by Will Li (’23) | October 7, 2022
Graphing polynomials and plotting points in a portable with five minutes left on an exam during a chilly second period. Watching the football whistle and whirl overhead with five seconds left in the fourth quarter on a warm Friday night. To many, mathematics and sports seem far from compatible. But Lancer Analytics, Saint Francis’s sports analytics club founded in early 2021, disproves this widely-held misconception.
“We love math, and we love sports. We just wanted to combine them,” explained president Sreekar Kutagulla (’23). “We’re innovative and interdisciplinary.”
“Combining sports with math was a new idea that really fascinated me. It’s inspiring to be able to use math to help sports players,” added two-year member Aarav Sontakke (’25).
The analysts’ primary responsibilities consist of collecting data on Lancer teams’ performance at games, computationally analyzing that data to identify trends in specific facets of athletic performance (such as the efficiency of the Varsity Football Team’s various offensive formations), and compiling an advisory report of strengths and deficits to present to coaches.
“Different members specialize in different sports,” explained Kutagulla. “Club leaders delegate tasks to various members, consolidating everyone’s work into one coherent report.”
Aside from their duties, the analysts also enjoy the guidance of moderator Mr. Mike Chechelnitsky, who holds a master’s degree in data science and has industry experience. Mr. Chechelnitsky “suggests a lot of ideas for how we can make our work more efficient,” explained board member Parsa Rezaee (’23). “He’s been helpful.”
Currently, the club is devoting itself to collecting and analyzing data for the football team for a third season. During home games, the analysts perch on top of the broadcasters’ booth of Ron Calcagno Stadium, gathering data from a bird’s-eye view. “It’s the best spot where you can watch the game,” said two-year member Dennis Li (’25). “While we’re watching, we might discuss some plays we could have run or some plays we could have done better. It’s really fun.”
On Friday, September 2, club members also met with Saint Francis alumni Shravan Ramamurthy (’17) and Rohin Prabhakaran (’17), both of whom currently work as analysts for professional football teams, as well as Coach Calcagno.
“We got a lot of valuable insights about the statistics [professionals] take,” recounted senior Andy Nilson. “They take hundreds of statistics. We were trying to figure out which of those statistics would be most useful to us.”
Aside from the football team, the analysts also serve the basketball and baseball teams. In addition to other responsibilities, board member Daniel Felix (’23) assembles plus-minus charts, which compare how players stack up against each other in the game and “help coaches decide which lineups could work best against different teams.” Nilson constructs heat maps and scatterplots that reveal the frequencies of pitches to different regions of and around the strike zone.
The analysts still inevitably encounter challenges in their work, especially in data collection and analysis. For Li, the difficulty lies in balancing the enjoyment of games with the duty of logging statistics. “It’s really hard to do both at a fast pace; you have to multitask,” he explained.
Meanwhile, a challenge for board member Ethan Kawahara (’23) is the “time-consuming” nature of managing an abundance of statistics, while Felix commented on the limited computational equipment available to high school analysts. Similarly, board member Kyan Agdassi (’23) views the limited number of statistics available on Hudl, a game footage database, as another obstacle.
Even with the challenges of gathering and performing complex analyses on high school athletics data, the analysts “really enjoy what they’re doing. They find this stuff interesting,” commented board member Rohan Shah (’23).
Kutagulla relishes witnessing the translation of his work into improvements on the field. Likewise, Nilson “really, really loves being able to contribute to the success of athletic teams without having to be on the field.”
In the future, Lancer Analytics hopes to expand its operations. “I’d like to see kids who are coming to this school capitalize on the momentum generated by our current leadership,” said Mr. Chechelnitsky. “I want to see us branch out into other sports down the line.”
He added, “I’m very proud of this club.”
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