Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
aphilso1

Why Recruiting Small Cities Pays Off

Recommended Posts

I read a really compelling article on the BBC today.  The most interesting part was this little nugget:

 

"Consider an American and Canadian study that analysed where 2,240 professional athletes from the National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and the Professional Golfers’ Association grew up and when they were born. In each case, the researchers found that the professional players were far more likely to come from relatively small cities – where they could have a better chance of rising to the top of a smaller league – rather than bigger cities.

Around half the US population come from cities with fewer than 500,000 people, for instance, yet the researchers found that these cities provided a whopping 87% of all NHL players, with similar figures for the MLB and PGA. That’s a huge over-representation. The NBA was slightly more balanced, but not by much: overall, 71% of the players came from those smaller cities – over 20% more than you would expect from chance alone."

 

Wow.  Just wow.  Statistically speaking, that means that half the county (small cities and towns) will produce 71% of NBA talent, while the other half (large cities) will only produce 29%.  It makes me wonder if anyone has ever employed a strategy of solely recruiting non-city kids since they're apparently much more likely to turn into an NBA-caliber player.  Miles likes analytics, I wonder if he's seen this data and, if so, if he's at all based his recruiting strategy around it.

 

Full article here: http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20180703-why-it-pays-to-be-a-big-fish-in-a-small-pond

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You have to consider the NHL an outlier when it comes to the ethnic make-up of it's rosters. MOST of the NBA/NFL are African Americans while the MLB has a high number of Latin Americans. Also, 500,000 might seem like a "small" population by global standards, but here in Nebraska, Grand Island at 40,000 roughly is a "big" city. I understand your point, but like anything else, you have to go where the people are right? For every Bill Jackman and Jason Glock, I think you'll always find more D1 talent in Lincoln and Omaha.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cool!  Thanks for posting.

At a 500,000 population cutoff, every city in Nebraska is within the “relatively small city” classification.  The comparison is between Omaha and Chicago, not between Omaha and Grand Island.

Using that standard, the conclusion makes a lot of sense—especially about the “chance of rising to the top.”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Handy Johnson said:

You have to consider the NHL an outlier when it comes to the ethnic make-up of it's rosters. MOST of the NBA/NFL are African Americans while the MLB has a high number of Latin Americans. Also, 500,000 might seem like a "small" population by global standards, but here in Nebraska, Grand Island at 40,000 roughly is a "big" city. I understand your point, but like anything else, you have to go where the people are right? For every Bill Jackman and Jason Glock, I think you'll always find more D1 talent in Lincoln and Omaha.

 

Your point is likely the primary difference between NHL (87%) and NBA (71%) figures.  But even taking that into account, only 29% of NBA players come from cities greater than 500k.  You would assume that, all things being equal, that number would be pretty darn close to 50% since it should reflect America as a whole.  The ethnic make-up of the NBA should only drive that number toward the large city end of the scale, but the data shows the opposite.  Why?  Because there really is a correct answer to the "big fish in small pond vs. small fish in the ocean" debate.  The data clearly shows that being the big fish is more advantageous.  Personally, I found the data in the study and article to be astounding, and the opposite of what I had assumed.  Hence why I shared.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 minutes ago, Swan88 said:

Cool!  Thanks for posting.

At a 500,000 population cutoff, every city in Nebraska is within the “relatively small city” classification.  The comparison is between Omaha and Chicago, not between Omaha and Grand Island.

Using that standard, the conclusion makes a lot of sense—especially about the “chance of rising to the top.”

 

Yeah, that's what I got out of it to, too.  And while the article doesn't directly apply to college basketball, the conclusion is easy to make.  If a coach is debating between using the last scholarship on players that appear equally talented, but one was a role player in a great league while the other was a stud in an OK league...well, offer the kid who is used to be being "the man."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Handy Johnson said:

You have to consider the NHL an outlier when it comes to the ethnic make-up of it's rosters. MOST of the NBA/NFL are African Americans while the MLB has a high number of Latin Americans. Also, 500,000 might seem like a "small" population by global standards, but here in Nebraska, Grand Island at 40,000 roughly is a "big" city. I understand your point, but like anything else, you have to go where the people are right? For every Bill Jackman and Jason Glock, I think you'll always find more D1 talent in Lincoln and Omaha.

 

Your comment on Grand Island didn't make sense to me at first, so I didn't address it.  But now I think I know what you're getting at.  Are you saying that it'd be better to recruit the hypothetical best player from a big city (we'll use Chicago as an example) rather than the best player from Grand Island?  Well yeah, that's obviously true.  Because the best player in Chicago is a BIG fish in a BIG pond, while the best player in Grand Island is a BIG fish in a SMALL pond.

 

But here's the question that is answered by the article: would you rather have the 70th best Chicago player (SMALL fish in BIG pond), or the best Grand Island player (BIG fish in SMALL pond)?  Chicago is 70x the size of Grand Island so statistically speaking, the Grand Island kid should have a 50/50 chance of being better than the #70 Chicago kid.  And taking the cultural differences that you pointed out into account, it would be reasonable to assume that those odds would be even lower for Mr. Grand Island.  But the data in this article spins that all on its head.  It answers that debate.  You take Mr. Grand Island over Mr. #70-in-Chicago.  And once you know that, it seems to me like it would be a major recruiting edge.  Sure, Duke and Kansas can land the Big fish in Big pond, but teams like Nebraska don't have that luxury.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
34 minutes ago, aphilso1 said:

 

Your point is likely the primary difference between NHL (87%) and NBA (71%) figures.  But even taking that into account, only 29% of NBA players come from cities greater than 500k.  You would assume that, all things being equal, that number would be pretty darn close to 50% since it should reflect America as a whole.  The ethnic make-up of the NBA should only drive that number toward the large city end of the scale, but the data shows the opposite.  Why?  Because there really is a correct answer to the "big fish in small pond vs. small fish in the ocean" debate.  The data clearly shows that being the big fish is more advantageous.  Personally, I found the data in the study and article to be astounding, and the opposite of what I had assumed.  Hence why I shared.

If 2/3 of the NBA are from smaller population bases there has to be more to it than "Big fish Small pond" scenarios. There could be numerous casual factors and I'd need to dig deeper into the data to uncover what those might be. As for GI /Chicago comparisons, I was merely pointing out its easier to find a D1 player in big city than a little one, nothing more than that.

Edited by Handy Johnson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A couple of basketball-centric questions (I don't think the actual study is readily available to be read)

 

Is this by city or metropolitan area? If it's strictly by city anyone from Omaha is from a large city if Omaha is over 500k.  Anyone from Ralston, Papillion, Millard, etc would be from a town under 500k.

 

How many total varsity players are there in towns over 500k vs towns less than 500k? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This reminds me of some interesting observations shared by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, "Outliers."

 

I don't remember all the specifics and so I'm kind of making some of this up on the fly just so that you get the gist of it, but if you look at NHL rosters, most of the guys who hail from Canada in the NHL were born in the first three months of the year.  Vast majority.  Very few born in the last 3 months of the year.  Why is that?  

 

Well, Gladwell's hypothesis was that, when you're playing junior hockey, the classification year for your age group starts on January 1.  When you're playing a sport like hockey, size matters, and the older 10-year-olds tend to be a lot bigger and stronger than younger ten-year-olds.  So, when select teams are chosen, kids born in January and February have a distinct advantage over kids born in November and December.  And the kids chosen for those select teams receive advantages over their peers in terms of experience, coaching, and the rest of it.

 

Now, this is me extrapolating from Gladwell's premise:  In basketball, kids blossom at different ages.  Some kids max out and reach their ceiling at a younger age (think leg hair.)  But you still have those U10 teams and U11 teams.  So, in larger cities, a kid that might have eventually blossomed gets lost in the crowd while a kid who is closer to his ceiling is getting those opportunities.  The kid lost in the crowd at a younger age might never have the opportunity to evolve and develop. 

 

But, in smaller towns or cities, where there are fewer kids fighting for limited spots on school teams or select teams, a kid who might have gotten lost in the crowd if in Chicago still has an opportunity to play in Omaha and grow and develop.  

 

Think of Michael Jordan getting cut from his 10th grade basketball team.  He grew up in Wilmington, NC, with a population of around 100,000.  If he was living in Chicago and trying to get on with an AAU team back then, he probably wouldn't have made it.  And the GOAT might have been Lebron James instead.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 minutes ago, Norm Peterson said:

This reminds me of some interesting observations shared by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, "Outliers."

 

I don't remember all the specifics and so I'm kind of making some of this up on the fly just so that you get the gist of it, but if you look at NHL rosters, most of the guys who hail from Canada in the NHL were born in the first three months of the year.  Vast majority.  Very few born in the last 3 months of the year.  Why is that?  

 

Well, Gladwell's hypothesis was that, when you're playing junior hockey, the classification year for your age group starts on January 1.  When you're playing a sport like hockey, size matters, and the older 10-year-olds tend to be a lot bigger and stronger than younger ten-year-olds.  So, when select teams are chosen, kids born in January and February have a distinct advantage over kids born in November and December.  And the kids chosen for those select teams receive advantages over their peers in terms of experience, coaching, and the rest of it.

 

Now, this is me extrapolating from Gladwell's premise:  In basketball, kids blossom at different ages.  Some kids max out and reach their ceiling at a younger age (think leg hair.)  But you still have those U10 teams and U11 teams.  So, in larger cities, a kid that might have eventually blossomed gets lost in the crowd while a kid who is closer to his ceiling is getting those opportunities.  The kid lost in the crowd at a younger age might never have the opportunity to evolve and develop. 

 

But, in smaller towns or cities, where there are fewer kids fighting for limited spots on school teams or select teams, a kid who might have gotten lost in the crowd if in Chicago still has an opportunity to play in Omaha and grow and develop.  

 

Think of Michael Jordan getting cut from his 10th grade basketball team.  He grew up in Wilmington, NC, with a population of around 100,000.  If he was living in Chicago and trying to get on with an AAU team back then, he probably wouldn't have made it.  And the GOAT might have been Lebron James instead.

Two things:

Sports Illustrated did a great article on Jordan's high school coach. It did not end well for him due to a mental illness. The real story was Jordan did not get cut from the team his sophomore year. The varsity had made it to state the year before and had 8 guards coming back include Michael's older brother. There was one slot left on a varsity that had 10 seniors on the team and the coach went with another 6'7 sophomore because the team had no one else taller than 6'3. That player went on to play professionally in Europe so he was no slouch. The coach felt that a 5'10, physically weak at the time Michael wouldn't get off the bench and it would do him more good to get lots of playing time on the JV where he ended up having a great season. The article is definitely worth the read if you have the time: https://www.si.com/vault/2012/01/16/106149626/did-this-man-really-cut-michael-jordan

 

Second, I realize soccer seems to push some people's buttons on this board but they have addressed the early birthday issue for some time now. The national team's feeder system is the state Olympic Development Program teams from each state. Their research showed the same thing about the early birthdays dominating team selection and they felt they were missing out on some very skilled players that just weren't as physically developed yet. They went to creating two teams per state. An older team with birthdays Jan-June and a younger team made up of players with birthdays July-December. In this way, they are giving those younger players the same opportunity as the older, more physical at this time players. They are now going one step further. I'm not sure how it works but they are piloting a new system starting in California and then planning to go nation-wide. They still have teams designated Under 10, Under 11, etc. but through some scientific measurements, they are no longer using chronological age but are determining biological age. So everyone in that division whether they be 10, 11, 12 or whatever age will be of the same physical maturity and the true "best" players will be allowed to shine through. It would obviously be more effort than going with a chronological age but I applaud the effort to bring out the best players. 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Norm Peterson said:

This reminds me of some interesting observations shared by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, "Outliers."

 

I don't remember all the specifics and so I'm kind of making some of this up on the fly just so that you get the gist of it, but if you look at NHL rosters, most of the guys who hail from Canada in the NHL were born in the first three months of the year.  Vast majority.  Very few born in the last 3 months of the year.  Why is that?  

 

Well, Gladwell's hypothesis was that, when you're playing junior hockey, the classification year for your age group starts on January 1.  When you're playing a sport like hockey, size matters, and the older 10-year-olds tend to be a lot bigger and stronger than younger ten-year-olds.  So, when select teams are chosen, kids born in January and February have a distinct advantage over kids born in November and December.  And the kids chosen for those select teams receive advantages over their peers in terms of experience, coaching, and the rest of it.

 

Now, this is me extrapolating from Gladwell's premise:  In basketball, kids blossom at different ages.  Some kids max out and reach their ceiling at a younger age (think leg hair.)  But you still have those U10 teams and U11 teams.  So, in larger cities, a kid that might have eventually blossomed gets lost in the crowd while a kid who is closer to his ceiling is getting those opportunities.  The kid lost in the crowd at a younger age might never have the opportunity to evolve and develop. 

 

But, in smaller towns or cities, where there are fewer kids fighting for limited spots on school teams or select teams, a kid who might have gotten lost in the crowd if in Chicago still has an opportunity to play in Omaha and grow and develop.  

 

Think of Michael Jordan getting cut from his 10th grade basketball team.  He grew up in Wilmington, NC, with a population of around 100,000.  If he was living in Chicago and trying to get on with an AAU team back then, he probably wouldn't have made it.  And the GOAT might have been Lebron James instead.

Well... the GOAT would still be Earvin Johnson.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 hours ago, Norm Peterson said:

This reminds me of some interesting observations shared by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, "Outliers."

 

I don't remember all the specifics and so I'm kind of making some of this up on the fly just so that you get the gist of it, but if you look at NHL rosters, most of the guys who hail from Canada in the NHL were born in the first three months of the year.  Vast majority.  Very few born in the last 3 months of the year.  Why is that?  

 

Well, Gladwell's hypothesis was that, when you're playing junior hockey, the classification year for your age group starts on January 1.  When you're playing a sport like hockey, size matters, and the older 10-year-olds tend to be a lot bigger and stronger than younger ten-year-olds.  So, when select teams are chosen, kids born in January and February have a distinct advantage over kids born in November and December.  And the kids chosen for those select teams receive advantages over their peers in terms of experience, coaching, and the rest of it.

 

Now, this is me extrapolating from Gladwell's premise:  In basketball, kids blossom at different ages.  Some kids max out and reach their ceiling at a younger age (think leg hair.)  But you still have those U10 teams and U11 teams.  So, in larger cities, a kid that might have eventually blossomed gets lost in the crowd while a kid who is closer to his ceiling is getting those opportunities.  The kid lost in the crowd at a younger age might never have the opportunity to evolve and develop. 

 

But, in smaller towns or cities, where there are fewer kids fighting for limited spots on school teams or select teams, a kid who might have gotten lost in the crowd if in Chicago still has an opportunity to play in Omaha and grow and develop.  

 

Think of Michael Jordan getting cut from his 10th grade basketball team.  He grew up in Wilmington, NC, with a population of around 100,000.  If he was living in Chicago and trying to get on with an AAU team back then, he probably wouldn't have made it.  And the GOAT might have been Lebron James instead.

I think this is as good a hypothesis as any...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/9/2018 at 12:05 PM, Norm Peterson said:

This reminds me of some interesting observations shared by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, "Outliers."

 

I don't remember all the specifics and so I'm kind of making some of this up on the fly just so that you get the gist of it, but if you look at NHL rosters, most of the guys who hail from Canada in the NHL were born in the first three months of the year.  Vast majority.  Very few born in the last 3 months of the year.  Why is that?  

 

Well, Gladwell's hypothesis was that, when you're playing junior hockey, the classification year for your age group starts on January 1.  When you're playing a sport like hockey, size matters, and the older 10-year-olds tend to be a lot bigger and stronger than younger ten-year-olds.  So, when select teams are chosen, kids born in January and February have a distinct advantage over kids born in November and December.  And the kids chosen for those select teams receive advantages over their peers in terms of experience, coaching, and the rest of it.

 

Now, this is me extrapolating from Gladwell's premise:  In basketball, kids blossom at different ages.  Some kids max out and reach their ceiling at a younger age (think leg hair.)  But you still have those U10 teams and U11 teams.  So, in larger cities, a kid that might have eventually blossomed gets lost in the crowd while a kid who is closer to his ceiling is getting those opportunities.  The kid lost in the crowd at a younger age might never have the opportunity to evolve and develop. 

 

But, in smaller towns or cities, where there are fewer kids fighting for limited spots on school teams or select teams, a kid who might have gotten lost in the crowd if in Chicago still has an opportunity to play in Omaha and grow and develop.  

 

Think of Michael Jordan getting cut from his 10th grade basketball team.  He grew up in Wilmington, NC, with a population of around 100,000.  If he was living in Chicago and trying to get on with an AAU team back then, he probably wouldn't have made it.  And the GOAT might have been Lebron James instead.

This is a good hypothesis that I will assume correct. But when it comes to college basketball instead of the NBA when players are obviously closer to there prime. Chances are if kids are dominating high schoolers their senior year they will have a better chance they will have a better ability to do that their in their few years in the NCAA and specifically on your team since kids who are still developing (and not playing often) are likely to transfer. Players drafted into the NBA are drafted so heavily on potential because you can keep at least the rights a player for a guaranteed 7-9 years which probably brings them into their prime (full potential). In college this is obviously much different. 

I'm just arguing an alternate point that would say these analytics would be less significant in college than the NBA. I still would say that the data is quite relevant in terms of college success as it seems most people would agree.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/9/2018 at 10:49 AM, khoock said:

If you liked The Outliers, and havent already done so, check out The Sports Gene by David Epstein

Just finished reading The Sports Gene—a fascinating read.  Thanks for the excellent recommendation, khoock.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×