It’s long been part of soccer that an inferior (or away) team who doesn’t like their odds of winning plays for a draw. Obviously, we can’t do that in our sport. It got me thinking about how teams could still “get a result”, though.
There are opportunities to create that sort of psychology from a coaching perspective. Sally Kus talks about it some in her book, Coaching Volleyball Successfully. One of the ideas she offers is to create an alternative scoring system based on something you want your team focused on in a match. For example, with a young team it might be playing three contacts. If they do that more often than the other team, it’s considered a victory. That concept is based on what we coaches do anyway (hopefully) in terms of giving our teams and players areas of concentration for their development. It’s quite useful, but that’s not really what I’m talking about here.
I’m thinking more along the lines of the point system they use in the South West Championships in England. It’s a tournament with teams from National League Division 1 all the way down to the regional level (or lower). That means a lot of match-ups between squads of quite different levels of play. The matches are played as 20-minute timed sets. Winner gets 3 points. If it’s a draw, both teams get 2 points.
They use a wrinkle to keep things interesting, and the lesser teams motivated against the better ones. Maybe the other way around as well. If a losing team finishes within 25% of the score of the winning team, they get a point. So if the winner scores 28, then the loser would need to score 21 or more to get a point.
That one little thing can turn a potentially “They are going to wipe the floor with us” mindset to a “If we play well we can get a point out of this” one. And believe me, players get excited about that point. You see very similar reactions to getting it or falling short by a single point as you do over a win or loss.
I can’t help but think there must be ways to use a similar idea for other tournament and/or league formats to make things a bit more interesting when there is a disparity of talent. Yes, things like point and set differentials are used in many cases. That lacks, however, the immediacy of something like the bonus point mentioned above. When you’re playing for that extra point now, it’s quite different than thinking about cumulative differentials (e.g. set differentials or ratios). You really have no control over those comparisons.
I’d love to hear what you’ve seen or heard about – or thought of – along these lines. Leave a comment below if you’ve seen something interesting like this.
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