I will highlight three methods of stat keeping before advocating one of them as a method for keeping "realtime" statistics during the flow of a match.
First, what I have referred to as "objective statistics" -- stats that are completely accurate, that can be reviewed and revised, that can be supplemented with new strategic concepts and considerations after the fact -- can only be made by reference to that greatest of all objective observers -- the camera. Shooting film; or, more likely now, video tape; or, optimally now, digital video is the only way to both construct and reconstruct/review/revise total match statistics. It also serves as the ideal basis for team preparation in that the coaches, strategists, tacticians, and players can see themselves and/or their soon-to-be opponents in a potentially (providing for some skill on the part of the photographer) excellent "second hand" experience that is better than "first hand" at least insofar as its repeatability. Exact figures like time of possession, balance of time in either attacking or defending half, balance of time inside either attacking or defending 22, number of phases averaged "in the loose" before possession is lost or a try is scored, etc. can be pinned down with exactitude. Note that I am not saying that this is not time consuming and "labor-of-love"-intensive.
While various methods have been suggested for keeping fairly accurate statistics during the hectic flow of a match, only two will be considered here.
One is the concept of an individual doing a running commentary into a microcassette recorder or some similar device. This requires that the statistician be nearly constantly talking observations and thoughts out loud from whatever vantage point -- either touchline or stands or "press box" -- and ignoring the many distractions that are part of the typical match scenario [especially along the line of touch]. This method can be fairly accurate, but it requires a special individual -- special during the match to keep up with the flow and pace of the game, special after the match to transcribe the stats into usable form. However, using the microcassette recorder for the occasional highlight or "audible jotting" can be a very effective adjunct to the system I will advocate.
Another method for keeping reasonbly accurate "realtime" stats is the use of multiple statisticians, each assigned a particular aspect of the match to record. This can be effective, but its obvious drawback is the requirement of plural statisticians. Statistics and scouting are alien enough to most rugby clubs. It will likely be difficult to find individuals who are willing to keep statistics for their own club's matches; it will be more difficult to find individuals who will travel to scout upcoming opponents (even if that "travel" is only to a different pitch at a tournament event); it will be nearly impossible to find several people committed to these tasks.
What this leaves us is the task of discovering and developing a method of useful information gathering -- note that I am avoiding the mathematical precision implied by the word "statistics," not that we don't want what numbers might be recorded to be accurate, but that the exact numerical stats (own lineouts won, own put-ins lost, average number of phases in the loose before the breakdown or score, etc.) ought to be kept to a significant minimum. As important are other, more subjective observations, both of certain key particulars, and also of some generalizations based upon keen observation.
The following method of gathering match data is designed for a single observer. Of course more than one might make use of it, either dividing some duties, especially with regard to numerical-statistical elements, or done independently with the resulting notes compared later for a consensus overview. The method makes use of specially prepared individual pages [either letter or legal size paper is fine; held by clipboard, three-ring binder, or (my preference) three-hole-punched leaves held by simple, loose binder rings with a stiff cardboard piece or two as part of the bound assemblage, the cardboard(s) serving for support and stability for notetaking and doubling as "covers" when the record/stat "book" is closed].
The various aspects to be noted by this more subjective method depend upon the observer's focus (maybe "foci" is the better word) on six aspects of the match, each -- for the sake of a mnemonic device -- represented by a word beginning with "P":
Some method of numerical shorthand, such as I define in my article, "Ploy Calling: A Simplified System," can also be utilized in streamlining the observations and recording. Other "shorthand" systems can be developed, but I'll save that for a future NOTE.
See an ONLINE SAMPLE of this Scouting/Statistics Sheet
See/Download a PDF [Adobe Acrobat/portable document format] file of this Scouting/Statistics Sheet (best for reprinting)
NOTE: Please feel free to experiment with/use/try out this concept and these sheets. I only ask that my credits be kept with the page. Current E-Mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org