Take the goalie out! Timing, the mathematical absolute



Think about it.


You're a coach, and your team is down by one goal. The clock is running.

With 6 minutes and 10 seconds left on the clock, you pull your goalie. Six to five for 6 minutes and 10 seconds, full on attack.

Why? To maximize your chances of winning. 
It's crazy.
It's unthinkable.
Nobody does it.
"What is the turning point, in terms of time left, at which the losing team’s chances of scoring in the few remaining moments, have gotten so low that swapping the goalie gives them a better chance at a result (despite the risks involved), than continuing with five attackers? "
Six minutes and ten seconds...
(hockey-loving mathematicians, Clifford Asness and Aaron Brown. NYU)

I've tried, but I cannot let it go. I ran across the following article about a month ago, and it keeps spinning in my mind. 

So. I need to churn it out, get it out, and my wish is to expand on a couple of thoughts and ideas.

First of all, give this fascinating article a quick read. Kudos to the author, Maarten van Doorn.
"Why You're Not Taking Enough Risks"

Why do I find it fascinating as a teacher of martial arts? Simply, because I love strategy and I love bold strategy, even more. Especially when it's well-calculated. Yes, it is hockey-based, but the ideas are multidimensional, and across-the-board applicable. 

I bow to the logical reasoning in the latter part of the article as to 'why' coaches dare not take such a risk. Yet, scroll up to the mathematical calculation in the article. 
Genius. In order for it to work, a coach would have to ensure its success more often times than not, for it to gain any statistical significance.

Let's take a look at a few ideas:

  • Firstly, never underestimate the element of surprise and its power over the opponent. Shock and awe. Sun Tzu just smiled from his grave. 
  • Secondly, never knowing when and which game such a strategy would be executed creates mental stress for opponents. Can they handle it physically? Do they have the will to win?
  • The question needs to be posed, 'How many mistakes would the opponent potentially make in this chaotic reaction of stress, and even though they have attempted to prepare for occurrence probability?". Does it lead to penalties as a consequence where the ice matrix suddenly becomes six to four, for example?
  • Risk management not only lies in the calculation. It also lies in the preparation and training of the athletes. The athletes executing the strategy have to be trained to maximize the opportunity. Six minutes of chaotic high-speed attack to minimize the seconds used on defense demands; physical endurance, mental calmness, preparedness. To correlate this idea to a concept, think of it as a type of, 'specialty team'. It depends on who you have on the ice.
Does this calculation ensure success in and by itself? Of course it doesn't. A plan and training need to fall into place in order to increase that probability. Yet, the thought of maximizing the chances of winning, is better than losing by a safe margin in order for the coach to 'save face'.

So, coaches must ask themselves which working objective they follow.

"You can only win when you attack. You cannot win when you defend" 
-Grandmaster William Cheung, Wing Chun martial arts-

The boldness of the strategy lights my fire. 
The development of sport or any other endeavor often suffers from plateaus where a lot of shuffling of existing resources and components happen, and it is ho-hum boring. This line-up, that whatever.

Can you imagine any coach that had the Cahonies to make it work? Let's make that a big, 'C'.

I can almost guarantee they would brand their name in the industry. They would be recognized for developing their sport. They would challenge everyone else to step up to the plate, and beyond. And it's all about the fundamentals.

About development and cross-study:

Excellent lifetime martial artists and coaches seek to develop their styles and art. Yet, they know that development is always derived from basic fundamentals. You can't just go making up new, weird stuff.

Individual martial artists dive into the depths of fundamentals to increase their skill and understanding. Teachers study other disciplines in order to expand their minds, and for inspiration. They cross-study. At least, they should. It leads to development of the artist, and aids teachers in transmission of their respective art to their students. 

Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, a Yang style Grandmaster, researcher, and author of several publications dedicated to teaching, once stated that true mastery of the straight sword, in application, is that beautiful one offensive strike that ends the duel. The perceptional and sensory patience to wait for the perfect opening and reduce the use of defensive tactics, while the opponent exhausts themselves in the fight, is what the practitioner of the straight sword trains for in the depths of fundamentals. 

My own Teacher, Blue Siytangco in Houston Texas, always encourages cross-study. He has often talked about searching for the fundamentals in other styles, understanding them and knowing your opponent. Study them, go deeper. 


  • Development, expertise, and the win should always supersede the fear and ego of the leader. 
  • The risk to dare when the risk is already reduced to calculated manageable uncertainty with practice and training, is a no-brainer.
A precious six minutes and ten seconds. 
Such a long haul. And yet, such a short span of time.
Perspective
Gutsy
Beautiful
Bold

The inspiration doesn't stop with hockey. How can you apply it to your current challenge in life, or work? Where is your ego in overdrive? What is realistic, and what is fear-driven? Where are you using excessive energy in defensive mode? Think about it...Take your goalie out.

Stay safe and warm wishes,
Tami Daun

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