Dance with the One who Brung Ya

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There’s an old saying that I first heard from my friend Phil from Dallas.  It was his mom’s actually (and I know it gues further back than her…) — “You dance with the one who brung you.”  I don’t think it was originally meant to apply to sports; it’s really about proper, ‘lady-like’ behavior, but that’s all righty–I can co-opt anything I want for the sake of sports/coaching.

I wrote previously about doing things just to make yourself look smart and the blowback you’ll get.  Always remember, don’t get cute.

I’ve got a hypothetical here–and from the post title, you should already have a good idea of my choice.  Don’t worry about that, though–that’s the past.  Reflect on your team and the choices available to you.  If or when this happens with your team–what are you going to do?

So…you’ve got a dominant outside hitter.  Big-time.  Hits hard, hits multiple shots.  Just as important, she wants the ball at crunch time and doesn’t fear the big moments.  In matches against (all but one) ranked teams (D1 or D2), she’s hit .200+ 13 of 18 times and has *never* hit below-zero.  The year before it was 12 of 15 times and *never* in the negative.  Add that up and you’ve got a kid putting up great numbers 25 of 33 times (10 of those were .300+).

Except I put a caveat there–‘all but one’.  There’s the rub.  When it’s time to make out our lineup, we’re playing that ‘one’ team.  In her five career matches against that team , she’s hitting -.016 (with more than 150 swings…so not a small sample size).  If you’re reading this and don’t understand numbers–something for another day–that is the number of points she generates with every attack; in this case, a negative number means she is effectively scoring for the other team.  Now back to the originally scheduled program, still in progress….

You’re playing a big match, she’s your best hitter, but has never-ever-ever hit your opponent.  You do have an adjustment you could make, but it’s based on a kid who’s done well against this team, but otherwise has only had a ‘solid’ season as a hitter and moving her will affect your blocking and defensive subs.  So:

  1. Do you stick with your big hitter (dance with the one who brung ya)?
  2. Move your OPP to OH and your big hitter to the right side?

I had 24 hours to decide.  Consider that, too.  Sometimes time works against you, eats at you, and gets you to double-think.  Sitting there at your screen, think about your lineup.  Can you get production from your Big Gun by moving him elsewhere?  Is he limited to just one position?  Are there side-effects of benching him if you go that route?  If it isn’t working, will the Big Gun be mentally ready to come off the bench?  You can go down a pretty deep rabbit-hole of these questions, thinking and double-thinking.

***

Well, I’d already been cute with this group of kids and  it cost us, so I stuck with the lineup, and…it didn’t work.  We played hard, we got beat fair and square, and the Big Gun put up a 5-9-23, -.174 for the match.  The other player? She hit 12-2-24, .417.

It’s been several years now.  I’ve had off-seasons and bus trips to think about things, and you know what?  I’d STILL run that same player out there.  Do you take 88 matches and 288 sets of performance or just 5 matches and 20 sets as the basis for your decision?  I write all this even though I’ll also say I had a long conversation with my assistant the night before the match, then the same conversation with her and my A.D. (who is also a coach with a pretty decent track record of success).  We were all on the same page–you go with what got you to the Big Stage. 

When times are tough–you want your best player on the court, you want the ball in that person’s hands, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out.   It didn’t work out, not in this quantum-dimension anyways.

Consider this dilemma now.  It’s the off-season when you have time and it isn’t going into the final set of a Sectional Championship with the Big Gun having an off-night.  You’re the coach–that means you need to consider these things in advance.  Don’t wing it.  

But you have my advice–dance with the one who brung ya.

 

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The Importance of Streaking

First, if you read this, like this, etc–hit the follow button.  That’s helpful on my end of things…even lets me see who reads what and all that good stuff.  Besides, you know you need to know when I’m doing a blog, right?

Second, always remember that me and technology…well, we’re not always on good terms.  Writing this, I think I spent as much time trying to format the data below as I did writing the text.  Since you can see it below, it remains in unwieldy format.  If you don’t want to look at it, don’t–the writing will give you the conclusion.  The spreadsheet stuff is there to show where I got everything.  And now, off we go…

Actually, not quite.  For some out there, I should disappoint you.  The title is for amusement purposes–this isn’t about running down the street in your birthday suit.  This is about scoring consecutive points.

I like reading stuff about other sports.  With the way professional sports like baseball and basketball mine data in hopes of finding a 1% competitive edge (which is huge statistically speaking, by the way), I think it’s important to take those things and see if they can be applied to the sport I coach–volleyball.

One of those tidbits was from baseball and something called run-clumping.  MLB results show that a team who puts together a single big outburst of runs is more likely to win a game than a team who scores more often but fewer runs at a time.  Fair enough.  Given the sequential progression of volleyball (one point scored after another, always one point at a time…), something like this should be capable of being duplicated.

First, the ‘live’ test.  I went back and watched 45 sets of the team I coach over the past three years.  I picked specific matches where I felt the teams were reasonably competitively balanced–where the SO% for both programs would be close to equal.

In those 45 sets, the team putting together the longest streak won 44.  Yikes.  That looks like confirmation of the idea.  So the next step–I’m going to chart everything from a back-and-forth 5-set match we played at 2016 Nationals:

SET 1:  21-25.  Our largest run was 3-points, our opponent’s was 4.  Both teams scored multiple points with the ball seven times.

SET 2:  22-25.  Our best three runs: 4-3-3.  Their best three: 4-4-3. We scored multiple points six times, they did eight.

SET 3:  26-24 .  Our best runs 3-3-3, their best 3-2-2.  A lot of ugly volleyball.  A lot–unless you like net serves and ball-handling errors…in which case, THIS is the set for you!

SET 4:  25-20.  We have a 5-pt and 4-pt streak.  They manage two 3-pt streaks…things really start rolling for us the last quarter of the set.

SET 5: 15-10.  Our top runs go 5-3-2.  Theirs are 3-2-1.

But even then, a single match–it’s too small of a sample size to prove anything, so I spent some time trying to figure out how to do two perfectly balanced teams, both with a 50% chance of scoring on a given play.  It dawned on me–that was a coin-toss and the internet offers apps that will do tosses for you, so I went in and did coin toss after toss until either heads or tails reached 25 (or won by two).   Those are the results in the unwieldy spreadsheet below.  What happened with those random games?

Gm 1:  25-23, same point-streak for both, the winning team put together one extra streak

Gm 2: 25-23, the exact same thing

Gm 3: 25-20, winners with a 6-point streak.  The losers had a 4-pointer.

Gm 4: 25-23.  Winners had a 6-point streak, losers had two 4-pt ones.

Gm 5: 28-26.  Winners with a 8-point streak, losers with a streak of 5 and 4.

Gm 6: 25-22.  Both had 4-pt streaks, but the winner had two of them.

Gm 7: 23-25.  Winner had two 3-pt streaks, loser had a 4-pt streak.

Gm 8: 25-23.  Winner had one 8-pt streak. Loser had 5 streaks of 3+ points.

Gm 9: 25-22.  Winner with a streak of 6, loser with streak of 5.

Gm 10: 25-17.  Both with streaks of 4.  Losers only had two real streaks during the set, winner put together six 3+ point streaks.

Gm 11: 25-20, Winner streak of 5, loser streak of 3.

Gm 12: 25-19, winner with a streak of 6, loser with 6 2-pt runs.

Gm 13: 25-22.  Winner with two streaks of 4, loser with four streaks of 3.  Winner with 7 streaks of 3+, losers with 8 streaks of 3+.

Gm 14: 25-23.  Winner with a streak of 6, loser with two streaks of 5.

Gm 15: 25-15.  Streak of 8 vs. streak of 4.

So–out of 15 runs of coin tosses, basically the team who put together the best run won 14 of 15 sets.  To me, that suggests the sampling I did that got 44/45 isn’t too far off (we could translate the 14/15 as 42/45 if you need to).

The thing is, statistics should be able to tell us something, whether it is to make in-game, immediate adjustments, to determine what to work on during training, or in shaping your team/coaching philosophy.  Thus, these numbers should hint at something to improve a team.

For me, the numbers tell me that it’s really okay to whiff on your first serve if you are being aggressive.  Going through a rotation without scoring isn’t going to hurt you tremendously, what you need to do is get a roll started–thus, the aggressiveness.

If there’s a point where the old saw of ‘just serve in’ may make a difference–it’s after you’ve scored three points in a row–scoring 4 points in a row certainly looks to be a big deal.  In 43 of the 45 LLCC sets I watched, the winning team had a run of 4+ points (not including the 5-set match described separately).   In that five-set match, 4 of 5 sets, the winner had a run of 4+points (and the other was just a comedy of serve errors and BHE).  In 14 of the 15 coin-toss sets, the winning team had a run of at least 4.

* * *

By the way, if you like this–and because authors need people reading their stuff, consider picking up one of the volleyball books I’ve written.  It’s a collection of 27 essays meant to make you think about coaching (even if it isn’t volleyball)!  Just as important–the Kindle version is like five bucks:

Like Heck She Isn’t a Volleyball Player

 

THE COIN-TOSS SETS:

AWAY 2 2 1 2 2 1 1 3 3 2 1 1 1 1 23 2 streaks of 3 2x 3+
HOME 2 1 1 3 1 3 3 1 1 2 1 2 2 2 25 3 streaks of 3 3x 3+
AWAY 1 2 1 2 1 6 2 1 1 2 4 2 25 streak of 6 2x 3+
HOME 2 1 3 1 4 1 1 2 1 3 1   20 streak of 4 3x 3+
AWAY 0 1 3 1 3 3 2 2 4 4 23 2 streaks of 4 5x 3+
HOME 6 2 2 1 1 1 2 4 3 3 25 streak of 6 4x 3+
AWAY 2 5 2 1 4 3 1 1 4 1 1 1 26 streak of 5 4x 3+
HOME 1 1 1 5 8 1 1 1 2 3 1 3 28 streak of 8 4x 3+
AWAY 0 1 2 2 1 4 1 4 3 1 2 1 3 25 2 streaks of 4 4x 3+
HOME 1 1 1 2 2 2 3 4 1 2 1 2   22 streak of 4 2x 3+
AWAY 0 2 1 3 1 1 2 3 1 2 1 2 2 1 3 25 2 streaks of 3 3x 3+
HOME 2 1 1 2 1 1 4 2 3 2 1 2 1 1 23 streak of 4 2x 3+
AWAY 0 1 1 1 3 1 2 3 1 4 1 2 3 23 streak of 4 4x 3+
HOME 1 1 2 8 2 2 1 2 2 1 1 1 1 25 streak of 8 1x 3+
AWAY 0 2 1 1 1 1 1 2 5 2 3 3 22 streak of 5 3x 3+
HOME 4 1 2 1 3 1 1 1 1 1 6 3 25 streak of 6 4x 3+
AWAY 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 4 1 17 streak of 4 1x 3+
HOME 2 4 2 4 1 3 2 3 2 1 1 25 2 streaks of 4 4x 3+
AWAY 0 1 1 3 1 1 1 2 1 2 2 1 2 2 20 streak of 3 1x 3+
HOME 1 1 3 1 1 1 1 2 3 1 1 1 3 5 25 streak of 5 4x 3+
AWAY 1 2 1 1 1 1 7 3 2 2 1 1 1 1 25 streak of 7 2x 3+
HOME 1 2 2 1 2 1 2 1 1 1 2 2 1 19 6 streaks of 2 none
AWAY 0 2 4 3 2 3 1 4 3 1 1 1 25 2 streaks of 4 5x 3+
HOME 1 3 3 2 2 3 1 1 2 3 1 22 4 streaks of 3 4x 3+
AWAY 3 3 1 2 1 1 2 6 1 5 25 streak of 6 4x 3+
HOME 1 1 5 2 2 1 1 5 1 4 23 2 streaks of 5 3x 3+
AWAY 0 8 3 2 2 3 2 3 2 25 streak of 8 4x 3+
HOME 3 1 1 2 1 4 2 1 15 streak of 4 2x 3+