Dan Tudor

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August 29th, 2016

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The Scientific Method: Anyone Can Do It!

bill_headshot_dantudorBill Lynch, Front Rush

Today we’re going to talk about how the Scientific Method translates to coaching.  I know everyone has learned about this topic in school at one point or another, but it doesn’t hurt to get a refresher –  especially when I’m positive you already use it in your daily lives, even if you don’t actively know it.


Let’s talk about the definition real quick.

The Scientific Method

It is a process that is used to find answers to questions about the world using measurable evidence.

In other words, it’s a way to answer questions using data.

The Origin Story

In 16th century Italy one of the most famous thinkers in history, Galileo Galilee, wondered whether two differently weighted objects would hit the ground at the same time if dropped together from the same height.

Back in the day the philosopher and scientist Aristotle said a heavier object would hit the ground first, but Galileo wasn’t convinced. So he designed an experiment to test his belief that both objects would hit the ground at the same time.  

He walked up to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and dropped a heavy sphere and a light sphere off of the tower at the same time.

And boom goes the dynamite, they both hit the ground together, proving his theory.

How does the Scientific Method Apply to You?


Ask a Question

Take a second to think about a question you would like answered.  

This could be something along the lines of “Which player is faster than the other?”, “When is the best time to email my recruits?”, “What’s the best play to run given a certain game situation?”, or “What’s the quickest route to work?” to name a few.  

You go through the same motions with all of these questions, no matter how different they seem to one another on the surface.

Make a hypothesis

For each of those questions and for the question you thought of on your own, we already have a hunch as to what the answer may be.

We may think we know the answer, that “A is faster than B”, or “Emailing during lunchtime is the best if you want a response”, or “Punt on 4th and long” but we want to be sure.  Those are our hypotheses and we’re going to prove them one way or the other.

Test the hypothesis with an experiment

The way to prove if our beliefs are true or not is with an experiment.

I am part of the school of thought that simpler is better, and it often holds true with the scientific method.  You don’t need to have a crazy formula or experiment designed to draw insightful conclusions.

Most of the time analyzing averages and counts will suffice because they’re easy to analyze and causality is usually clear.

For instance…

  • To find out if “A is faster than B” we can check their average times in the 40m/60m/100m/etc.  
  • To find out which time of day is best to get a response from a recruit, take notes for a week or two on the open rate of emails, count them up, and see which hours yield the highest open rate.  
  • To find out if you should “Punt on 4th and long” or run another play, see how many times not punting on 4th and long worked for you or see how many times punting on 4th and long led to a 3 and out on the other end.

Come to a conclusion, and Communicate the Results

Now take a look at the data you compiled.  If we’re working with counts, look at the value with the highest count. If we’re working with averages, take the one with the highest average.

From that information, you might start player A over B, send emails out at lunchtime, and become more confident that punting on 4th and long is the way to go most of the time.

You just used the scientific method. You…

  1. Thought of a question
  2. Stated your beliefs
  3. Gathered data and tested it with an experiment
  4. Came to a conclusion and communicated your results

Everywhere you look, information is being captured, quantified, and used to make decisions.  Feedback from even a few experiments can yield immediate results. Also as we’ve demonstrated today, you don’t have to be using sabermetrics to find insights in your data, but it’s worth brushing up on the basics of quantitative analysis.

Remember, anyone can do it!

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