An article in Inc. provides both a general examination of gut instinct and a tie in to our work as coaches. The basic point of the piece – which features insights from Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman* – is that you should only listen to your gut if you can answer three questions in the affirmative.

  1. Is there actually some regularity in this area you can pick up and learn?
  2. Have you had a lot of practice in this area?
  3. Do you receive immediate feedback in the area?

So, is there a consistent pattern, have you had a lot of experience seeing that pattern, and do you get immediate indication of whether you interpret that pattern correctly or not? Does this sound familiar? It should. It’s reading.

The read-reaction response is essentially gut instinct in a hyper-speed environment. Players aren’t doing it consciously. That’s much too slow given how little time players have to intercept the ball. It has to operate at an entirely subconscious level. That comes from being exposed to patterns of play many, many times. This is why we cannot ignore reading visual cues in our training.

Looking at the subject more broadly, consider the questions above when you have a gut instinct about something else in your coaching. If it is a scenario you see regularly, and you could reasonably call yourself “trained” on it, then going with your gut probably makes sense. If it’s something new to you, however, you probably don’t have the right instincts yet.

* For more from Kahneman and related subjects see, Reversion to the mean and why you need to understand it.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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