The Value of a Point and the Consequences of This Info

Social media is a tool, for better or worse. We see the ‘worse’ on a regular basis but forget the positive. The positive is important here.

Through social media, I wound up having some conversations with Australian volleyball coach, Mark Lebedew who also coaches professional volleyball in Poland. Knowing he likes to ask questions, take possibilities to the breaking point (sort of volleyball deconstruction), I asked him a bit of a math-y question. He couldn’t answer it. Instead, he put me in touch with math/data/science expert Ben Raymond and his ‘Science Untangled’ website (untan.gl). It’s important to be aware that Ben did the heavy-lifting on the math for this project.

The premise starts with a baseball paradox. Assertion #1 is “All wins count the same.” Completely true. Assertion #2 is “Wins in the last weeks of the season are more important than previous wins.” This can also be true. If two teams are tied for 1st place and playing each other on the last day of the season, that game is critical.

Think about this with volleyball. All points are equal, but would you rather score a point trailing 19-5 or score the next point when trailing 24-23? Equal, but not equal.

Since points have different values at different points–what does that do to our thinking about what ‘crunch time’ really is? Shouldn’t we define ‘crunch time’ based on the importance of the current score to its chances on affecting the final outcome of the match? Are we training properly maximize our chances at key moments?

And what about the much-maligned worthlessness of timeouts? Timeouts are widely believed to have no real outcome on a volleyball set’s end outcome. Is that because timeouts are useless–or is it because they are not being called at high-leverage moments when the outcome of the game CAN be decided with a team huddle and discussion of the coaches with the players. There’s a second bit that comes with that. If 24-23 is the key point in a set, how often do you call timeout as the serving team? How often do you call timeout when your team is serving in any event? (I’ve asked that of four D1 head coaches and they do not recall the last time, if ever, they’ve done that…on my end, I did it five times last year–about 4% of my timeouts…and you’re reading that thinking I’m radical for those five TOs). I think research may show that 4% isn’t radical–that it’s radically low and that timeouts should be called by the serving team’s coach much, much higher than that.

In any event, that’s the premise. You can find the full article with the math and heat charts at https://untan.gl/point-value.html

By the way, if you think this is valuable, consider sharing your information and ideas. Consider helping people who provide this stuff to grow the game by hitting the follow button on their blogs. And finally–use the positive power of social media to reach out to other coaches and thinkers–share your wild ideas…because sometimes crazy ideas may lead to wild thoughts that turn out to have value.

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