Split-Second Decisions

Last year, I had the opportunity to write a feature about the captain of the women’s basketball team. The feature is sectioned off into six different “mini stories,” and the first and last one focus on how timing can change everything. I want to explore the topic of timing more by gathering examples of athletes making split-second decisions, and I also want to research the thought processes behind these decisions.

Here’s an excerpt from my project proposal: “For this project, I want to focus on the idea of “the whims of fate.” Many life events, especially in sports, depend on split-second decisions. Following that split-second decision, things can either unravel dreadfully quick or come together unimaginably well. I want to explore the topic of timing and human character because life requires people to make decisions that will change the course of their lives. Specifically, I want to focus on sports. These life-changing moments are exemplified in sports with buzzer-beaters, Hail Marys, and overtime shootouts. In the most important second of the game, will an athlete sink or swim?”

One genre that seems prevalent when Googling “sports and decision making” is the academic research paper. Here’s a link to one I just read: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042814052720

The abstract stresses the importance of making the right decision in sports: “At the elite level, coaches and athletes appear to consistently make good decisions in situations that are highly temporally constrained.” I don’t want my paper to be this scientific throughout, but it might be interesting to focus on basic science for a portion of the project. I’m considering it more now that I’ve read some research behind it.

Another form of media I saw that could help are Sports Illustrated’s Brain on Sports Podcasts: “ ‘This is Your Brain on Sports’ is a new podcast from Sports Illustrated in which SI executive editor Jon Wertheim and Tufts University psychology professor Sam Sommers explore the intersection of sports and human nature—what the world of sports has to teach us about who we are, what we care about and the forces that shape our behavior.”

Here’s the link to this week’s episode: http://www.si.com/more-sports/2015/09/28/brain-sports-podcast-abusive-coaching-effects

Because I can see an article on the topic I’m focusing on being published in Sports Illustrated, I enjoyed seeing that podcasts focused on sports psychology come out every week. It’s not a “text,” but someone had to write out the topics professor Sam Sommers and editor Jon Wertheim discussed each week. Each podcast is about a half hour long and goes over a different topic within sports psychology.

Chris Webber's timeout...sorry everyone. #FabFive
Chris Webber’s timeout…sorry everyone. #FabFive

Kelly Hall

I'm a junior at the University of Michigan studying Psychology with minors in Writing and Entrepreneurship. I love writing about community events, especially those involving sports. On campus, I spend most of my time at the Michigan Daily, where I'm a sports editor and writer.

3 thoughts to “Split-Second Decisions”

  1. This is such an interesting topic! With football season already underway and hockey season about to start I bet there will be current information coming out while you’re working on your project in addition to the sources you already found. I’ve never thought about the mental processes that go into the situations you mentioned, I’m excited to hear more about what you find out!

  2. I’m so hurt by this fab five clip. But, I hope I can be in one of your blog groups because I love sports and this is a topic regarding sports that is pretty unfamiliar to me.

  3. Not a huge sports fan, but the psych aspect of your project is really interesting to me. I think a lot of people will be interested to read your final product though, for sure! The implications of split-second decision making can have such great effects both negative and positive. It’ll be cool to see how you sort through all of the numerous examples and come up with something cohesive.

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