They say it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, but tracking your kids’ wins and losses can help you learn a cool new feature in Excel 2010: sparklines.

This post is part of Casual Friday, my occasional series where we put Office applications to work on personal projects – and gain skills that pay off at work.

If you have children in Little League, you’re probably busy with the playoffs now. This could be a good time to use Excel 2010 and sparklines to put together a recap of how your team compares to others in your league. (I got this idea from the Microsoft Excel 2010 blog, which also provides plenty of examples of legitimate business uses for sparklines, too.)

Sparklines are tiny charts – they fit in a single cell – that let you spot trends and give you an overview of performance at a glance. There are several different types, including miniature line and bar graphs. In this case, the win-loss sparkline adds a context to the overall record. You can see at a glance if the team had a significant win streak.

League Standings with sparklines

Here’s how to make the sparklines featured in the chart:

Create a worksheet for each team in your league. For each team, the worksheet needs two essential columns: the team’s score and the opposing team’s score. List each game of the season on a separate row.

In a third column, create a formula that subtracts the opposing team’s score from the featured team’s score. If you’re working on a worksheet for the QPB Ballers and they won the first game 9-3, your difference column should show 6. If they lost by that score, the column should contain a -6. For a win-loss chart, a positive number is a win; a negative number is a loss.

To add the sparklines to your overview chart, just select the Insert tab from the Ribbon and click the Win/Loss button in the new sparklines section. Your data range is the difference column you calculated. The location field specifies where you want the sparkline to go.

You could use the win-loss sparkline in your business worksheets to show quarters or months where you made your goal. Or you could use different types of sparklines to show trends. Sparklines add context to a data table without taking up a lot of space. Play ball!

Suzanne