There are three things I love: data, photography, and women’s soccer. The intersection of all three resulted in the birth of my blog, Positives and Negatives.
My love for photography grew with every game I attended at Memorial Stadium. My love for data has always existed, but after talking to Alfredo Martinez, Jr., founder of WoSo Stats, the desire to tell data stories about the women’s game grew exponentially. It is my belief that photography allows me to make observations and tendencies of the game.
However, statements based on observation or opinion are subjective. They do provide a platform to ask unique questions. For instance, how does defense change with space (field location) and time (during a game)? How are teams built on partnerships, how have they evolved between seasons, and can we identify the linchpin of every team (if she exists)? Instead of relying on the traditional formations (3-5-2, 4-3-3, etc) to describe team organization, what if I visualized the transformation of the lineup based on their location on the field?
This is where data comes in—whether it be the advanced stats from WoSo Stats or the basic NWSL stats, I want to study this game in a new manner and draw upon all of the classes that I have ever taken or taught in math, physics, engineering, and economics. I want to draw inspiration from other sports analytics. If I do not know how to tell the story I want to tell or how to analyze the data, I will just learn something new. If I do not have the data, I might ask for help, as I have done previously.
I am not an expert. I never actually played competitive soccer (I was more a basketball, tennis, tae kwan do, and swimming person). I cannot promise a distinct conclusion for any piece I write, because WoSo data is still sparse (but slowly improving). I cannot even promise if my approach to understanding this data is correct.
The only thing I can tell you is that I am a self-motivated data explorer and a passionate storyteller. There will not be a single mention of expected goals. You can go elsewhere for those stats. I have other priorities. I want to use data to examine things never examined. I want to use data to debunk theories from commentary. I want to push the boundaries of women’s soccer analytics beyond the men’s game—outside of historical data and purely based on new methodology. I want to provide visual interactive data tools to inspire young fans to fall in love with numbers rather than fear them. I am, after all, a woman in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] and an aspiring educator.
These are big goals. There is no denying this fact. However, I was never one to think one step ahead. I always dream big and do what I must to achieve those dreams. My monthly contribution to Backline Soccer and the start of Positives and Negatives are only small steps toward a big picture, but they are necessary steps. I like to think of this space as the ground floor of something big, and you, the reader, will get an inside look and an opportunity to influence my explorations from the beginning. I look forward to going into uncharted territories, and I hope you will as well!