Education Reform

The Different Strategies in Indoor Volleyball Versus Outdoor Volleyball

The simplest answer is this: A successful volleyball play generally employs some amount of trickery or subterfuge. In indoor volleyball (6 on 6), this trickery generally occurs on the offensive side of the ball; in outdoor volleyball (2 on 2), it generally occurs on defense.

In indoor volleyball, the setter has a number of options for players to hit the ball. He can set the outside or middle hitting, the D in the back, or even the pipe. The hitters can be running any number of patterns, e.g. X, shoot, standard 4-2, quick, slide, etc. Generally 2 or more hitters will be making their approach, getting ready to jump while the setter is setting. This means that the defense has to figure out who is really going to get the ball, where he is going to hit it, etc. The 6 players playing defense, while they will adjust (especially the blockers) depending on who is hitting the ball, the adjustment is not as pronounced as in outdoor volleyball.

In outdoor volleyball, as soon as one player receives and passes the ball, the defense already knows that he is the player who is going to be hitting the ball over the net. This is true because there are only 2 players per side, you get 3 contacts per side, and no player may contact the ball twice in a row. So without that element of trickery, the offense attempts to rely on hitting the ball where the 2 defenders are not. Thus, the defense will attempt to confuse the hitter into thinking they will be in one place, but actually going somewhere else. For example, the blocker lines up approximately where the hitter will be on the net, and at first, the other defender lines up on the cross side of the court. That means that the blocker will probably be blocking the line side of the court. However, at the last minute, the defender may move to the line side and the blocker actually blocks cross. If the attacker was going to swing at the defender, that hit will now be blocked. If he was going to dink the ball over the hands of the blocker onto the line side, the defender will now be there and able to dig the ball.


The Dominance of Gretsky

Everyone knows he has over 1,000 more points than anyone in hockey history; has more assists than anyone else has total points; and he’s also the all-time goal scoring leader.

Gretzky has the seven top single season assist marks in NHL history (and 11 of the top 13); the top four overall single season scoring records in NHL history (and six of the top seven); and oh by the way, the two best goal-scoring seasons in NHL history (and four of the top 10). He is by far the all-time playoff scoring leader in goals, assists and points.

Like Jordan he played for the title six times. Gretzky won four to Jordan’s six, but context matters here. The losses came to the Islanders dynasty that won 17 straight playoff series (a loss Gretzky and the Oilers avenged the next year); the other loss came as captain of the L.A. Kings, a team with utterly no success in its history before Gretzky was traded there and took a terrible team almost all the way to the title. Had Gretzky not been traded, there is not a hockey fan alive who believes he would not have won at least six or seven titles, and possibly as many as ten of them.

You think MJ dominated the playoffs? Wayne Gretzky is the NHL’s all-time leader in playoff points (382), a ridiculous 87 more than runner up Mark Messier; assists (260), a ridiculous 74 more than Messier, and 121 more than any other player in the rest of field; and goals (122), again 13 more than Messier, and 56 more than Mario Lemieux, just for some context. Mario Lemieux was an absolute Superstar, easily one of the best five players of All-Time, and maybe the second best (I’d have him at #3, behind Orr). Mario scored barely half as many playoff goals as Gretzky. Think about that.

Gretzky is basically 22.8% as a scorer above any other player in NHL Playoff History. That would be like someone smacking 91 home runs next season in MLB, or scoring, or scoring 40 ppg in the NBA Playoffs for a career.

Context is everything. Consider the following:
In 1979, Gretzky enters the NHL on a team, Edmonton, that is coming from the World Hockey Association merger. He’s not joining an established team. He IS the team. No one seriously expects the Oilers to compete with the NHL; everyone assumes they will be terrible.
In that 1979-80 season, as an 19 year old rookie, Gretzky led the NHL in total scoring and assists. He went 51-86-137 and a ridiculous +51. He was the league MVP. As a rookie. Process that.

As a 20 year old, Gretzky shattered the NHL’s single season scoring record, going 55-109-164 +60. He broke the mark by 12 points, or 8% above the best single-season is record hockey history. He set the single-season record for assists this year (a record he would subsequently break eight more times). Again, he was the league MVP. This would be a down season for Gretzky when you see what he did next.

As a 21 year old, Gretzky smashed his own record. By 48 points. He put up a 92 goal (still the record), 120 assist, 212 point barrage. In winning his third MVP, Gretzky beat the pre-Gretzky scoring record by 60 points, or about 40%.

And here we must pause. Let’s ballpark this. Imagine someone:

Batting .580 next year, or hitting 100 home runs;
Or an NBA player averaging 70 points per game (breaking Wilt’s 50.4 points per game record);
Or an NFL quarterback throwing for 7,500 yards and 70 TDs; imagine a running back running for almost 3,000 yards.

That’s what Gretzky did by age 21, more or less. That’s how much he smashed the previous standard.

And then he got better.

From age 22-25, Gretzky proved it was no fluke, posting 196, 205, 208 and 215 point seasons. The last two of those years he won his first titles in 1984-85 and 1985-86.

In 1983, Gretzky led the NHL in goals (71) , assists (125), points (196).. . Hall of Famer Peter Stastny was second in scoring..with 124 points, 72 back of Wayne.

In 1984, Gretzky scored 87 goals. Michel Goulet was second.. with 56. Gretzky added 118 assists.. Paul Coffey was second .. with 86. And Gretzky put up 205 Coffey coming in second, at 126, just 79 behind Wayne.

In 1985, Gretzky scored a league leading 73 goals (Kurri at 71 was second); put up 135 assists (Coffey’s 84 was second, 51 behind) and scored a stunning 208 points, 73 ahead of Kurri’s 135, which ranked second. Gretzky would have won the scoring title (or tied for it) had he scored zero goals — except he also happened to lead the league in goals. A pretty good played named Mario Lemieux was a rookie this year — he scored 100 points and won Rookie of the Year Honors. Double that, and you are still eight points shy of Gretzky.

In 1986, Gretzky scored only 52 goals, sixth in the NHL. Of course, he also scored 163 assists, the best single-season assist record in NHL history (49 more than any player not named Gretzky has ever put up in a season). And Gretzky set the all-time points record with 215 points.

The next two years, he won two more Stanley Cup titles, for a total of four.

Wayne Gretzky is easily the most dominant athlete of my lifetime in a team sport. When you win nine MVP Awards, you are The Man.

The Versatility of LeBron

Versatility is a combination of having a wide array of skills and being able to fill a variety of roles with those skills. For a player to be deemed “most versatile,” I’d like to be able to put him with any four players and have him fill a role that makes everyone better. Here’s a breakdown of the different components of LeBron‘s game.

Volume Scoring

  • LeBron‘s career average of 25.1 points per 36 minutes is 8th all-time and 3rd among active players.
  • He won a scoring title in Cleveland with 30.0 points per game.

There’s no questioning LeBron‘s ability to put up points. He won’t go down as the greatest pure scorer of all-time (or even of his generation–that’s Kevin Durant), but he can hang with the best of them.

Verdict: Elite

Scoring Efficiency

  • There have been 13 single seasons where a player had a true shooting percentage [1] over 60% and a usage rate [2] over 30%. LeBron is responsible for three of them.
  • He’s the only player to ever have a TSP above 63% with that usage rate (Kevin Durant missed the usage mark by .2% last season).

LeBron has always excelled at creating and converting shots around the basket, and has recently become a very good jump shooter as well. Beyond their on-court performance, James and Durant have catalyzed efficiency’s entrance into everyday NBA discussion. These two are on track to go down as the most efficient scorers in NBA history when they retire.

Verdict: Greek God of Scoring Efficiency

Passing/Shot Creating
When he’s not scoring points himself, LeBron stays busy creating easy shots for his teammates. 

  • Since LeBron entered the league in 2003, no non-point guard has had a higher assist percent [3].
  • James has eight of the 11 best seasons by a non-guard by assist percent.
  • LeBron is one of 10 players ever to produce a season with an assist rate above 40% and a turnover percent [4] below 13%. James and teammate Dwyane Wade are the only non-point guards on this list.
  • LeBron is one of three players with a career assist percent above 33% and a turnover percent below 13%.

There’s no question he’s the best passer ever at his position. How James compares to good point guards is tougher to analyze because he’s used differently than them. While he does have the ball a lot, he doesn’t have it as much a player like Chris Paul or Tony Parker, which gives him less opportunities for both assists and turnovers. I think one day we will have advanced stats that could better break this down, but for now we have to rely on what we have and our impressions from watching them play, which reasonable people can disagree on. I offer this clip and boldly claim that no other player in history could have both seen and delivered this pass.


Verdict: Somewhere between best passing forward ever and among all-time elite


  • LeBron had the highest defensive rebounding percentage [5] for a small forward last season (a little skewed because he played substantial time at power forward).
  • The last two seasons he has finished 43rd and 45th overall in defensive rebounding percentage.
  • When playing power forward last season, James‘ rebounds per 36 minutes jumped from 6.1 to 8.7 [6].

LeBron is among the best rebounders at his position, but hist stats don’t keep up with quality power forwards and centers. Part of that has to do with how he’s used, and his increase when he plays power forward suggests he can keep up with them at rebounding. That said, 8.7 rebounds per 36 minutes is still less than elite.

Verdict: Above average, but not elite.

As an individual defender, few players in league history can match the range of players LeBron can credibly guard (Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman come to mind). He can cover any perimeter player as well as anyone else and can guard a lot of power forwards and even some offensively deficient centers if needed. Strong big men with skills around the basket can bully him inside, but there isn’t any other type of player who he struggles to guard. He’s clearly the most versatile individual defender today. I hesitate to put him in a group with some of the all-time greats because he doesn’t seem to single-handedly lock down players like others have (whether this is because of skills or scheme is a debate for another day).

As a help defender, LeBron‘s athleticism and intuitive feel for the game allow him to contribute in a lot of ways. His ability to help on a big man in the paint and then recover out to his man without giving up an open shot is an essential part of Miami’s defensive scheme. Very few wings could approach James‘ work in this role. He also plays passing lanes well and is capable of protecting the rim in emergency situations, as Tiago Splitter learned the hard way during the Finals.


However, LeBron doesn’t have the size to be a full-time rim protector and can’t anchor a defense the way a guy like Kevin Garnett or Bill Russell could. As great as James is, these guys have a bigger total impact on defense. LeBronis a very good help defender and, again, the best at his postion right now, but doesn’t make it into that elite class.

Verdict: Positionally great, overall very good.

There have been 20 individual seasons where a player averaged over 55% TSP, 25% usage, 25% assist percent, and 10% total rebound percent. LeBron is responsible for seven of them [7]. With his improved jump shooting, it’s no bold claim to say that he is at least above average at every single basketball skill. He’s currently the best wing player at a lot of things including passing, rebounding, shot creating, and many aspects of defense. 

The Economics of NASCAR

Let’s start with the series. NASCAR’s main business is to sanction a variety of racing series, mostly stock cars, but also includes The Grand Am Sports car series and a few Motorcycles as well. NASCAR also sanctions of variety of lower level series that run at the local track level as well. So you have to remember that NASCAR is even bigger than what you just see on tv.

Revenue for NASCAR comes from a variety of sources.

Licensing for Competitors and Crew. Drivers and crew must obtain licenses from NASCAR (In my case under the guise of Grand Am). NASCAR charges for these licenses and has an income stream from it. Pit crew members and other management staff must also be NASCAR members and must purchase a card for it.
Sanctioning fee. Tracks are charged to have some of the bigger NASCAR shows (K&N, Trucks, Nationwide, Sprint Cup, even some Grand-Am races). This is often an upfront fee, as well as a portion of the ticket sales.
Sponsorship. The series has lined up marketing partners such as Sprint, Nationwide and others. These companies pay a significant amount of money in exchange for the benefits of marketing with NASCAR, through promotions at events, or mentions on tv. There are also large business to business opportunities with teams, and with other sponsors.
TV Money. The bigger series such as Sprint Cup receive large amounts of income from the contracts to broadcast the racing on network tv.
Commercial Licensing: For things such as apparel, video games, and other official merchandise. The market for such products represents a huge income stream for NASCAR’s coffers.

Now Let’s talk some of NASCAR’s biggest expenses.

Basic overhead. Office space, salaries, utilities etc. Shared by many businesses. This includes large web presence, and legal departments.
Travel. This is a huge expense for NASCAR. Large numbers of NASCAR officials must be present at all of the major NASCAR events. The officials on pit road, business executives, marketing personnel. In addition to this large amounts of technical equipment must be transported between events so the competitors can undergo technical inspection at each race.
Activation costs. As part of it’s sponsorship agreements with a variety of companies NASCAR must produce promotional displays, host events, and other sponsorship costs.
Technical R&D and Inspection. As part of NASCAR’s efforts to police the series they have invested a large amount of money into a technical center. This allows extremely through inspections of select cars. This center is also responsible for developing new rules. Some of these rules may be to restrict certain practices the teams are doing, allow for new technology (Fuel Injection) or increase safety. This program represents a very large expense for the series as it must accommodate a variety of cars including sports cars.
Insurance. NASCAR does have rather large insurance expenses in order to cover for some incidents at their events.

Now we will move on to the teams. Teams are very diverse in how they are run. Very few have the same income sources. In here I will summarize the majority of the teams running today. You will see a few things entered as income, and as an expense, such as drivers and engines. This is intentional. Read thoroughly.

Team Income:

Drivers. Many people are surprised when I put this as an income category. For the majority of teams in NASCAR (Not Sprint Cup but NASCAR as a whole), the driver provides income. Usually the majority. This income takes on many forms as a driver. Sometimes the driver brings sponsorship with him (Paul Menard is a good example). Sometimes the driver has enough family wealth that the ride is just paid for mostly though discretionary income or funds from the family. This is the main source of income from Nationwide teams and below. It also still occurs in the Sprint Cup series but is slightly less prevalent. This represents the main reason it is so difficult to make it as professional racing driver as well.
Corporate Sponsorship: The one most people are familiar with. The amount of sponsorship varies wildly with the team, as does the types of sponsorship. There are often sponsor that we see very little of in terms of presence on the cars, but are working very hard on business to business opportunities in the garage and executive suites.
Prize Money. This income stream can become very significant, especially in Nationwide series and above. Prize money rarely, if ever covers the cost of truly competing.
Start and Park: Think of this as a subset of prize money. The prize money for starting last in a Sprint Cup event is rather large (40k +); That a team using a skeleton crew can make a quick profit. The crew is downsized to a few members, the car runs just a few practice laps before qualifying. If the car and driver are quick enough to make the field, the team then starts the race. This small crew does not include pit crew members however; and the car is retired shortly after the race is started. This allows the team to collect last place prize money for minimal expense and can be a profitable venture.
Chassis Building. Some of the larger, and more successful teams will actually build cars for other teams. This can provide these large teams with yet another source of income.
Engine Building: Much like the chassis building side, a few of the larger teams sell engines to teams throughout the field, and in other NASCAR series as well. This can become a very important business in and of itself.
Licensed Merchandise. Depending on the teams public profile this can be a huge asset. The amount a popular driver can bring in on T-Shirts, Die Cast cars, etc is often staggering.
Power Generation: Some of the teams with large scale engine sales have access to another often overlooked source of income. Having engines turn on dynamometer all day can represent an excellent source of power generation. Some teams are on dynos with many engines nearly constantly, and if these are hooked up correctly to the electrical grid, teams have been able to sell power back to utilities companies, with varying degrees of success.
Team Owner. The team owner himself can sometimes be a source of income, sometimes the main source. If a team owner if financially able and wants to win, there is nothing stopping him from putting his own money into the team. Not all teams are run as a profitable business (Granted the Sprint Cup level usually is) but sometimes are run for the love of the sport

Team Expenses:

Overhead. This can vary wildly across the various levels of NASCAR. The top teams in Sprint Cup and Nationwide have vast shops with a variety of specialty equipment. Many have their own seven post rigs, lot’s of computer power to run virtual testing since on track testing is banned in Sprint Cup. Lower levels the over head can be just a small ware house and tools.
Employees. This can vary wildly by level. At the top level you have staff of hundreds of people, and can go to go just 1 or 2 people at lower levels. You also have a wide variety of compensation. The top teams operate much like a large company, with large IT departments, HR, Marketing etc. Engineering department can become quite large at a big team, and include a variety off well paid engineers.
Drivers. Some of the the top line drivers can command multi million dollar salaries, and often command a large portion of the prize money as well.
Research and Development. This includes off track testing such as going to the Wind Tunnel, doing coast down testing, testing at non NASCAR race tracks. For a large team this is often one of the largest expenses.
Testing. For the few NASCAR sanctioned series that are allowed on track testing, this can rapidly become a large expense.
Tires. These cost between $350-$500 dollars each (For Sprint Cup). With a few sets used in practice, then either 2 or four tires taken at every pit stop this quickly becomes one of the largest consumable costs for teams at all levels.
Cars. This includes either building your own car, or buying ones from another team or manufacture. At the highest level you will have different types of cars for different types of tracks.
Engines. The cost of building your own engines, or leasing them from one of the large engine shops.
Crash Damage. This can vary wildly as well. Some teams insure their cars against this (at great expense). Varies wildly depending on your luck.
Travel. You have to get all the cars, equipment, and people, all across the country on a regular basis. This forms one of the largest fixed cost for any team in professional motorsports.
Sponsor Activation Costs. Includes things like decals, food and catering for vips, show cars, driver appearances, and other promotional items that a large sponsor may require as part of their sponsorship.
Consumables. Things like oil, brake pads, rotors, gas, shocks and control arms; all have a set life. After a while they must be replaced.

The Fate of the US at the World Cup

The Fate of the US at the World Cup.

The Fate of the US at the World Cup

Everyone here is too pessimistic.  Nate Silver puts the US’s odds of advancing at 37.5%, which I think is about right. The big wildcard is the brutal weather in Manaus, which I think will play in the US’s favor against Portugal and enable them to advance.

Here’s how it will go down. We’ll beat Ghana, draw Portugal, lose to Germany and finish second in the group with four points.  

Ghana is a very dangerous team and they have had the US’s number in the last two World Cups. But don’t be distracted by history – this US’s team is stronger top to bottom than the current iteration of the Black Stars.  Ghana’s best field players have aged considerably since their victories in 2006/2010. Klinsmann’s game strategy will be more sound than was Bradley’s and the US will emerge with a 2-1 victory on a late Clint Dempsey strike.  

Unlike Ghana, Portugal is a stronger team than the US overall.  Ronaldo is so good that nobody in the world can hope to contain him.  Uncle Sam doesn’t have any players like that.  This being said, Portugal’s form has been inconsistent and beyond Ronaldo they don’t have anyone whose pace or touch is truly threatening.  In qualifying, Portugal drew with minnow Northern Ireland at home and tied Israel on the road. They also fell behind to Luxembourg early and needed a lucky late strike to pull the game out.  In the humid rainforest of Manaus, anything can happen.  The US’s superior conditioning and warm-weather playing experience will allow them to pull out a 2-2 draw behind another late strike from Aron Johannsson

Unfortunately, Germany’s a powerhouse. If the tournament were being held in Europe it would probably be the favorite to bring home the cup.  They’ll likely beat the US, unless they win their first two games in routs and rest their starters.  In this case, the US could scrape a point from the Germans.  My best guess is that the Germans will prevail 2-0.  

I can’t see the US getting by Belgium in the round of 16, so the run will end there.

Spurs Wins! Spurs Win!

1. The Spurs have a sizable advantage in the post and on the boards. Duncan, Splitter, and Diaw all pose match-up problems, as Duncan and Splitter can post for profit, Diaw can play “small,” yet all three are solid defensive bigs who rebound.

2. The Spurs have shooters at 4 positions, which punishes Miami’s “defense on a string” scheme. Miami’s defensive game plan is to overplay the ball handler, and that means someone is open somewhere. With San Antonio’s ability to deploy four 3pt shooters, the open man is likely to get a very good look.

3. The Spurs offensive execution is phenomenal. They’re in the Finals largely because no one can keep them from scoring.

4. The Spurs damn near won in 6 last year. The Spurs lost the 2013 Finals in game 6, mostly due to the putrid play of Ginobili (and I hate typing that sentence, cause Ginobili is one of the all time great SGs). If the ball had bounced San Antonio’s way in the closing seconds of game six, they would be the champs.

5. The Spurs have home court. Homecourt might only help the Spurs win one game, but that’s a big advantage in a tight contest.

6. The East sucks. Who has Miami played in these playoffs that’s offered a real challenge? I’m not saying Miami sucks (they don’t), but playing the Spurs after beating down the Pacers is like running the marathon after jogging around the block…Miami is in for quite a shock.

7. Vegas likes the Spurs. That’s got to count for something, right? 🙂

Spurs open as sportsbook favorites vs. Heat in NBA Finals

I wouldn’t be surprised at all if San Antonio goes up 2-0 in this series, as Miami will probably be shell-shocked in game 1 and still coming up with counters in game 2. Miami will undoubtedly find themselves in games 3-5, but even if Miami is playing at 100%, San Antonio can win at least one of these games and perhaps 2.

Therefore, I see San Antonio up 3-2 at the start of game 6, and there are strong psychological reasons for Miami to lose game 6 on their home floor rather than go back to San Antonio for game 7.

What’s more, I wouldn’t be shocked even a little bit if Miami lost in 5. They could very easily go down 3-1, and that’s a big hill to climb (even for a champion).