Decision Making

In sport (and in other aspects of life I suppose - though it rarely seems as important as it does in sport!), there are constantly decisions that may need to be made. The range is huge:
  • Whether to call a timeout or not?
  • When to organise the bus to go to the venue?
  • What and when to eat?
  • Who to select?
  • What training venue to use?
  • What skills are important and when should they be taught?
  • How healthy are the players?
  • What program structure should be used?
  • What coaches should be engaged?
  • What should you say to the media?
  • How much do you pay a player?
Not only is the range huge, but the decisions required are never, every in isolation from each other. Some examples:
  • If I don't call a timeout now, the media will think I am not doing anything
  • If I pick her then I won't pick the player with the biggest media profile which means the sponsor won't be happy
  • That venue is the best for training, but it costs more, the players don't like travelling that far to train
  • The athletes need to be better for us to win, but if they train more they might get injured
When we think of decisions we often think of them in binary terms, that is 'Yes/No'. Should I do it or shouldn't I. This makes sense, and when the time to make the decision is in that instant, this can be pretty accurate.

The reality is, it is not 'yes or no', nor it is 'this or that'. It is is generally a question of, this, this this this this or this, and if so, when (then, then, then then or now)? And lastly, when do you need the outcome to be optimised? Now, tomorrow, next week, next year, next decade? So to clarify, considerations affecting a decision are:
  • look at the wide range of options (and evaluating the pros and cons of each)
  • understand as much as possible the interaction of all options
  • work out the timeframe required for the decision to bear fruit
  • work out when the decision needs to be made for each of the above options to be successful
A simplistic example is, if I decide and start action today, then the decision will prove to be the right one a year from now. But if I don't decide for 3 months, the outcome a year from now will not be the desired one.
Take an example of an 'indecisive' person: many people, when faced with no clear answer, will chose to gather more information so the correct decision becomes clear. Makes sense right? Why be forced into a decision when you don't feel you know enough about it? But what if, after this, it still isn't clear? Then simply go back and get more information, then more, until finally they have all the information required to make the correct decision? The problem with this is that the 'best' decision might change over time, and by the time there is enough information for this person to decide, it might be that the only option left is not as good as some of the options earlier.

Is the 'indecisive' person wrong? Maybe, maybe not. Compare them to the 'decisive' person. The decisive person might quickly make a decision they are convinced is right because they can't see an alternative (not because there isn't one). Whenever you talk to somehow who explains that the reason something should be done is 'because that is how we have always done it', you are talking to a 'decisive' person.

In team sport, game plans are a great example of this process. Some coaches constantly search for the 'perfect' game plan. Some coaches work out a good game plan, and then put time and effort into executing it 'perfectly'. So now we are talking not just about the decision, but the commitment to implement it. The keys are:
  1. the timing of the decision
  2. the commitment to the implementation
Unfortunately you will rarely have the 'right' answer present itself to you when operating in a complicated environment, and if you do, beware you are missing something! But the more effort you put into understanding your options in a non-judgemental way, the better chance you have of finding the 'best' answer.

(Photo Credit 1)
(Photo Credit 2)


  1. I find if you put a lot of effort into determining your vision, values and culture the decision making becomes less dependent on the short term things you would like to control but can't. I would say being more judgemental towards your culture will lead you to better decisions in the longer term rather than being reactive to many of the realities you stated above.

  2. Thanks for your response Kop. I couldn't agree more! When faces with options which seem to be equally compelling, your overall philosophy and culture can help make the decision.


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