What happened last time your zone was scored on easily? Did you switch to man?
And what happened last time your man-to-man defence was scored on in 20 seconds? You talked about covering the unders better, or upping the intensity, or holding the force. I’d bet good money you didn’t immediately switch to zone because man-to-man failed once…
Man-to-man is considered ‘normal’ in most situations, and hence there’s no pressure on the captain or coach when it goes wrong; he hasn’t done anything weird, and no-one is likely to blame him. Whereas zone defence might be considered an active decision to move away from the status quo – hence the captain is nervous of taking the risk, and often gives up on it too easily.
Another good example of bias was mentioned in a comment to a previous post about hucking – it can be valuable to take a deep shot early in a game, simply to keep the defence respecting your long cuts, even if it’s not completed. I think that’s probably true quite often, especially if it’s a pretty-looking or a particularly long throw.
Think about that for a minute. A team just showed you that there’s a very solid chance of a turnover on a huck – they’re currently at 0%, for crying out loud – and you’re about to change your downfield defending because you’re worried about the bomb? Talk me through that again…
It’s embarrassing to get beaten deep. It hurts more than giving up 4 unders in a row, not least because those 4 unders were probably 4 different defenders, and the ‘blame’ is spread around. But if you’re there and bidding on an imperfect huck, even though the offence happens to come down with it, should you really be upset with your positioning at the start of that cut? Should you feel worse than all those other points they score by walking it in on uncontested 10 yard passes? And if they don’t even complete the huck, should you really be worried that you got toasted long?
The answer can be found in the stats – over the season, how many turns per point did your zone get compared to your man in similar weather to this? How many turns did the opposition make on hucks compared to when they kept everything short (either all your opponents’ games against you, or all this opponent’s games against others)? But even in the absence of in-depth, long-term stats, just remembering you might have a bias will help you make better decisions.
Always try to look at the situation more carefully – did they take a risky throw to break your zone? Is there really any good evidence that they’ll complete a big enough percentage of hucks?
You can go into this to an arbitrary depth – e.g. perhaps you know that the other team is very emotionally up-and-down and will gain confidence from a couple of spectacular plays. So maybe it’s worth preventing them from making any, even if it’s not the optimal choice on this particular point. Or maybe you want them to take the shot and turn over, so that they lose confidence. You can involve virtually any information in your decision about how to play – including any biases the opposition may have – but you should fight to overcome or at least recognise your own bias.
There’s lots of evidence that we’re not capable of completely overcoming our own biases, even when we know about them. Experiments with the phenomenon of anchoring (the tendency to use an irrelevant number as a starting point when guessing a price, for example) show that people continue to display anchoring effects, even when they’re specifically told all about anchoring and that the starting number should be ignored! But more generally, knowing about your biases can help you to take them into account.
It’s hard to overcome your biases, and you might never succeed completely. But it’s worth the effort. All biases hurt – not throwing to capable women; not throwing to that guy because you still think of him as the beginner he was two years ago; hucking to that receiver in traffic because of that one great grab last year; playing a particular style because it’s the one you thought of and you want to be proved right – there’s an infinite number. Some are very hard to spot, but it’s worth trying.
Bias costs you points. Bias loses you games.
If you’ve seen a bias that people often seem to have, drop it in the comments below. We can all learn from each other on this one…