Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

The Super Bowl and outthinking yourself

February 3, 2015 by  
Filed under Coaching

People all across the country are calling it the worst play call in Super Bowl history.  Of course, I’m talking about the decision to throw the ball on the half yard line with 20 seconds left when you have Marshawn Lynch standing right behind the quarterback.

I throw 93 but maybe I should trick him with a change-up.  Or maybe I'll try my knuckleball ...

I throw 93 but maybe I should trick him with a change-up. Or maybe I should try my knuckleball …

Coach and/or play any sport long enough and you will commit a similar blunder at some point.  It may not be in the biggest game situation of your life but I guarantee it will happen. 

Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll are two of the best, most innovative minds in football today.  Their teams’ success has a lot to do with their in-depth thinking that goes on between plays and between games.  Unfortunately, like I’ve said before in other posts, sometimes your best trait can be your worst as well.  Great thinkers sometimes think too much and fail to see that there are times when a lot of brain power is not required.  Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams said it best after the Super Bowl when he said, “The Seahawks were playing chess when they should have been playing checkers.”  Well said.

We see the same in baseball too.  Below are several examples of what I am talking about …

  1. A hard throwing high school pitcher finds himself in a full count bases loaded situation and thinks “this batter knows a fastball is coming so I’ll throw my curveball.”  He hangs it and it gets crushed or throws it for a ball and walks the 8 hitter.
  2. With a runner on first and his best hitter at the plate, the coach puts on a hit-and-run.  The batter gets a bad pitch but because he has to swing, he pops it up.
  3. With two outs in the last inning, a runner on second and third, a stud closer on the mound, and his team up by five runs, a shortstop spends a lot of time trying to hold the runner close to second base.  He isn’t able to get back to his spot on the pitch and a weak ground ball makes it through into left field.
  4. With a runner on third and no outs, the coach puts on a squeeze play.  The bunt is popped up for an easy double play.

Each scenario is a case where the player or coach overthought the situation and therefore made the play much harder than it needed to be.  Here is each situation again with an explanation of what went wrong.

  1. In this situation the pitcher fails to realize that just because the 8 hitter knows a fastball is coming doesn’t mean he is going to be able to hit it.  Hitting is hard and he is batting 8th for a reason.  Go with your best pitch – in this case a fastball.  If he beats you then make sure he beats you on your best pitch.  
  2. In this situation the coach took the bat out of his best hitter’s hands by forcing him to swing at virtually anything.  Even if he puts the ball in play on the ground and the runner makes it to second base, you now have to rely on your less talented hitters to drive him in.  Let your best players play.
  3. The shortstop in this situation is not fully aware of the situation and is trying to force a pick-off when his stud pitcher can probably end the game quite easily without anyone’s help.  Up by several runs, play your position and let your stud be a stud.
  4. In the squeeze play scenario, once again the coach tried to force a play that probably was not necessary at that time.  One out, maybe.  No outs, let the batter hit.  If he makes an out, you still have a runner on third with at least two more batters coming to the plate.

Let me just say that as a player and coach I have screwed up each one of those situations myself.  That’s why I used them as examples.  

A lot of thinking is required of players and coaches as you move higher in the game.  However, never forget that many times a non-thinking approach is often the best tactic.

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