Dateline: July 22, 2014
Several weeks ago my boss asked me to arrange a learning activity for a group of high school students who would be coming to campus for a day during the Buffalo Bills Training Camp.
In years past, we had been able to recruit some of the Bills players to read to children on a day during training camp, and this program had been expanded. Each of the five schools at the college would have a day to present activities, and our day was to be July 22. This year, instead of children, we would be hosting high school students. I discussed with my boss an idea I had of having the Bills explain to the young people how math is useful in football. I thought we could get a Bills coach and/or a player to talk with the students about this, and it would motivate the students to pay more attention when they were in math classes. He liked the idea and told me to “go with it.” Well, after a few attempts to get some involvement from the Bills organization, it became clear that that idea was not going to happen. We asked, but the Bills organization never got back to us. So we devised a “plan B.” We were able to get the St. John Fisher head football coach and a local high school math teacher to come and make the presentation. It worked out pretty nicely.
Since it was my idea, and since I’m pretty interested in math, I sat in on the sessions. As I expected, the coaches use a ton of math before, during and after the games in order to improve their chances of winning. Even though I knew this was the case, hearing some of the specifics of what they do brought me new insights into the game within a game. I pointed out to the coach that it seemed to me that while the physcial game was being played on the field, an equally important “game” was being played in the coaching booths as each team analyzes the statistics of the opposing team throughout the entire enterprise. I asked if it was possible to try to deceive the opponents statistically by bringing into the game different performance patterns than you normally use, knowing that the opposition had used your normal performance to prepare for you. He said that this does, in fact, happen. It was all very fascinating to me. I hope the high school students left feeling the same way.