Team Decision: Ok so what if you lost the flip and it’s a windy day? Your opponent chose to start attacking downwind. Should you start the game on offense with the strong likelihood of being broken immediately? Or is it better to pull upwind to start the game?
Takeaway: Start the game on offense. It may feel counter-intuitive to start the game with a high likelihood of being broken, but this gives your team the best chance of winning the game. The following tables show that receiving upwind to start the game has a positive impact on a team’s chances of winning a game compared to starting the game pulling upwind.
From the simulations used in Part 3 of this series, we can look at this question in more detail. Keep in mind that this assumes that the offensive probabilities for upwind and downwind points remain constant throughout the entire game. If the wind is expected to die down by halftime this could have a huge impact on your decision.
The data from the simulations show that it is best to start on offense going upwind as opposed to pulling.
Probability of Winning a Game to 15 — Results
Reading the Tables — Example
- Take for example a game that has a heavy upwind/downwind component. Both teams have a probability to score 90% of their downwind offensive points, and both teams have a probability to score 50% of their upwind offensive points. Assume that the team that wins the flip chooses to attack downwind to start the game. The simulations show that the other team can improve their probability of winning the game by 3.7% (47.7% win probability vs. 44.0% win probability) if they receive going upwind to start the game as opposed to pulling upwind to start the game.
- The impact of this decision is greater when a team’s upwind offensive probability per point is increasing compared to a team’s upwind defensive probability per point. Consider if teams only score 10% of upwind points regardless if they start the point on offense or defense, then it does not matter if a team pulls or receives upwind to start a game.
- I believe that many teams prefer to pull upwind to start the game because of (1) the fear of being broken immediately to start the game or (2) the belief that the wind will die down by halftime. While it’s hard to quantify what mental impact (1) will have on a team, a coach should consider that you are giving your team a possession upwind to start the game. Essentially this is an immediate chance to land a score in the upwind end zone. For (2), I think this logic makes sense, but it’s hard to put faith in the wind dying down later in the game.
The following tables show data for games played to 13 and 11.
Probability of Winning a Game to 13 — Results
Probability of Winning a Game to 11 — Results
All of these data has been for even teams. But what if the teams aren’t equal? Check out Part 5.