Friday, May 27, 2005


I'm often confused when some young player is heralded as having a lot of "talent." What, he plays the piano? Sings? Can perform complex integrations in his head? Or is it just that he's fast and can throw it really far?

Good coaches can identify talent. But the great coaches have a different idea of what talent is. They identify talent as knowing what to do against a poach, how to fill, and how to figure out what cut an opponent wants.

So perhaps instead of looking at a field of recruits for the guy who makes the spectactular plays, figuring that your incredibly smart team can teach him how to play, why not look instead for the guy who is already making the smart plays, figuring you can teach him how he can improve himself?


Anonymous said...

Good point. As captain of a college team this year, I would often rave about an "average" player's (freshmen, in particular) great mental game to my co-captains. They often discounted these same players, saying they weren't "aggressive" or "athletic" enough. All I could say was, "just wait". Sometimes it happens quickly, other times it happens over the course of a few years, but invariably, these players are those who I will want on the field with me when it matters most.

Edward Lee said...

You can't teach tall. You can improve speed, acceleration, agility and leaping ability to some extent. Do you really think it's easier to improve these things than it is to teach someone to play smart team defense and offense?

Edward Lee said...

Or perhaps you're talking about cognitive speed? Anybody can watch game tape or draw formations on a chalkboard and figure out what the players should be doing, but it takes some kind of "talent" to be able to process this information quickly enough to be able to execute correctly on the field.

Tim Keown wrote an article about cognitive quickness for ESPN magazine a while back:


Dennis Mc said...

The important point is that quick and good-decision-making is just as much a physical skill as speed. And you can't teach it. [I screamed this at the television set when Buffalo Bills cut Doug Flutie and kept Rob Johnson.] Theoretically, it seems you should be able to teach a shredder how to play smart O and D-- but often you can't.
And in fact, there is nothing more detrimental to a team than an uncoverable shredder who is turning it over 30% of the time.

parinella said...

In the course of a year, you can improve some raw physical skills a little bit through all those damn workouts. A 22 year old should improve naturally over the next five years before starting that oh-so-painful slide.

But that's not really what I meant. I meant that a player could learn to throw better and farther and with more touch, and fine-tune his cutting instincts, and that improving those things would be easier for a smart, only moderately athletic player to do than it would for a stupid, highly athletic player to learn field sense. (And by smart and stupid, I mean playing IQ.)

Anonymous said...

Even further, there are players who are instictively quicker in defense and offense. Players who know which throw is coming, but can't make the decision to make that throw when the have the disc and I am constantly amazed by cutting-lane defenders who can shut down very good cutters, but once they get the disc, they are somehow unable to evaluate that information from another angle and apply it to their own choices as a cutter.

Perhaps these precious fractions of a second are lost when the player tries to think the game instead of playing the game.