Toss of the Coin – Centre Pass or Shooting End

| Posted inWeekly Blog

Choosing Centre Pass after winning the toss seems an automatic reaction for most captains.
I can remember playing for North Harbour Opens and our captain Denise Felix would always pick the goal
I played centre so I just thought she was the unluckiest captain I’ve ever played with as I never started with a centre pass.
We were warming up at Nationals in Taranaki and I asked Denise ‘who was tossing this coin?’ and she calmly said me and I always choose the goal.  ‘What’, ‘Why’, ‘Makes no sense’.
Denise believed we needed to break their centre pass and score from our centre pass and we are already two ahead.  Great in theory but didn’t always work out that way.
So, think about it.  How important is the choice made on the toss?  My little under 19 side was bundled out of the finals after finishing fourth in the Schweppes Challenge.  I wasn’t overly confident as I had four players either injured or away so it makes it difficult to win.  We had been travelling along rather nicely until our semi and only lost by one playing a line up that I hadn’t put on all year.  One player had pneumonia, another had her appendix out the Friday previous and another went with her family to Newcastle as her brother was in a soccer competition and flights had already been booked and another had dislocated her shoulder that week playing on bars.  So I faced a tough task and we did the best we could but reflecting back on the game there was one thing I missed.
Driving home with my daughter Ally, we spoke of the game and Ally was so upset at losing I just had to tread lightly.  There are no excuses as the final score is final.  Interesting comment she made about the spectators at the shooting end as Ally plays GA.  Remembering I have two 15 year olds, 3 17’s and five 16’s so these kids are still learning to block out comments from opponents, bench and spectators.  One comment that stands out is a male voice saying ‘Come on (their team’s name) it’s just (my teams name) you can beat them.  Little comments like this can distract young players and as they gain more experience this won’t be a factor but it probably would have been in this semi.
How could I have changed this for my shooting end?  We lost the centre pass and the captain picked a particular end and the reason was that we warmed up down that end (didn’t know this till after the game).  There are some factors for choosing a particular end maybe three factors if you are playing outdoors.  The umpires will toss their end after the teams have tossed so it’s hard to tell which umpire is at which end.  If you know your umpires well you might assess whether one umpire is harder on defence than the other or if one umpire is consistently picking up your shooter for holding, or any other umpiring decisions that could turn the tide. It’s always a good coaching skill to know your umpires so you can assist your players with information on the umpires calls (that’s another blog).  If you know which end they are you could make a decision based on this.  Then look at the opposition’s bench, coach and spectators.  If you know they always have something to say choose the other end as your shooting end for the last quarter and protect the shooters so they can concentrate on getting the ball, turning and shooting.  And another is if you are playing outside you would want the end that doesn’t have the sun in the shooters eyes for the last quarter.  There may be some other reasons for working out which end you want as your last quarter so consider these.
So when your captain is tossing that coin, as a coach, have you thought about the outcome from a simple coin toss?   If you haven’t maybe it’s time to start.  Let’s give our players every advantage and I believe this is one that is constantly overlooked.
Written By Melissa O’Brien