Thursday, February 21, 2008

Captain Considerations: Properly Valuing the Injury Prone


With tryouts looming, I have decided to start a collection of posts titled Captain Considerations. The topics will cover some of the major topics team administrators and captains should consider when holding tryouts, selecting squads and setting up a game plan for the upcoming season.

If you'd like to submit an article, please feel free to contact me.

Jamie Noonan Looks to Huck at UPA Finals 2006
Photo Source: and the great Dave Knowles

Every year, teams and players at this time of year look forward to spring tryouts. By now you've being inundated at every ultimate gathering (game, workout, party, etc) by the same list of character stereotypes
  • The overly positive (about the upcoming season)
  • The overly cynical
  • The indifferent but wants you to know that they're indifferent
  • The non committal (to any particular team)
  • The prognosticator (who will play where, who will make what team, etc)
I gotta tell ya, these people can get annoying REALLY fast. The captain who selects their team hopefully ignores all these people, and focuses on what's important.

So what is important?

Of the many key considerations, properly assessing the injury risk during tryouts may have a major effect on your team's success.

It's so easy to pick the Spring Superstar. Their talent is tantalizing, and they clearly have the skills/speed to play. But where are they in August and October? They're on the sidelines or wishing the team well from home, nursing another injury.

All players are susceptible to injuries. But some players are chronically hurt. With these players, you have to ask yourself:
  • What are the value of these players, given that they will miss games (and contribute nothing in these games) and in most games after tryouts will be performing at less than optimal levels?
  • What is the opportunity cost of picking these players as opposed to other players who can play more and don't get a spot on your team?
  • How can you manage these players to win the most games, and win the most important games in your season?
  • What is being done by the injury prone athlete to combat this problem?
Properly valuing players in sports with stats is difficult enough, and ultimate is even more complicated. It might be an unpopular decision in the local ultimate community, but team selectors might have to pass on the injury prone.

If you pick too many skilled players who injure easily, your whole team may be sitting on the sideline come tourney finals on a far too regular basis.


Sill said...

Nice post Steve. I look forward to the Captains considerations posts.

Question: Do you take these skilled/injury prone players as well as an additional player to offset them? That way you've got them in case they're not injured. With the added possibility of playing them less in order to keep the possibility of injuries to be less?

Sport Management Steven said...

In a perfect world, you have a big enough roster to take both the injury prone skill and the less talented additional player.

A key part of this strategy is proper planning and communication. People need to know their role and be willing to follow team plans. Is the injury prone player willing to attend but sit out games in june so they can play when it matters most? Ditto the reverse for the additional player. Better find out before you select the final roster.