Water Polo Scholar-Athlete Creates Computerized Water Polo Scoring Software

Joan Gould
Water Polo Planet

One of the biggest problems that we face at Water Polo Planet is trying to find and report results and box scores of water polo matches. Lack of TV and/or radio coverage and venue inaccessibility to internet connections delays game reporting to the point where a lot of the momentum and excitement of the sport is lost. Manual scoresheets must be scanned in to be viewed on a website, handwriting and crossovers are often difficult to decipher and web space is too quickly eaten up by large .pdf files.

Here in the USA, players often play for  many coaches as they progress in age so there are no age group or lifetime statistics that can help guide players in their personal quest to improve.

Michael Kostinovski, a multinational world class water polo player and magna cum laude college graduate student is addressing all of these problems with a computer software program, Water Polo Manager that will not only integrate all scoring and statistics but will also allow game progression or scoresheets to be uploaded to any website or media center with one click!

According to his academic advisor, Dr. Loren Bertocci (a retired FINA-A water polo referee), and Dean of Arts, Science and Technology at Salem University,  Michael conceived of this project as he made the transition from NCAA water polo player to referee at the end of his senior college year. He produced the first phase of the program as his senior project, earning him the Computer Science Graduate of the Year award and has continued to work on phases 2 and 3. Michael and Dr. Bertocci will Beta test the program during the USA Water Polo Premier League this winter and the results published on Water Polo Planets Premier League webzine.

Dr. Bertocci had these comments on Michaels work.

“First of all, it was my pleasure to have Michael as an advisee. His academic record speaks volumes about his ability to construct this kind of a computer-based program.

With regard to this project, it was an elegant as well as serendipitous combination of two of Michael’s passions: computer science and water polo.

The Goals of the Computer Program

The compute program is intended to allow the official game results (found on the scoresheet) to be merged with a complete set of player statistics. When it is finished, the output will be ready to be handed to the press as a complete data compilation that can then be used as the data basis for the textual reports written by the members of the press. It can also be uploaded in a web-ready form eliminating the need for any post-even page markups or web-page design work.

One of our goals is to be able to use player statistics in the same ways they are used in any major professional sport: as a way to identify the achievements of individual players. To the extent we can quantify individual performances of players, we can begin to market individual players in the same way they are marketed in any professional sport. That kind of marketing that will help us grow the sport in markets, like the USA, where water polo, and its players, are too easy to ignore.

We are currently working on two algorithms that will be the water-polo equivalent to some of the individual statistics found in major professional sports. We are designing one measure of field player efficiency and an analogous measure of goaltender efficiency. In both cases, the calculated value will be a weighted average of a large number of positive and negative statistics.”

Michael's Interview

Water Polo Planet caught up with Michael during the holiday season and asked him a few questions about his exciting new program.

WPP:  We understand that your water polo and academic career has been multinational. Give us a little background about yourself.

Michael Kostinovski: I was born in Moscow, Russia in 1976 and began playing water polo at Dinamo Moscow at the age of  8. When I turned 18, I was accepted as a member of the Russian National Junior team and on the Masters (senior) level Dinamo team. Shortly afterward, at age 20, I followed my family when they emigrated to Israel.

When I arrived in Israel, I was required to spend 2 years in the Israeli army where I also played water polo as a member of the Israeli National team. After I finished active duty, I helped my father to open a construction business which was very time consuming so I stopped playing at the National team level, playing instead for the Jerusalem Water Polo Club.

5 Years ago, my life changed dramatically when I met my future (current) wife Dina who was accepted to the University of Minnesota. After 2 years of flying back and forth from Israel to Minnesota, I decided to finish my degree that I started in Moscow in the US. I contacted Keith Bullion at Salem International University in Salem, West Virginia who offered me a place on the water polo team as well as an academic scholarship to finish my degree. I spent 2 years playing and studying at Salem and am now pursuing a graduate degree with my wife Dina in Minnesota.

WPP: Why did you decide to write this program?

MK: That’s a good question. When I started traveling with Dr Bertocci to water polo tournaments as a beginning referee, I realized that all the stats could be done on a computer. I decided to learn a new programing landuage called C# (C Sharp) and write a program that records all game events. Once I was in the middle of the project, I realized that I could combine it with a data website and make it even more sophisticated and useful.

WPP: What will the program do?

MK: The program allows you to use a laptop (no live internet connection is required) to create teams, browse them into a standard scoresheet format, fill it out during the game and save it as a game progression result into “txt” or “html” format.  The HTML format can be saved and uploaded to any website or emailed to the local press with one click.

The additional sections of this program will allow officials to take personal statistics of each of the players and combine the data with game records. I will link all of the sections together so anyone can log into the website and get a full range of current and historical data about players, teams, tournaments, records, stats etc.

WPP: This sounds like something the sport has needed for a long time. Will it be available for players and coaches to take a look at?

MK: We will be Beta testing the software during the Premiere League this winter/spring to help work the bugs out. The program and statistics package will be available free to all teams, media and players during the initial testing phase to allow everyone involved in the sport to get a full view of what the software can do.

WPP: What are your expectations for the software in the future?

MK:  First, I want to work out all of the bugs! But seriously, my intent is to make this a tool that will use table personnel to gather the statistics of each game and allow players and coaches to track their performance historically to track their improvement. Eventually, players will have the option of making their statistics public as a tool that coaches can use for recruiting and seeding. Once the current phase (statistics) is completed, I plan to work with Dr. Bertocci to produce an algorithm that will rank teams and players nationally even if teams have never played each other head to head. This will be a great benefit to seeding especially in the US where players often play for a few different teams each year.

WPP: Can this program be tool for coaches who are recruiting players?

MK: Absolutely. Each player will have a unique identifier, such as his or her USA Water Polo Member number that will be used for all tracking when this player plays (when this scoring system is used. Players will the option of entering their personal statistics into our data base so that coaches can look at a game sheet and click on a player to see player details. Players will be able to add a photo, birthdate, High School, SAT scores, GPA, height, weight, email and any other information they think will be of use to a college or professional coach along with the statistics of that player. Each player will have the option to make their statistics public, semi public or private as they like.

Michael Kostinovski’s Water Polo Manager program Beta Test scoresheets for the Premier League will be able to be viewed at www.waterpoloplanet.com under 2007 Premier League beginning in February 2007. We at WPP are very excited about the application and wish Michael and his advisor the best of luck with its further development.
For more information, Michael Kostinovski can be contacted via email at [email protected] or [email protected] . Dr Loren Bertocci can be reached at LABWP@ earthlink.net