For the past four years (2011-2014), I have used Tableau to produce real-time AAU basketball results during a big tournament.
The annual event I have performed this work for is called the Knoxvegas Heat tournament (see Figure 1). This tournament occurs in April every year in Knoxville, TN, and features multiple age groups, dozens of gyms, hundreds of games, and a lot of intensity for a three-day weekend. This invitation-only event brings some of the best AAU basketball teams from the southeast to Knoxville for a gigantic slugfest of a tournament. Future collegiate and NBA stars are on display as well as some magnificent basketball.
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How Real-Time Score Reporting Is Completed
Prior to the tournament, I build a matrix of all games to be played, which typically varies between 250 and 300. An Excel spreadsheet (see Figure 2) contains this information and a Tableau workbook is linked to this spreadsheet.
I publish the workbook to Tableau Public and interested parties (parents, players, coaches, etc) all get the link to the workbook. Figure 3 shows two of the results workbooks from 2011 and 2013. Notice that in the first year, the workbook usage was trivial because it was a new service during the tournament and mobile browsers were in their infancy. By 2013, however, the story changed and more people utilized the real-time scoring system, with nearly 11,000 views occurring mostly in a 3-day period.
During the tournament, about 15 to 18 games are simultaneously played throughout Knoxville. At the conclusion of each game, the game scores are sent to me via text message from the gym managers. I enter the game scores into columns P and Q of Figure 2 and the formulas in the spreadsheet fill-in the remaining cells. Starting on Friday night, after each set of games is completed about every hour and a half, I publish the results to the Tableau public workbook. This is what we refer to as “real-time” score reporting.
One of the biggest benefits to doing this work is that once “pool” play is completed by late Saturday afternoon, the seeding of the playoff teams is automatically created by Tableau. This takes a huge amount of stress of the tournament organizers because they typically had to scramble to get the teams seeded for playoffs, which begin a couple hours after pool play finished. How teams are ranked and seeded is more complex than I want to cover in this post, however. Maybe I’ll write another post about that later.
The stress of ranking the teams isn’t totally alleviated, since most of it falls onto me because I have to create the playoff seedings accurately in a very short amount of time! The actual execution of this work is almost as intense as the basketball games themselves, but the coaches, players and fans all appreciate the effort. The biggest problem I have encountered lately is that more and more fans have figured out that I’m the guy with the results. They come to my workstation and see who is in the lead and it takes too much of my time to answer all the questions. For future tournaments, I think I am going to work remotely to avoid this problem. I’ll let someone else be a gym director so I can concentrate on the score reporting during the tournament. That is one of the nice things about this system – I do not have to be present to do the work! Tableau Public has worked perfectly for me for this exercise four years in a row.
One day I am going to build a single Tableau workbook that allows users to interrogate all historical results from this tournament. For now, here are a few links to the workbooks for previous years of the tournament. There are a lot of different worksheets and dashboards in each link. Once I take the time to build one master database for all years of the tournament, only one Tableau workbook will be needed to contain all the results.