Your mandate and situation influences your coaching approach

A post by Coach Rey explores the anti-Moneyball idea with respect to Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost. It references a NY Times article on the subject which talks about how Yost doesn’t operate based on analytics. This is something for which he was regularly criticized. The general thrust of both the blog post and the article seems to be that you can win without relying on the stats.

Here’s my own takeaway, though.

Yost specifically talks about making long-term decisions with respect to player development. He wasn’t trying to win every game. His mandate in both of his most recent two jobs was to develop young teams. When that is your priority, you make different types of decisions than you do when trying to win the largest possible number of games.

The same sort of thing applies in the type of situation some of us are in as coaches. It’s a case of how we play at season’s end being more important than how we play today. Mark Lebedew in his time at BR Volleys had the luxury of being able to mix up his lineup from match to match in German league play. He knew his team was stronger than others, and it was all about the playoffs. That allowed him to spread playing time and develop the younger guys.

I was in a similar sort of situation at Svedala in that every team made the playoffs. Yes, there’s an advantage to finishing higher in the regular season standings. Yes, we also wanted to qualify for the mid-season Gran Prix by being top 4 at the halfway point. The big objective was going after the league championship, though, so I could take a somewhat more developmental than “win now” attitude early in the season.

Obviously, not everyone has that luxury. When I was coaching at Brown there was no conference tournament. It was just the regular season schedule. When I was at Exeter for the first two years we needed to finish in the top three in our league to reach Championships and were VERY motivated to not finish 3rd to avoid having a first round playoff against one of the winners of the other leagues. In cases like that, winning now is very important.

What about you? What sort of situation do you operate in?

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John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women's team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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