‘Cats Stats students hard at work. Photo courtesy of Professor Tim Chartier
ERIN SIMARD ‘23 (SHE/HER)
Cats Stats serves an essential part in energizing the Davidson community and connecting it to many of the athletic teams on campus. Many know the group for its strong social media presence, which provides the broader Davidson community with a steady stream of digestible analytics and blog posts surrounding our athletic teams’ performance. However, most students rarely see the intense work of this organization.
Established in 2013, the self-described “Home of Davidson Sports Analytics” was born out of an idea presented to Dr. Tim Chartier, Davidson’s Joseph R. Morton Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science. Along with a fellow mathematics student, two student managers of the men’s basketball team asked for Dr. Chartier’s support in designing a project which would provide analytical reports to the coaching staff of the men’s basketball team.
The group organized itself as a research project under the direction of Dr. Chartier. According to Chartier, Bob McKillop, head coach of the men’s basketball team, ran a very successful program but it didn’t have anything ‘Cats Stats could to offer.
Chartier outlined the process of launching the project.
“I told the [students] that I was very willing to try… So, we contacted two assistant coaches—Will Reigel and Matt McKillop—and we met every week for two months prior to the season, developing the analytics that we would offer, all of which are still offered,” said Chartier.
“It took considerable work because at the time, analytics wasn’t really done a lot at the NBA level…, and there was very little sports analytics [happening at the collegiate level] at all,” Chartier stated.
However, in the fall of 2021, as the organization began to rejuvenate following the pandemic, Dr. Chartier recognized an opportunity to transition the group into an autonomous organization run entirely by students, for the sake of the longevity of the project.
Now an advisor, Dr. Chartier has turned over the reins to a board of students, chaired by President Morgan Martin ‘23 and Vice President Drew Beamer ‘24. Martin and Beamer lead a group which has grown exponentially since its origin in 2013, now standing at about 60 members.
The group has become such a success that it has been asked to consult not only for Davidson’s athletic organizations, but for several professional national organizations, including the NBA, NFL, and NASCAR. Recently, members of the organization have been involved in the joint construction of a data-collection tool with analysts within the Charlotte Hornets organization, according to Beamer, who was heavily involved with the project.
After a successful relaunch and revamping of their social media presence, the current focus of the group has settled on structural reorganization in the hopes of becoming more accessible to every athletic team on campus.
According to Martin, the group is particularly looking to strengthen its relationships with teams beyond its original charter, and to upgrade their scouting technique. With additional manpower, the group has expanded to provide reports to the women’s basketball, football, women’s and men’s soccer, volleyball, baseball, women’s and men’s swimming, field hockey, and the lacrosse team.
“We want to be able to serve any sport at Davidson that wants the analytics we can provide,” explains Beamer.
Another significant aim of the group is the direct involvement of student athletes within the computational work that they do, as some athletes have found that doing so provides them with a new perspective and can improve their strategy on the field.
“We see that when the athletes actually see the analytics,” Martin said, “they also [can begin] improving their strategies in new ways.”
Most importantly, Beamer and Martin are setting their sights on investing in the futures of the students within the group.
Martin shared that she, in addition to the considerable amount of work she already does, has been locating alumni within professional sports organizations in the effort to translate the national renown the organization holds into stable career paths for those who have and continue to build the project.
‘Cats Stats’ work won’t end there. With the chances of the Davidson men’s basketball team making the NCAA’s March Madness tournament looking better than it has in years, ‘Cats Stats may be able to step into the national spotlight in a new way in the coming weeks.
To keep up with the work ‘Cats Stats does, visit their website (https://catsstats.timchartier.com/media/) and follow them on Instagram and Twitter (@catsstats). The group will be placing new members in April– to get involved, email them then at [email protected]