Pete Carroll’s Goal Line Decision Prompts All Coaches to Examine Play Calling Strategies
The Seattle Seahawks failed strategy in the Super Bowl to throw for a touchdown (that ended up intercepted) over running for the score has been the talk of sports this week, stirring up endless discussions around Pete Carroll’s coaching decision to go against conventional wisdom. Rather than use a safer run play, Carroll seemingly “played the numbers” and lost. Whether Carroll’s decision was right or wrong is debatable discussion, but the bigger question — one that all coaches know well — centers around when to rely on statistics versus intuition making key in-game coaching decisions.
While few coaches will ever be on the sidelines for a Super Bowl, countless coaches each day face in-game decisions that prompt cognitive and emotional mastery. The excitement of the decision escalates adrenaline (burst stress), and often time plays a factor in how quickly a decision must be made. It is often in this very moment where coaches have to keep their emotions in check while balancing statistical odds versus other options that simply feel right.
Call the right play and you’re a genius; call a play that doesn’t work and everyone questions your coaching abilities. Unfortunately, there is no manual available to make the perfect call all the time, prompting coaches to regularly engage in challenging thought around what move to make on the field. There are, however, a few things coaches can do to prepare for those moments when stress runs high and an important decision needs to be made in just a matter of seconds:
- Try to think through and plan ahead for likely situations that occur in games, and talk to your staff about what to do when these situations occur in games. Work to agreed upon decisions, then have conviction using the decision when the situation calls.
- Accept that while you can always second-guess decisions, rarely can they be reversed so it’s far better to accept what has happened, learn from it, and “build a better mousetrap” for the future as opposed to beating yourself up second-guessing.
- The best approach is finding a balancing point between playing games by the numbers and occasionally throwing stats out the window and working from intuition. Relying too much on either side of this continuum may limit your coaching abilities, but finding where that line is between both philosophies is as unique as each coach.
Coaching decisions can be stressful, and they are almost always second-guessed when they go wrong. Good coaches work through likely future situations ahead of time, and cope with the consequences when things go wrong. Finding the balance point between statistical probabilities and intuition is one of the greatest challenges in coaching, and often the difference between winning and losing on the field.
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