One of the main dilemmas coaches face every day is when to put their fist down and make a decision. This is a particularly tricky thing to do as adjustments are usually made during the course of a single game. Coaches have to be quick on their feet when it comes to decision-making in order to put the team in a place where they are most likely to succeed. They rely on their intuition to make these decisions because good coaches usually have a “gut-feeling” about what is happening on the court. However, it is important for coaches to consider statistical data when they are conflicted. Empirical numbers are always a good source of information, and in combination with the intuition of the coach, leads to better decision-making. Coaches should be aware that the approach depends on the situation at hand.
When it comes to intuition, it is a good way of assessing things that are happening in front of you. Great coaches have a good “gut feeling” that tells them whether something is going good or bad. They have to rely on the eye test and their knowledge about the game to read the game story. Intuition is usually the method to go to when coaches are considering in-game adjustments as there is no time to dive deeply into analysis of the issue. They have to make split-second decisions that are impossible without that feeling in their stomach. An important aspect of coaching is knowing when to speak to the team or when to stay silent. Intuition plays a big part of that decision-making, as coaches need to have a developed social intelligence in order to lead their players. There is no statistic that suggests how you should calm your players down, or encourage them to be passionate about the game.
However, in a long-term perspective, statistical data helps coaches a lot. They show trends over long periods of time that makes it easier for them to see what the team is doing good or bad. For example, advanced analytics demonstrates how efficient the team is and what needs to be the focus in practices in order to improve certain areas of the game. It also helps coaches decide on the playing time of their roster. If the data shows that a starter has been playing bad for quite some time, a coach can examine if he has players on the bench that have been performing better, and insert him/her in the starting lineup. Ultimately, statistical data should be used by coaches when they can analyze their team in peace and quiet, a less stressful environment.
Coach don’t necessarily need to adopt only one approach. On the contrary, the best coaches combine statistical data with their intuition to create a successful environment for their team. This not only helps the players fix their bad habits, but it improves the coaches’ “gut feeling”. Statistical data that can be analyzed after the game, shows coaches if their intuitive decisions were right or wrong and makes them better coaches in the future. Therefore, the use of statistics doesn’t cancel out the knowledge of great coaches. On the contrary, it improves their intuitive decisions.