Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why coaching matters

I have been watching the Little League World Series. For the most part, the teams that make it are pretty even - not unlike the NFL.  Sure one team may have a more dominant shortstop, or power hitter, or pitcher.  But to have gotten this far, they have to be at a certain level.

And also for the most part, coaching is pretty even as well. 

But strategies and tactics matter.  And as I watched a game the other day, it struck me that the South Korean coach was doing his best channeling of Bill Belichick.  He had coached the team on the finer points of the rules, and put them in position to  have success in this game.  Now he may have signaled something to the players to alert them, but I really don't know.

To the best of my recollection, the situation was: end of the last inning, South Korea down by one run and up to bat.  One out, and players on first and second. The ball goes into the outfield, and is caught for out #2.  Player on second tags up and starts racing around third and is waved home.  The outfielder who made the catch is surprised, and has to make a choice to throw home or throw to second - because the genius move was to have the player on first run toward second, thus making it tough for him. 

The throw to home probably wouldn't be in time.  But the play at second was possible - and *if* they got it before the runner tagged home, the run wouldn't count and the game would end. 

He throws to second, and the runner turns back to first (again, genius!) meaning that they now had to get him in a rundown, and by now, the player has scored.  They throw back to first and he beats the throw, so he's safe.

And so in the end, the game is tied, and there's still an out to go.  Do I need to tell you that South Korea scored again to win?  Probably not. 

The coach had them thinking on their toes and moving, so that they created enough confusion to extend the game.  Best case is what happened.  Worst case is that the run doesn't count and they lose.  In the middle is that the run counts and they go to extra innings.

And here's where we bring it back to Belichick and football.  The rules, and the understanding of them, can make the difference in some small number of cases.  The better prepared you are, the more likely you can pull off something like this.

Its not ALL about xs and os.
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Reminds me a lot of a coach named Don Shula. His teams teams were very versed on the rules.
Case in point...Leon Lett fumble after our field goal attempt was blkcked. Everyone knew not to touch the ball until a cowboy did. And Lett blundered and we won the game