Role of coaches/managers in team sports

This thread is inspired by an episode from the first season of Friday Night Lights, in which a new quarterback—Voodoo Tatum—is shown to be an asshole when he refuses to take instructions from the head coach regarding what plays to run in the game.

Obviously, this incident was meant to show unacceptable behavior on the part of Voodoo. However, it got me to thinking. Why is it that we consider taking instructions from a sideline coach or manager to be a norm in team sports?

The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that the only people making either strategic or tactical decisions during a match should be the players on the field. Letting another, non-playing, actor call the shots is kibbitzing.

I recall my dad telling me that when he was growing up, it was considered unethical for a coach to communicate with players during a game. In fact, the coach often was discourage from attending the game at all. The coach’s job was merely to help the players prepare. The on-field decision making—which is as much a part of “playing” a game as executing those decisions—was made by a designated field captain.

So, why shouldn’t that still be the case in team sports today? The players should be the ones playing the game—not a non-player on the sidelines. In my eyes, that’s really just cheating, the same way that suggesting moves or pointing out dangers or opportunities to a chess player during a game is cheating.

There are many reasons why the coach makes the decisions.

It happens in NFL football simply because they tried it the other way for decades, and, as coaches began sending in plays (I think Paul Brown was the first, though it took years for others to follow), they learned that teams who didn’t let the QBs call the plays were more successful. By this time, a QB calling plays would be at a tremendous disadvantage.

And that makes sense: a football coach (especially if there’s someone in the press box) can notice things about a team’s defense that the QB cant (the QB is busy trying to run the play, and often doesn’t see everything going on in the field). Maybe a defender is clearly slacking off. The QB is throwing to the other side of the field and doesn’t notice. The coach does and sends a play toward the defender who’s slacking off.

Also, a coach is more objective. In baseball, no pitcher is going to voluntarily take himself out of a game unless he’s injured, and will think he’s doing just fine when it’s clear he’s losing velocity. A manager can go to the mound and bring in another pitcher.

There’s also the matter of grand strategy. It relieves the QB from having to worry about what to do two plays in advance and concentrate only on making the current play work. The QB doesn’t have to be thinking, “if this pass is incomplete, we need to do a running play to the left to set up another pass.” Instead, the QB thinks, “Let’s complete this one.”

It’s always good to have someone who can see the big picture calling the plays and determining the strategy.

You could make all those arguments for chess or taking exams. The point isn’t that it’s not advantageous. Obviously it is. The point is that it’s unsporting.

As for the pitching issue, that would be handled as all decisions, by the field captain.

American sports do seen overly coached in my opinion. Unlimited substitutions, lots of breaks in play and even radios just seem bizarre to me. I like watching the players trying to adapt to the way the game is developing on the field. So my advice to the OP is to watch a few games of rugby (or cricket or soccer ).

It’s not cheating if you consider a coach/manager to be part of a team.

Why would you consider a coach to be part of a team? The members of a team are the ones who are allowed to play on the field. In fact, the members of a team—for the purposes of any particular point in a game—are the players who are actually on the field and are allowed to touch the ball and interact with other players on the field. If you’re not one of those people, you shouldn’t be allowed to take any action to influence play on the field.

Once the play starts, you can’t. But up until the time the ball is snapped it’s part of the game. In football specifically, there is one player on offense and one on defense who have radio receivers in their helmets specifically to get information from the sideline.

You can claim that it’s esthetically displeasing but that’s about the only argument that holds water, IMO. The game as it is played today is designed around the idea of constant substitutions, play calling, and coaching strategy. To do what you are suggesting would fundamentally change the nature of the game. It may be interesting, but it would undoing decades of the development of the game.

Each sport is different. Basketball coaching is very different than football coach. Same with baseball.

We don’t let pawns make chess decisions, a coach does.

But this is just a meaningless analogy. There’s no reason to equate with players on the field with inanimate chess pieces. The chess pieces are like the ball. And there’s no reason to equate a chess player with a coach. There are such things as chess coaches. They’re not the ones moving the pieces.

But what they have in common is that someone who is not a player does to one extent or another give instructions to players on the field. One of the players on the field should be the one empowered to make those decisions—a team captain.

As Telemark has pointed out that horse has bolted in American sport - it’s accepted that coaches can micromanage on the field throughout the game in all of your major pro sports.

If you want to see decision-making by the players, you’ll have to watch something else. As I suggested earlier give rugby a try - the Six Nations start in a fortnight - see if you can catch the Wales vs Ireland game (which looks to be the best contest in the first week of matches) on 2 February.

Sure that’s fine. But I’m not asking for other sports to watch. I’m interested in discussing the principle. Why should or would American fans accept or prefer kibitzing as the default rule rather than allowing the players to play the game?

Because “the game” is defined by rules, not some natural order of things, and those rules include the existence of a coach. You’re talking about this as if there’s some definition of cheating that doesn’t arise from the way the thing was designed in the first place. Team sports have always had coaches. That’s the answer to why fans of team sports accept the existence of coaches.

That argument is irrelevant. Otherwise rules would never change, you couldn’t talk about changing the rules, etc. There are indeed general ideas of games and sporting that you can use to measure the qualities of a game, even our especially if there might be disagreement over them.

Team sports have not “always” had non-playing sideline coaches who direct action on the field. That’s simply untrue.

AS a long time basketball coach my job is to ensure that the team plays to the best of their abilities. Once the game starts yes the players do control the game, but in a fast paced game I can often spot things they may not notice and also give them a pep talk and introduce specific plays to counter act the opposition.

No player is always going to bench himself to ensure he gets through a game, this is a critical role of the coach. Also health and safety come into it, if I see a player who is raising his elbows, or who is exhausted etc I can tell him to pull his head in.

Yes I consider the coach a part of the team although I do hate people who call a lot of timeouts.

Fair enough, my WAG is that the big American sports went pro a generation earlier than the English equivalents, with the effect that players became seen as hired help there to execute the coaches instructions to a much greater extent than happened in the English sports. The American sporting public became accustomed to this managerial style of sport long ago and see it as normal.

It’s not unsporting if everybody actually involved in the sport (as opposed to some guy ranting on a message board) agrees that that’s the way the sport is played.

In the case of baseball, I think the fact that the manager wears a uniform, and that he’s called a manager (so he manages the game, while the players play the game) take the wind out of the sails of your arguments.

How come in some sports the ball is rounds and some it’s oblong? How come in some sports there’s a team and some it’s 1v1? How come in some sports they’re in water and some they’re on land? How come…

That’s a specious argument. There are sports in which the team manager keeps records, manages regimented transportation, etc. There’s nothing about the word manager that requires any particular result. And even if it did, it wouldn’t constitute an argument. Does the fact that a designated hitter carry the title “designated hitter” end any argument over whether it’s right to have one?