The most random statistic can be the key to victory in sports. Knowing the formation a football coach runs most often on third-and-one in the rain could be the difference between a trip to the championship and a depressing bus ride home.
By the time StatEasy co-founder Mike Ressler began his tenure as manager and stat-keeper for Carnegie Mellon University's women's volleyball team in 2000, he saw it was way past time to bring stat keeping into the instant-replay era.
"The coach asked me to take stats, handed me paper and a pencil and some antiquated software, and said 'have at it,' " he said. "I thought there has to be a better way than this, and decided I wanted to find my own solution for it."
StatEasy, a program that merges statistics with video of the moments being tracked, is the result of more than 10 years of research and brainstorming by Mr. Ressler and Tom Matta, the company's chief operating officer. The two CMU graduates each were working on a similar concept when they decided to team up to make it a reality.
The software's latest version, which was rewritten in 2007, allows stat keepers to put information into a table separated by players' names and all of the possible stats that can be kept in the particular sport. All information receives a time stamp marking the moment it enters the system.
Once stats are saved, coaches can view StatEasy tables from iPads or other tablet computers to understand how each player on the field performed during a given play and adjust their game plans accordingly. After the game is finished, a coach needs only to stream the team's digital recording of the event to StatEasy and the film automatically links up with time notations in the table, making game-winning footage or key highlights only a click away.
In April, the East Liberty company received $200,000 from startup incubator Innovation Works to hire staff and market the product.
The software is currently formatted to track football, basketball and volleyball, and is being used by hundreds of area colleges and high schools, including Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Central Catholic.
Central Catholic quarterback coach Tony Colaizzi, who helped to beta-test the product last season, said StatEasy is far superior to the method most WPIAL schools were using to review games.
As far as stat-keeping, the automated calculations that come with StatEasy are a huge advancement from entering every detail into a Microsoft Access table.
"All of the things we used to have to input by hand, it does automatically," Mr. Colaizzi said. "All we have to do is put in the play call."
Another standout quality of the software is the fact that it reduces what was an hourslong editing process to only a few minutes, Mr. Colaizzi said.
Saving time with StatEasy has been an important feature, but saving money in budget-strapped athletic departments could be an even bigger selling point. An athletic director can pay between $8,000 and $10,000 to have a videotape edited into a highlight reel, Mr. Colaizzi said.
StatEasy is currently being offered to coaches and athletic directors for free, while students and parents pay $150 to create an end-of-season highlight reel or $300 for a reel that covers the entire season.
Mr. Ressler and Mr. Matta said they're hoping buzz from across the state can help them generate a $500,000 round of seed funding by the start of the 2013-14 school year. If that round is successful, they will pursue between $2 million and $3 million the following summer to take StatEasy across the country.
The partners say there are existing stat-keeping programs used by schools throughout the nation, but they haven't seen a product that merges video and stats.
And with plans to eventually expand their sports offerings and market the product to broadcast news organizations and others, the creators say they're only beginning to see the technology's full potential.
One thing Mr. Ressler sees is an opportunity to back up talk of his shining moments with his championship volleyball team using video proof.
"I would have loved to have the chance to make a personal highlight reel of my own," he said.businessnews
Deborah M. Todd: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1652.