For years, I lived next to an elderly neighbor and friend named Ralph.
A colorful guy, Ralph enjoyed an interesting life and often shared stories about his time in the Navy, his adopted children or his love of Notre Dame football.
From what he told me, he was also a pretty good outfielder during his high school days in Nebraska in the 1940s. Yet, he almost never talked about his near .400 batting average or of his team’s success.
What he did tell me, however, was how he led the league his senior year in one interesting category: being hit by a pitch.
Ralph played in a time when coaches taught their pitchers to actually throw inside (I’ll save that for another column). Anyway, I never thought much of the stat, but for Ralph, he wore it as a badge of honor. He wasn’t just good, but tough.
I asked him once if he kept a running tally throughout the season and he said he was unaware of the statistic until his coach told him at season’s end.
Through our interactions over two decades, he brought up the stat several times. It meant so much to him and yet he would have never known about it if one of his coaches had not taken the time to log the games.
What seems so fundamental is now so fundamentally flawed. Quite a few of area coaches have just stopped trying in that regard, which is a shame.
Now, the reasons vary for the lack of statistical data.
Some coaches have told me it’s not part of their job. Others have claimed that opposing teams can scout off their information. Additional reasons exist, as well.
To the first point, I would simply say a coach can’t ask her/his player to go all out if he/she won’t do the same. To the second objection, we live in the age of Hudl and instant messaging and information. There’s little to hide.
Now, I had the privilege of covering the St. Monica Academy girls’ volleyball team in 2012 when the squad advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division V-A championship in only the program’s fifth year of existence.
That season, the Crusaders had a dynamic outside hitter in Caitlin Hall. Every match I covered, Hall racked up at least 20 kills, which was impressive given the nature of several St. Monica blowouts.
She may have led the area that year in kills, she may have set a new CIF Southern Section Division V record and she may have written unbreakable records into her school’s history books.
There was only one problem that year – no one ever took stats.
St. Monica’s coach told me that season that stat-taking wasn’t part of the culture and could foster an individualism that wouldn’t be good for the squad.
Perhaps, or perhaps her efforts and amazing stats could have served as an inspiration to her teammates and future Crusaders.
On Tuesday, Hall was on the sideline serving as the team’s assistant coach.
The girls on her squad knew that their coach was an exceptional teacher and pretty good former player, but they didn’t know the whole story. How could they?
Her exploits are like many in the area that are not fully written down.
The Flintridge Prep football team reached the eight-man semifinals last season and posted no stats. The Burroughs girls’ volleyball team, the area’s second-best squad, didn’t turn in full season stats; neither did softball league champions La Cañada or Crescenta Valley.
Nobody dominated their team or division quite like the Bellarmine-Jefferson girls’ basketball team, which captured Santa Fe League and CIF-SS Division V-A titles. Their incredible story was incomplete, though, without stats.
I could pile on and add other teams and coaches to the list (cough, cough, Roy Bernhardt), which is kind of sad.
Coaches, we’re two to three weeks into the new sports season and there’s still time to pick up a stat sheet or to go download one of many apps that help do the job.
Reach out to Flintridge Sacred Heart’s Trent Tcheng, Holy Family’s Robert Bringas Jr. and Burroughs’ Jacob Cook. These are just a few examples of coaches – full-time and walk-ons – that go the extra mile for their kids.
Yes, it’s extra work and it won’t probably be appreciated outside of your locker room or this newsroom, but I can’t imagine you got into coaching for outside adulation.
These are the little gestures that last a lifetime.