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AYNAV LEIBOWITZ

SPORTS JOURNALIST

ABOUT ME

AYNAV LEIBOWITZ - Sports Journalist & Enthusiast

Aynav (pronounced A-ee-nahv) Leibowitz takes her passion for sports and journalism to pursue sport print and broadcast journalism. She is currently interning at NBC's WOAI and Fox's KABB sport departments, where she has been gaining on and off-camera experience. As for writing, Aynav's work has been featured in the Houston Chronicle as well as Trinity's student-run newspaper, the Trinitonian.

When she isn't reading up on the latest sport updates or thinking of sport puns, she is attending Trinity University as a senior majoring in Communication while minoring in Sport Management, Human Communication and Creative Writing. She actively participates in TigerTV, the University's TV station, Trinitonian and a local social sorority, Alpha Chi Lambda.

View Senior Thesis

Contact Aynav

Experience

PREVIOUS ASSOCIATIONS THAT HELPED TO GATHER EXPERIENCE

NBC’s WOAI-TV & Fox’s KABB

Sports Intern

• Log sports statistics for games
• Assist photographer with shooting footage and interviewing professional and amateur athletes
• Assist with editing video packages using Avid, scripts and show rundowns
• Web publish stories with attached video segment from the show

01/2015-present
01/2013-present

TigerTV

Executive Producer (Started as Associate Producer)

• Create and edit video packages with Adobe Premiere
• Hire full on-camera and off-camera talent
• Direct weekly 30 minute shows
• Organized weekly interviews for on-air talent
• Experienced with chyron, camera, audio, prompter, playback, technical directing and directing

Houston Chronicle

Sports Intern

• Consistently work with statistic software Team Player
• Contact coaches, gather statistics
• Write articles published in the Houston Chronicle

03/2012-present
08/2013-02/2014

San Antonio Express

Sports' Statistician

• Collected high school sports statistics for website, articles and newspaper
• Consistently worked with statistic software Team Player

Education

CURRENT ASSOCIATION THAT TEACHES FUNDAMENTALS

Bachelors of Arts in Communication

Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas

MAY 2016

Minors:

Creative Writing, Sports Management and Human Communication

Writing Samples

CURRENT EXAMPLES OF SPORTS STORIES

  • ALL
  • Nothing but Net
  • Houston Chronicle
  • Trinitonian
Trinity professors’ original ranking method predicts Spurs championship win

by Aynav Leibowitz '16

photography by Josh Huskin

After evaluating 70 potential outcomes of the 2014 National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Finals series, mathematics professors Eduardo Cabral Balreira and Brian Miceli predicted a 65.5 percent probability for the San Antonio Spurs to “beat the Miami Heat” for the NBA championship.

But how?

Developing the Method

In the fall of 2011, Balreira, with the help of former Trinity professor Thomas Tegtmeyer, applied a Markovian-based ranking method in which a pairwise comparison is used to mathematically quantify dominance.

This particular method is commonly used in the sports world to determine a ranking of teams and the probability of one team winning over the other.

But Balreira noticed a flaw in this system: an imbalanced emphasis on upsets.

“When a bad team beats a very good team, there is a tendency to rank the bad team much higher,” said Balreira. “And if an undefeated team loses to a consistently losing team, the Markovian method would overemphasize the defeat.”

In order to create a more accurate ranking, Balreira developed an extra step to provide a new ranking method: the Oracle Method.

“The Oracle is an attempt to find a customization within the Markovian ranking method,” Balreira said. “In addition to win and loss outcomes, it also considers the scores in each game.”

Because of the convenience of data collection with sports, Balreira decided to conduct a foresight prediction with his ranking method based on the National Football League’s (NFL) 1966-2013 seasons with the help of Miceli, a sports fanatic.

“I naturally keep up with the sports we are interested in: professional football, college football, and the NBA,” Miceli said.

“Miceli’s understanding of sports helped fill in the gaps and made sure everything we needed to consider with the NFL was accounted for,” Balreira added.

Using the Oracle Method, the two mathematicians correctly predicted 64.1 precent of the game outcomes. This method, based on correct prediction percentage, proved more accurate than other highly regarded ranking methods, such as ESPN Power Rankings, Massey, Colley, and PageRank.

Because of their increasingly successful results, Balreira has utilized the Oracle to predict outcomes from other sport organizations such as National Collegiate Athletic Association Football (NCAAF) and the National Texas Youth Football and Cheer Association (TYFA).

“Beat the Heat!”

In order to predict the results of the 2014 NBA Finals, Balreira and Miceli adjusted the Oracle by considering home-court advantage. “Home advantage did not prove significant in the NFL,” Balreira said, “but for the NBA, one sees a much bigger difference.”

“In football, the ranking gets better as the season goes along,” Miceli added. “If the NFL season were two times as long, like the NBA season, [home advantage] would have a larger impact.”

Since Balreira and Miceli had to consider home-court advantage in order to determine a more accurate probability, the two professors simulated each team as two entities, “a home version and an away version,” Balreira said. “Instead of 30 teams, it’s 60. We then gave each version of the team a rating that can be used to compute the probability of winning a game.”

To determine who was going to win the Finals, Balreira and Miceli formulated the separate entities of a Spurs home team, Spurs away team, Heat home team, and Heat away team. They then formulated ratings based on wins and scores, as was done for the NFL.

So, what did the Oracle predict? A 62.38 percent probability the Spurs home team would win a playoff game and 54.68 percent probability for the Spurs away team. The professors took these results, determined all 35 ways to win a Finals series, and ultimately concluded that the Spurs had a 65.5 percent probability to become NBA champions.

“Winning the championship felt great!” Balreira said. “It provided another validation that we were working on a good idea.”

The success of the Oracle not only established that the method worked, but also served as a lesson for the community to apply math to the world of sports entertainment.

“The mathematical model does just as good or better than human experts when it comes to picking games,” Miceli said. “Our model predicts right around 68 percent.”

Their predictions gained a lot of recognition in a city so proud of their San Antonio Spurs, earning coverage from news outlets such as the San Antonio Express-News, NBC’s News 4 WOAI, and ABC’s KSAT 12.

“This is definitely not your average type of sports story,” Chris Henao, assistant news director at KSAT, said. “As students, we have all sat in those math classes thinking, ‘When are we ever going to use that?’ but here’s an actual story of how math can be useful and interesting.”

Not Just Sports

The Oracle isn’t just predicting outcomes on sports fields. As part of Trinity’s Integrated Research in Biomathematics (IRBM) program, biology professor Michele Johnson, along with Jordan Bush ’14 and Mackenzie Quinn ’15, collaborated with Balreira in the research field to develop a model regarding how lizards establish dominance.

“At the end of the summer, we came up with a side project to see if we could use network theory to be able to understand the social relationships among lizards,” Johnson said.

This research entailed a lizard tournament, where two green Anole lizards perched on a stick to display dominance. “We put a stick in the middle of the cage and watched to see how the lizards decided who would sit on the perch,” Johnson said.

Johnson clarified that there were no physical altercations between any lizards, and if the “fight” seemed to turn into a physical interaction, the experiment was immediately stopped and assigned as a tie. “We determined rank depending on ‘wins’—which lizard jumped on the perch—and how long it took for one animal to win over the other,” Johnson said. “We used the Oracle Method to compare these results with the lizards’ body traits and behaviors.” “From the Oracle rankings,” Balreira said, “we saw that head width was the most important together with behavior.”

Future Plans

Moving forward, Balreira would like to teach Trinity students how to utilize the Oracle Method for use with any ranking system they might find interesting.

“I want them to evaluate the quality of the predictions,” Balreira said. “It started as a project, but I want students to take it on further, to understand the mathematics.”

For students that wish to learn more about the Oracle Method, Balreira is offering two data-focused courses this spring: Introduction to Modern Mathematics and an upper division linear algebra course.

“I think one of the most valuable aspects of this ranking project that Dr. Balreira and I work on is that it shows how low-level theoretical mathematics can be useful in real-world applications,” Miceli said. “We hope that if this project gets some publicity in town, that it will get kids–elementary, junior high, high school–interested in learning mathematics.”

For more information on the Oracle Method and sports statistics, check out Balreira’s website, rank.balreira.com, where NFL, NBA and NCAA rankings are updated weekly.

Trinity professors’ original ranking method predicts Spurs championship win
https://magazine.trinity.edu/winter-2015/nothing-net
Navasota must deal with traffic as well as district foes

Navasota's goal is to repeat its perfect 2012 season, but it will have to travel a little different path this year to accomplish it.

After the UIL's realignment in February, Navasota wound up in District 11 of Class 4A Division I, placing the Rattlers with Sealy and HISD schools Furr, Sterling, Washington and Wheatley.

Navasota will travel to Houston for district games against Sterling and Wheatley and a non-district matchup against Yates. Those games are about 11/2 hours from Navasota, but that's before factoring in rush-hour traffic.

Last season, Houston traffic wasn't an issue. Navasota traveled to Coldspring, Lexington, Austin McCallum, Rockdale and Taylor.

"Any district we are in, it doesn't matter who we play, we play one game at a time and try to do our best," said Navasota coach Lee Fedora, who is entering his 10th season.

"We have the chance to be a good team, but we also know that on any given night that you don't bring your 'A' game of football, we could be beat."

Fedora likes his team to be at the field two hours before the game starts, but he said the worst-case scenario this season, considering the traffic, could be arriving 10 minutes before game time.

"We've just got to stay focused and play just like any other game," senior linebacker Coy Imhoff said.

Fedora intends to inform his players of travel plans a week in advance to keep their minds focused on preparing for the game rather than potential traffic problems.

"We are going to play Navasota football no matter what happens," senior offensive tackle Michael Coffey said.

Navasota football last year meant going 9-1 during the regular season and reaching the second round of the playoffs. The Rattlers lost 44-14 to eventual state champion Carthage.

The year before, Navasota and its high-powered offense and opportunistic defense went 16-0 for the program's first state championship. The Rattlers haven't lost more than four games in a season since 2007.

"We are really proud to be the Navasota Rattlers and what we've done the last eight years," Fedora said. "We don't change anything that we do. It's football.

"It's coming out, teaching the fundamentals, moving forward, and seeing what we're doing defensively."

Two focuses this season will be strengthening leadership and team chemistry.

"If you want to be a championship team, it doesn't matter about the adversity, great competition or travel time," Fedora said. "You've got to be prepared, focused and ready to move forward."

Key players

Coy Imhoff: The senior linebacker was a district defensive MVP a year ago and will lead a unit that returns seven starters.

Jerbrell Lipscomp: The senior earned all-district honors at wide receiver and defensive back last season and will be counted on again.

Derrion Randle: The senior running back was on the 2012 state championship team and followed that with 1,326 yards rushing last season.

Key games

Aug. 30 vs. Autonoma de Nuevo Leon: The Rattlers open against a team from Mexico that returns to Houston twice more.

Oct. 17 at Sealy: Key road game comes early in district play but could decide the league championship.

Last year

Navasota went 10-2 and reached the second round of the Class 3A Division I playoffs.

Aynav Leibowitz is a freelance writer.

Navasota must deal with traffic as well as district foes
http://www.chron.com/sports/highschool/article/Navasota-must-deal-with-traffic-as-well-as-5673327.php
High school cross country preview: The Woodlands strong again

Teams to watch

The Woodlands (Boys and girls 5A)

The cross country state meet every year in Round Rock would not be complete without the Highlanders competing. With the success of the program over the last decade (eight state championships in the last 10 years), The Woodlands is always one to watch during cross country season.

Strake Jesuit (Boys 5A)

Strake Jesuit's cross country reputation is holding up strong since the team placed second at the 2011 5A state meet. The Crusaders averaged a time of 16:34.42 with Frank Lara leading the team for the second straight season. His 16:01.95 time left him at seventh place among individual runners. Though young, Strake Jesuit has the ability to take its experience from the 2011 season and build this year's team into an even stronger one.

Kingwood (Girls 5A)

The Mustangs placed second at the girls 2011 5A state championships with a team average time of 11:40.01. Sandie Raines and Grace Howley, rising seniors, are the only two returning runners. The Mustangs are strong , but have the advantage of having a balance between experience with Raines and Howley as well as tradition and an influx of talent each year.

Athletes to watch

Frank Lara Jr., Strake Jesuit

Lara won district last year with a time of 15:47.22.

Levi Kessler Sr., Friendswood

Kessler ran a 16:12.36 time at the 4A Region III meet last season.

Madison Gilcrease So., Cypress Woods

Gilcrease had an impressive season as a freshman by finishing 14th at state with a time of 11:44.92.

Haley Deakins Sr., Cypress Creek

Deakins finished 27th at state with a time of 11:55.60.

Key dates/meets

Nike South: Oct. 6 at Bear Branch Sports Park, The Woodlands.

District: Oct. 25-26.

Regional: Nov. 3.

State: Nov. 10 at Old Settlers Park, Round Rock

High school cross country preview: The Woodlands strong again
http://www.chron.com/sports/highschool/article/High-school-cross-country-preview-The-Woodlands-3781760.php
Sickle cell testing affects Trinity’s student athletes

In hopes of decreasing the chances of any sickle cell-related incidents, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has made it a requirement for division I, II, and more recently, III NCAA participants to test athletes.

After first year Dale Lloyd II, who matriculated at Rice University, passed away after football practice in 2006, much attention has been brought to sickle cell anemia. A sickled cell is an abnormal blood cell that is shaped differently from the average blood cell and therefore has the potential to delay bloodflow in the body.

“The NCAA’s mandate is actually just first years and transfers, but we actually decided to test everyone,” said head athletic trainer Marc Powell. “It is for every sport. There are no exceptions.”

The sickle cell trait testing includes a blood test, which health services performs and sends out to specific labs. This testing costs $8 per student.

“We test student-athletes for the trait by the blood test and if they do have it, we run another test for sickle cell anemia, which is $40 per student,” Powell said. “It is a substantial difference, but someone who does not have the trait won’t have the anemia.”

About 325 out of around 525 student-athletes have completed the sickle cell trait testing, explained Powell, who spent his summer volunteering at a local high school, educating himself about the sickle cell trait.

“Until we confirm someone’s status, they are not allowed to participate in the sport,” Powell said. For now, two student-athletes have been found with the sickle cell trait, but that does not mean they necessarily have sickle cell anemia or that they cannot participate in their respective sports.

“These students will have shortness of breath, get very cramped muscles, and weak,” said Powell. “We just need to make sure they relax when they must.”

The coaches who have student-athletes with the sickle cell trait or anemia, as well as the athletic trainers, are told to watch those specific students more closely because the symptoms are difficult to capture.

According to the NCAA’s sickle cell fact sheet given to coaches, simple adjustments to a workout can decrease the chances of any negative outcome from having the sickle cell trait.

“I think it was important to test because sickle cell really is the only statistically significant predictor of sudden death in athletics,” said sophomore volleyball player Megan Reynolds. “I had a very easy experience with the test and it was really quick.”

Since this test is required only for NCAA participating teams, intramural sports will not be affected by this prerequisite.

“I feel the testing is very important because sickle cell can be extremely dangerous if you aren’t aware,” said junior and soccer player Chris Schluter. “I didn’t feel any hesitation to play because I’ve never had any previous symptoms that could have been caused by sickle cell.”

Along with the sickle cell testing, Trinity athletics has made two other additions to the health testing: an electrocardiogram, otherwise referred to as an EKG, and a neurocognitive test.

“An EKG looks at the heart,” said Powell. “We have been fortunate enough to be accepted as part of a study through the University of Washington. They are giving us the equipment to run the test.”

Trinity is the first Division III school participating in the study.

The third addition is a neurocognitive test specifically for students who have suffered from a concussion.

“This is so we can see how and when their brain returns to normal,” Powell said.

Since every student-athlete is under Trinity Athletics health insurance, it is essential to assure safety and regulation, explained Powell.

These health updates will continue to be part of the health procedure requirement for student-athletes, but for years to come, the athletic department will only have to test first years and international students.

Sickle cell testing affects Trinity’s student athletes
http://www.trinitonian.com/2013/09/06/sickle-cell-testing-affects-trinitys-student-athletes/

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