Subtle Biases Against The Team


Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.

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10 Responses

  1. Mike Dwyer says:

    I could probably tell a bunch of stories here about my kids’ experience in team sports and my own, but I would just be making the same points. This is just a really, really good post that covers about every angle of the issue needed Pat. Really enjoyed reading it.Report

  2. Chris says:

    I remember that game, and that tournament (note who won it) very well. It was definitely fun to watch, and one of my favorite upsets of all time.Report

    • Patrick in reply to Chris says:

      Everybody I was with was in awe during that game. The height of my basketball nerddom, when I had time to pay attention to college and pro ball. And everybody really didn’t want UCLA to repeat that year.

      For the record, I aced the round of 16 in the Southeast Regional in my bracket that year and everyone was mad at me for correctly picking Princeton over UCLA (then I got clobbered in the next round anyway so my chances of winning the Madness fell precipitously.)Report

      • Chris in reply to Patrick says:

        Princeton also got clobbered in the next round, which shows how inspired that one performance was.

        UCLA had chance anyway. Two of the best teams of the decade, and possibly ever, were in that tournament.Report

  3. Burt Likko says:

    My best man came up to visit a couple weekends ago. He and his family live down San Diego way these days. He brought his 11-year-old son, and I fed them, and my buddy and I emptied a bottle of the Isle of Islay’s finest while staying up too late catching up. I say we stayed up too late, because the next morning, we packed up the kid and took him to the Soccerplex up here where state-level championships were going to start in the kid’s age bracket.

    These kids had skillz. Not as awesome as the skillz on display when national teams meet, but they could do more than dribble and kick-and-hope. Some of them had good enough control to pick a corner of the goal to shoot at and get it close enough to on target as to be threats. Some of them had that intuitive vector calculus, that intuitive “where’s my teammate going to be” thing. But yeah, most of them seemed to want to keep the ball when they got it, rather than work it back and forth amongst the team. The team that did the work the back-and-forth passing won, and they won precisely because they were passing more and taking shots before my friend’s son’s team could reset its defensive formations in response to the shifts.

    Another thing that occurred to me, though, was how thankless the task of coaching such a team was. My friend was full of simmering resentment after the game, because the coach played the wrong kids (meaning the coach didn’t play his kid enough, for a reasons that I guess were defensible enough for a sports bar level of argument) and because the coach hadn’t taught passing. I figured, “This guy is probably volunteering his time to coach all these kids, and he got started doing it because he thought it would be fun and his kid is involved and he wants to do something good.”

    So with fourteen boys on the team, and only eight playing at a time, that’s six sets of parents on the sidelines all simultaneously racking up “You should be playing my kid more than you are” resentment points… plus seven more sets of parents simultaneously racking up “You should have coached the kid with the ball to pass that ball to my kid” resentment points. He can only avoid criticism when the team is on defense. In which case all fourteen sets of parents are going to criticize him for playing the kids too defensively.

    Dude can’t possibly win.Report

    • Patrick in reply to Burt Likko says:

      It could be worse, he could ref.Report

      • dhex in reply to Patrick says:

        “It could be worse, he could ref.”

        there’s a good documentary on d3 college basketball that spends a bit of time with two refs. watching them deal with abuse – and i’m not talking “oh c’mon ref!” type stuff, which would seem to come with the territory – but straight up, all four quarters, “were you born blind because god hated your mother?” type vitriol. it’s kinda funny at first, but after minute two you wonder why anyone in their right mind would volunteer for that.Report

  4. Damon says:

    When I was growing up and playing little league and such, we didn’t have these problems…we had problems with parents, one in particular, that was always berating the kids and telling the coach to play her kid ’cause he wouldn’t drop the ball like that “johnson kid” or that he was a better player and we needed the win.

    She was a class act.Report

  5. Czar Chasm says:

    The only place I would ever coach would be an orphanage.Report