I didn’t always know what was going on,” Faulkner said.
By using means, frequency and cross-tabulation, Faulkner and Lindsay recorded offensive yards and tackles for the football team and were able to analyze the success of certain plays based on which players were on the field. For example, specific offensive linemen, they found, helped produce more yards for the team.
For the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams, the StatSquad followed points, assists, turnovers and 3-point shots, but they also maintained detailed shot charts.
In baseball, Berry coach Jamall Kinard said the StatSquad helped him chart pitches and determine the tendencies of opposing batters.
“It helped more in the defensive department,” Kinard said. “We could see good stats on what the player did the previous time up so we could adjust the defense if necessary to fit where we had a high probability of getting that player out.”
Berry’s coaches weren’t the only people interested in the StatSquad’s work. Faulkner, Lindsay and Williams say they often were approached by players and parents interested in following their stats. Lindsay said college recruiters sometimes peered over their shoulders to catch information on StatSquad’s iPads during basketball games.
Williams applied his statistical skills to his own track and field team, comparing how athletes performed between the outdoor and indoor seasons.
Because they have completed the internship program, Faulkner and Williams will receive an extra diploma – one from the National Academy Foundation – at Berry’s graduation at Bojangles Coliseum on June 12. Lindsay plans onto continue as a StatSquad member next school year and will receive two diplomas at her graduation.
Faulkner will attend UNC-Chapel Hill as a Covenant Scholar, majoring in political science. She says she is interested in keeping statistics for the Tar Heels baseball team.
Williams will attend UNC Charlotte, where he plans to major in international business. He said he also is interested in taking SAS classes in college.
Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.