While at the Olympic Qualification Tournament in Berlin, I was chatting with a colleague who at one point made a comment about the large number of service errors after timeouts, and that coaches should take more timeouts in order to ‘force’ such errors. I have made this point before, here.** However, as new information has come to hand, I have modified my position, for example here. When I related this new information, my colleague was adamant that while it may be that sideout percentage remains the same, service errors are definitely higher after timeouts. Sadly, it didn’t occur to me until later that given that the object of a timeout is presumably to win a sideout, how you win the sideout (service error or otherwise) is actually irrelevant. But even as I maintained my (current) position that the value of timeouts is overrated and explained the effect of confirmation bias, my colleague refused to be budged from his contention.
However, I had no proof at hand. So I decided to do a short study. I looked at my team’s matches from the current season. We have played 13 matches. Those 13 matches have produced 2,290 serves and 237 timeouts (including team timeouts and technical timeouts). While it is not a study of the whole league, I think the sample sizes are large enough to make a reality based observation (i.e. independent of confirmation bias) if not an actual fact.
So according my preliminary study, the probability of a service error after a timeout in the Polish Plusliga, is actually LESS after a timeout than in general play.
“But wait!!!”, I can hear you say. “These are professional players and their coaches tell them in every timeout not to make an error.” I can only speak for myself, but in the entire season I have never once mentioned service errors and timeouts in the same sentence. I have on three or four occasions asked a jump server to float serve, but never talked about errors. Maybe other coaches do talk incessantly about it.
I was able to also calculate the effect of timeouts on aces on the same sample.
As the number of aces after a timeout is almost exactly the same as in general play, one could infer that the players are not making easier serves to avoid errors. It seems likely that the quality of the serve remains the same regardless of the timeout.
Of course, maybe you are right. Maybe it is different in your league. But you don’t actually know and you won’t know until you do the study. I look forward to hearing your results.
** I understand that the existence of this post could be construed as evidence as to why you should ignore this one, but let’s move one.