“Why are you doing this?”
That was the question posed to Matthew Zito earlier this year, referring to his Sports Statistics and Video Management class, a new offering for Plaquemine (La.) students this fall. The class’ teacher and an assistant coach on the football team, Zito grabbed his computer and pulled up a litany of job ads. Teams of every sport at every level are searching for analysts and statisticians to join their organizations, and Zito wants to set students up to fill those roles.
“You can go to college and do the same exact stuff we’re doing in my class,” Zito said. “The best way to describe what they’re doing is having a bunch of GAs (graduate assistants) in college, because they’re putting all the data into Hudl, running reports, reviewing the tendencies of our offense and the opposing offense. We’re trimming film and making playlists. All of our practices are filmed from multiple angles. We’re trying to make it as much like a college football program as we can.”
The idea came to Zito through CoachHuey.com, a popular sounding board for football coaches to bounce ideas off one another. One coach brought up the idea of having a “Hudl class”, which piqued Zito’s interest. He ran the idea through Plaquemine’s guidance counselor, got the class approved and kicked things off this fall.
Zito’s goal for the class was to:
- Give students experience filming live sporting events
- Advance students’ knowledge of sports statistics and their use
- Enable students to be a part of a sports program
- Familiarize students with the technology needed to perform their duties
The students exceeded Zito’s expectations during the class’ initial months. They have assisted the football team by filming games and practices, creating highlight videos and pregame graphics, scouting opponent video, managing the team’s social media accounts, assisting in the creation of athletes’ highlight videos and recapping games on Plaquemine’s weekly news channel, .
Zito handpicked his roster of 15 students, only five of which were athletes. He looked for responsible teenagers who wanted to be a part of Plaquemine’s sports teams and were serious about a future in sports. He had to turn away many interested students and gets frequent questions about how to sign up next year.
But the class is no walk in the park. Zito makes sure his students take their responsibilities seriously.
“I make them take pride in what they do,” Zito said. “We grade them on their film, we grade them on their attendance at practice. If you disobey, you lose a letter grade for the week. I give them a grade for the week and the kids that are part of the game day crew get an extra grade. If Timmy misses X amount of clips, I’ll look at the rubric and see he misses X amount of points. I hold them accountable by their grade.”
The Plaquemine coaches have fully embraced the assistance and quality of the students’ work, and other area coaches have certainly taken notice.
“The coaches around here are very jealous,” Zito said. “They’re jealous that we pretty much have 15 GAs inputting our data and filming our games and so on.”
The class will also assist Plaquemine’s basketball and baseball teams this year, and Zito hopes to expand to two classes next year. That’s music to the ears of prospective students, who are constantly begging Zito to let them into the class.
“Let’s put it this way - I’ve got a bunch of freshmen and sophomores asking me every day if they can be in the class next year,” Zito said. “Even the kids that aren’t in the class want to join. They’re ready to get in.”
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