Friday, April 3, 2009

ID vs IQ: Proper Application of the Game

The game of football, likely more than any other sport, involves a degree of strategy that may seem unattainable without the superiority of dominant athletes or other ancillary aesthetics.

An interesting experiment demonstrates this principle. A novice and a chess master were allowed a quick glimpse of a chessboard in the middle of a game. The pieces were then removed and each person had to replace the pieces back on the board as accurately as possible. The novice was very inaccurate, but the master placed most of the pieces correctly. Next, the same pieces were placed on the board in legal but otherwise random positions. In that case, the master did little better than the novice.
What is the difference between the two situations? The chess master literally carries the organized memories of thousands of games both personally played and intensively studied by replaying famous games of the past. When the master looked at the first board, groups of pieces were seen in well-known configurations so that the board could be said, perhaps, to resemble a known defense of a familiar opening. These patterns were easily recalled from memory when the time came to replace the pieces of the empty board.
Clearly, much of what may seem to be remarkable intellect is more than anything else, the result of long hours of practice.
- How The Brain Works, Mark Wm Dubin

What are the cognitive psychological components of the abilities or talents that permit them to appear as outstanding - either speedily performed and quickly automatic, or performed in a qualitatively superior way?
Among the answers that have been proposed, is "chunking", as discussed in the literature on memory and chess playing, and "pattern recognition."
The Exceptional Brain: Neuropsychology of Talent and Special Abilities, Loraine K. Obler, Deborah Fein

Chess masters do not do well because they have superior IQs. They do well because they have mastered the domain of chess. This is simply because they know the facts and relationships between the pieces through an engagement with it. When you don't know the facts of football, or you have wide gaps in your knowledge, you can't enter that domain and know how it all fits together.

The first step in moving towards a mastery of the 100 yard swath, requires you to have access to the facts. The "facts" for all intents and purposes, are those elements that never change, that remain constant to essentially 'set the board'. Those facts would be a) formation b) coverage c) fits/seams/voids, and through these tenets we can build our logic-string outward. The second thing is, you have to have engaged in it so much, that it enters the level of your 'automatic' processes. In so that it comes out of you naturally.

Many times this never matures because, for whatever reason, we remain retarded by emotion(rah-rah), familiarity (comfort), pride(title-seeking), or our perspective becomes so focussed (position-centric) that we lose sight of what is established around us. The key to accellerating our maturity and growth in commanding the field requires us to challenge ourselves constantly (using logic, not emotion), and engage ourselves with the entire 22-man concert. The game can be so large and looming, filled with many variables, which is why it is required to take the Occam's razor to our beliefs and zoom-out to see the 10,000 foot perspective.

And in the grand scheme of things this really isn't ABOUT chess, which serves as the analogy for us to learn from. This was just a neurological study on chess players about WHY they are effective (pattern recognition).

you're running strong zone - WLB makes the tackle, what went wrong?

defense lines up with a press corner and the safety is deep and removed from the box - whats open/void?

immediately, you know what, who, and how things happen.

That is all that this is about.
Conditioning ourselves to see the blonde in the red dress

This same model applies to understanding current events - if you don't have a firm grasp of history your perception of what is happening today is distorted.

You magnificient Bastard!
I read your book!!

[pattern recognition]

This is why I figured I'd title it ID(identification) vs IQ (intelligence).
Being able to recognize patterns trumps however much you (think) you know.
Understanding how it all works together is the cog of functioning application of data.

Responding and setting up moves in chess is one thing, dealing with the incompetence of your opponent is another.

further reading;

I would also opine about Wide/Tight shots - game broadcasts really only give you 1/3 of the game and views from the sideline (depending on the pitch of the field) can be almost worthless (IMO). As far as seeing the totality of the game, I would make the case for the pressbox view (live) to take in the alignments, and see / write the patterns in our head. So, when we are pressed into 'duty' in a game, we can peek at this;

and automatically piece it together and KNOW (with a certainty) how it all fits together, that this will be the total picture;

Speed up the logic algorithm to diagnose what is going to happen on a given down by what you are presented.

As we process through the image, we kind of already are piecing the rest of the picture together.....eliminating alignments that would be incongruent, giving us a defaulted picture (alignment ) which defines the likely assignments of those players.

Which would probably explain why so many more defenses (NFL in particular) are living in some variation of 1/4,1/4, 1/2. This process goes beyond just defenses, though, and can be as easily used to recognize offense (alignment leverage, etc) probability/advantage.

Carrying this a step further, we typically talk a lot about how to game plan or organize the off-season schemes in terms of thinking like an economist.....gather a large body of data and review it with meticulous analysis, then come to some conclusion.

We're talking about developing thought-in-action, an immediacy of perception, a heuristic approach at handling the course of a game.

This is not a linear, step-by-step combining of cues - we are allowing the mind to act as a magnet, pulling in cues from all directions.


Chris said...


I like this, and I agree that in football, knowledge (and experience) is power. You see it with quarterbacks and linebackers/secondary men most of all: if they play and get enough reps eventually they have kind of "seen it all." That's where you get muscle-memory and the ingrained responses.

That said chess is only partially a decent analogy for football: yes, you can see where the pieces line up, but they are more fluid, and the knight (or defensive end) can surprise you with a move that in chess would be illegal.

So poker is another analogy: a game of "imperfect knowledge" with a healthy dose of luck yet with definite strategies that should succeed more often than not. Chess is a game of perfect knowledge: you see everything at all times. But football, like poker, is still about guessing, and disguising.

Anyway, good stuff.

Ted Seay said...

MB: >Chess masters do not do well because they have superior IQs. They do well because they have mastered the domain of chess.

Actually, I'd argue that it's both -- very few grandmasters have low, or even average, IQs...

Great article in any event, and all the best for your blog!

White Mike52 aka Vanilla Gorilla said...

I'd like to chime in by saying that I agree that pattern recognition/identification trumps IQ when it comes to success in our game, but-

research has shown that there is a direct correlation to a person's ability to recognize/organize/recall chunks of information [including words, patterns and algorithms] and their IQ-
the greater the IQ, the more info the can retain and process...

SO therefore, a coach is limited in the amount of information that they can learn/use based on their IQ.

IMO to truly become proficient in this game one must have the capabilities upstairs as well as immerse themselves in the norms of the game until recognition becomes second nature and they can focus on the intracasies.

Anonymous said...

I certainly agree with the idea that recognition of patterns and the immediate, ingrained reaction to them based on familiarity is THE contributing factor to the success of most players. Couple this with superior physical abilities (speed, strength, etc.) and now you have an NFL caliber player. After listening to some interviews, and observing first hand classroom performances of elite athletes, I would say IQ is the least responsible.

We hear coaches talk all the time about having football savvy. In my eyes, that is just another word to describe the idea of pattern recognition. Kids can be dumb as rocks, but can read a coverage based on pre-snap alignment, then sight adjust based on post snap movement. Recognition based on repetition.