know thyself by alendar


                                        Bobby Simpson

Years ago, a great philosopher in Greece said "Know Thyself." As a softball coach, he
would have been only partly right. To properly plan strategy, a coach and the players
need as much information as possible about at least four categories of information. They
need complete and accurate information about their team, the other team, the situation,
and the conditions.

We often hear about "the book." This mystical set of ironclad rules is supposed to tell u s
what to do in terms of our strategic decisions. It often contains statements that begin with
either never or always. Supposedly, someone has set up this magic system for decision-
making and we are to strictly adhere to it. In all honesty, strategy is not quite that simple.

Sometimes, our players cannot execute what the book calls for. Maybe the book says to
bunt and we have a batter at the plate that is not a very good bunter. Common sense says
that we need to consider another option. The same is true in many other situations. There
is plenty of room for common sense and not just book sense.

Let's apply our four categories and some common sense to a specific situation. Let's say
that you have a runner on second base, there are no outs in the first inning, and the batter
hits a single to right field. There is a book rule that says "Never make the first out of an
inning at home plate." You are coaching third base and the runner is headed your way.
How do you decide whether to hold her at third or send her home?" Let's look at details
of the categories.

Your Team                                      Other Team
Runner's speed                                 Speed of fielder
Runner's baserunning ability                   Outfielder's fielding ability
Runner's sliding ability                       Fielder's arm strength
Runner's intelligence                          Fielder's release quickness
Runner's start at second                       Fielder's accuracy
Next hitters                                   Judgment of fielder
Do you score many runs?                        Where is ball fielded?
Do you give up many runs?                      Ability of catcher
How hard was the ball hit?                     Do they score many runs?
Your offensive philosophy                      Do they allow many runs?
                                               Their defensive philosophy

Situation                                       Conditions
Inning                                          Hardness of field
Outs                                            Wet or dry
Score                                           Outfield grass/dirt
Home or visitors                                Angle of sun
The lists above are certainly not all the factors that need consideration, but are intended to
show you that a lot of information must be collected and analyzed. Most of these items
should be known before the play develops. You should already be aware of your team,
and hopefully gained knowledge of the other team during other games, pregame
workouts, and observations of their movements, body types, and habits. You should also
have already stored information about the situation and conditions.

Now, the book would say to hold the runner at third, since you have three more outs to
score her. In slow pitch, you would be more likely to hold her at third, since three other
batters have a very good chance to drive her in. The same may not be true in fast pitch, or
even with your next three hitters in slow pitch. If your next three hitters are 0 for July,
then this may be your only chance to score, so you better wave her home. Knowing their
pitcher, your team's ability to score, and the philosophy of the other coach can all be very
important at this point.

If you know that the other coach is not a risk taker, you would probably send the runner
home. A conservative coach would probably instruct their outfielders to throw to second
and not gamble on the throw to the plate. If this is the case, they are giving you a run and
you would be foolish to not take the gift.

Maybe you know that it will be a very close play at the plate, your runner has a sore
ankle, and is not a very good slider. In this case, unless they give you the run, you may
want to keep the runner at third. What if the ball is hit hard, the outfielder is a sure fielder
and has a strong throwing arm? You would probably think that you have to hold the
runner at third, but do not forget about fielder's time of release. Some players can throw
well, but take a long time to get rid of the ball. You can still run on these fielders.

Throughout your coaching experiences, you'll have to make thousands of decisions. You
will need tons of information, analytical ability, and decision-making courage. Your
computer brain will allow you to collect, analyze, and act upon all this data. You'll get
better at all of this with experience. Sometimes you will be right and everyone will call
you a genius. Sometimes you will be wrong and they will think you are a complete idiot.
And, sometimes it will rain and the book will be too wet to read.

It's not as simple as the Greek philosopher wanted it to be. It is a complex, yet simple,
system based on knowledge and percentages. The better your knowledge, the better your
chance to be right. However, even with complete information, the percentages will cause
you to be wrong a certain amount of time. Know thyself...and know that you did your

                 Contact Bobby Simpson at
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