The Numbers Game and Bottoms Up Thinking!

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The Numbers Game is to soccer what Moneyball was to baseball, a numbers driven analytical approach to building a better organization. And, it’s likely to change the way you think about the world’s number one sport and perhaps music education.

In The Numbers Game, Chris Anderson, a former professional goalkeeper turned soccer statistics guru, teams up with behavioral analyst David Sally to uncover the numbers that really matter when it comes to predicting a winner.

The authors Investigated basic, but profound, questions such as: How valuable are corner kicks? Which goal matters most? Is possession really nine-tenths of the law? How should a player’s value be judged? Whatever your answers are, their's might differ as this duo delivers a whole new way of thinking about the beautiful game.

As a part of their analysis, Anderson and Sally looked at the value of an individual star player in soccer and compared it to a star individual player's value in other sports. For instance, they pondered the question of whether the value of LeBron James to the Cavaliers was less or more than Lionel Messi’s value to FC Barcelona. 

What they found was as insightful as it was fascinating. According to the authors, basketball is a "top down" sport that places a greater premium on individual star players, whereas soccer is a "bottom up" sport that favors a better supporting cast in lieu of a singular star. In other words, a star player’s worth is relative depending on the sport the play. 

So naturally, or not so naturally, I shifted the comparison to musical terms. Would the authors see music education as a top down or bottom up activity? Would they see greater value in the star player or the depth of the section? Heck, forget about the authors, what do you think? 

  • Would you prefer to have a superstar or better second and third players?
  • Would you rather have better high woodwinds or low brass?
  • Would you prefer to have one or two great leaders or 10 decent ones?
  • How much of your “salary cap” would you invest in a single concert master?
  • What about teachers? Would you rather have a larger staff or a fantastic head director?

Now here is where it gets interesting…

  • Would your answer change if it were a chamber or jazz ensemble?
  • Would your answer change when dealing with a younger or older ensemble?
  • Would your answer change based on the literature you were performing?
  • Would your answer be different for a band, choir, or orchestra?
  • Would your answer be different for different age levels or times of year?

To be succinct, when it comes to music education, favor top down or bottom up approach AND, would the analytics support your conclusion?

In the coming days we are going to make a major announcement about this very theory. We’re still working on some details, but suffice it to say, we are excited and we think you be as well.

But in the mean time… Have a great week.