The four posts on the timeout studies conducting by Ben Raymond and I (here, here, here and here) unsurprisingly created some discussion points. Many readers remain convinced that timeouts they call impact the game positively for their team. The logic used was sometimes convoluted and difficult to follow. Some readers had the honesty to admit that there was no evidence that could be provided that would change their minds. I did wonder why those people would choose to participate in coaching forums, but that is just an aside.
The most common point was that since the study showed that sideout percentage returned to normal after a timeout it proved the effectiveness of timeouts. This factually correct statement neatly sidestepped the also factually correct statement that in the absence of a timeout the sideout percentage also returned to normal. So whatever the study ‘proved’ it was that taking a timeout and not taking a timeout were EQUALLY effective in their short term impact on sideout percentage. If your personal bias is toward action, then you will use that information to take timeouts. If your personal bias is somewhat neutral between action and inaction, they probably you won’t.
A second common point was that it was not the coach’s sole aim to win a single sideout so it would be more accurate to analyse a series of points before and after the timeout. I think this is a reasonable point. I would propose that coaches take timeouts to win a single sideout, and for some longer term objective. I am certain that this analysis would show that the sideout percentage for the three or four points before the timeout is lower than the three or four points after the timeout. That would be entirely consistent with the data we have, and also entirely consistent with the findings we have. That is, there would be a statistically insignificant difference between taking a timeout and not taking a timeout. (*See my calculations below.)
Strangely, nobody brought up other situations that happen in the game that might influence the impact of timeouts. Substitutions take up almost as much time as timeouts, and in the Polish and Italian leagues at least, Video Challenges take up even more. In each set, there can be up to twenty official breaks in play, of which we looked at only five or six. We have no clue what happens with the rest of them. And how the different breaks in play interact with each other. Ultimately, maybe the sheer volume of all of the breaks in play negates the effect of any single break. Maybe volleyball is so intermittent none of the breaks make any difference anyway.
My personal takeaway is simple. We coaches overestimate our individual impact. Perhaps in more areas than just this one.
*Scenario – Team loses 2 break points in a row then takes a timeout. What is the change in sideout percentage for three points before and after the timeout? (Figures from Polish League)
SO rate before the timeout – 1 sideout from 3 attempts = 0.33
SO rate after the timeout (expected) – 0.668 + 0.666 + 0.666 = 0.666
Therefore, the timeout was effective in the medium term.
if there were no timeout taken the expected SO rate after the initial series is 0.666 + 0.666 + 0.666 = 0.666
Therefore, the medium term sideout rate is also exactly the same with and without a timeout.
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