Monday, August 6, 2012

Live by the sword, die by the sword

We all fall into mental traps of our own device. Skaters do it. Refs do it. Even coaches do it.

Especially coaches do it.

We fall in love with strategy and the decision making.

In the heat of battle, coaches are called upon to devise the ultimate strategy and instill confidence in his/her players. When it works, it's brilliant. When it doesn't, you get a sinking feeling in your gut. And the you grasp on to it like a fleeting child getting sucked into a giant vortex of doom.

We recently played a team and we were down by 20 points with about three and a half minutes to go. Personally I felt like the point-spread was out of reach for the situation we were in - We had one hot jammer, and their skaters were doing a seemingly miraculous job of staying out of the box (How, I don't know, but I wake up in a cold sweat dreaming about it).

Our only opportunity to come back was to force the opposing jammer to take a bad penalty and go straight into our power-jam No offense is the best offense strategy (Slow derby). We ran into several problems:
1. We couldn't draw a penalty against the opposing jammer even when all four blockers and the jammer were combining efforts. We fell short of knocking her out of bounds and trying to draw cut and/or back blocking penalties on her.
2. Our walls fell apart. It didn't take the other team long to open up gaps and allow their jammer an easy pass.
3. We failed to chase when she did get through to try and reabsorb her into the pack.
4. Our jammers remained in the pack without trying to make it through, choosing to stay and play defense.

It's frustrating to be a coach, ask the team to implement a strategy and then it falls a part on so many levels you don't have time to fix it. We had burned our timeouts trying to keep the clock from ticking off.

After the jam expired, I called for it again. This time with a new lineup. It again failed. I'd fallen in love with something that was pulling me down into the quicksand, and I couldn't let go. The final score ended up being 119-167 I belive. We managed to score zero points in the 3-plus minutes, meanwhile our ultimate defense collapsed.

It's a hard lesson. But maybe I'll learn from it. In the end I don't blame the players, I blame myself. I couldn't let go of the powerful idea of making a key decision, which likely ended up costing us.