Thursday, November 16, 2006


One of the skills that they're going to try to teach you at any leadership conference you ever go to is going to be Evaluation. Now, they're going to try to put a cool label on it, and probably even make up a catchy catch phrase to catch the concept in your brain.

Yes. I should have used a thesaurus on that last sentence. However, I find it refreshingly refreshing not to.

In any event, it's a good skill to gain. The main concept revolves around contemplating what just happened. After you complete a task, look at what went right, examine what went wrong, and determine what to change in the future.

It's brilliant, really. So simple that most do it already, but just tricky enough that when genuinely pursued it becomes a great engine for progress and improvement.

These days I try to evaluate most things I do. You better believe that the Ultimate club is going to run a whole lot differently next year. My cross country attitude and performance will be changed, my dance moves will be altered, my very hair tweaked from day to day to achieve the results I desire.

I tend to over complicate very simple things. I take an easy concept that automatically clicks and poke and prod it until it becomes a barbecue-shaped mass of mathematical principles and philosophical dissertations.

Today we played sharks and minnows for our cross country workout, just as a throwback to the good old days. Sharks and minnows is a very simple game. You begin the game with two sharks, and their goal is to run and tag everyone else (the minnows). Once an individual is tagged they become minnows no more, but sharks forever.

As a minnow you want to run like crazy and remain uncaught. As a shark you want to catch the minnows and spawn more sharks. Once all the minnows are turned into sharks the game is over.

So really, it's like tag, except instead of you being it when a guy tags you, you're both it when a guy tags you.

As a cross country team, we're born to run. The area that we play in is quite formidable, basically the entire south half of the high school property. It's an island really, the area that you can get to without ever crossing a road. The track, the soccer fields, the front lawn, the relo's, the sidewalk, etc. As long as you don't run in the parking lot or across any streets you remain in the boundaries.

So, today I played a simple game and got a simple outcome. Tonight I have evaluated the game, and come here to share some love.

Number One: Traveling in a pack drastically improves your capability to survive. Your chance of living through an encounter with a shark is directly related to the number of other minnows you are traveling with.

You're running alone and you see a shark turn the corner and run towards you. You immediately take a 180 and run the opposite direction. Whether you survive this encounter or not depends entirely on your speed compared to the shark's speed. We will call this value "Y". If I run at a speed that I arbitrarily assign the value of five to, and the shark runs a five as well, the ratio is 5:5, or one. Chances of me surviving are about 50 percent in this encounter. Since we both run the same speed, I've got half a chance to get out, and he's got half a chance to get me. So, we can construct a formula that looks like this. Chance of me surviving on my own = .5 times Y. (Y is the ratio of my speed to his).

So, let's try another. if I run at a two and he runs at a six, our ratio will be 2:6, or 1:3. Formula is .5 Y, so I've got (1/3) times .5, or 1/6 chance of surviving. Not even good.

However, something interesting happens when I run with a partner. When a shark spots prey, he can only target one at a time if we run opposite directions. The shark is forced to choose one or the other. Statistically I have a 50 percent chance that he's going to pick the other guy.

If we add this to the formula, we end up with something like My survival chance = .5Y divided by the chance he'll come after me, or .5

Therefore I've got twice the chance of surviving an encounter with a shark if I travel with a partner. Likewise, I've got three times the chance of surviving if I travel with two partners. No wonder fish flock together, their individual chances of survival go way up.

Number Two: running with a gatorade is a bad idea.

I bought a gatorade (hereafter to be refered to as "my 'rade") right before we went out to run. I decided that I'd carry it around with me as I ran and drink as I went. Unfortunately, I cramped up because of this, and my running capabilities were greatly diminished. In the future, I will not drink 'rade as I run, but only before and after.

Number Three: Having something to throw at jose is a great idea.

Midway through the match, me and my traveling buddy found ourselves in quite the pickle. After dodging the bad guys out in the soccer fields, we ran past the baseball diamond and hopped the fence, putting us behind the home bleachers in the stadium. We ran down the hill and around the track, putting us right in front of the visitors bleachers. At this point we saw two sharks coming at us from the entrance to the track. There really was only one exit from that point, and that was the hole that the sharks had just come out of. They had superior angles on us, and there were two of them. While there were definitely two of us, we both wanted to get out of there alive, so we had to do some quick thinking.

We knew we couldn't get to the exit without doing something crazy. They had us covered with the angles, we were forced to accept that. We knew that both sharks would probably come after one individual minnow, their chances of catching one of us are doubled that way. We knew that we both wanted to escape, and so our daring plan was formulated and put into action in the same breath.

We kept running our initial course, letting them angle towards us to cut us off. When they were sufficiently close, my buddy doubled back and ran the opposite direction, causing the sharks to break from each other as one briefly pursued. She figured that wouldn't work out pretty fast, so she turned her sights back on me, with Jose having never left his initial course to destroy me. However, I now had enough of a gap between the two sharks to even the playing field in my favor, making speed a factor in the game once again. You see, when you've got two sharks right by each other it doesn't matter how fast you run. One will just hold back while you juke the shoes off of the first shark, and than tag you just as soon as you're past. But now we had the sharks seperated, so maybe a juke was possible.

I sped up, and Jose came to match me. I was running parallel to the outside fence, and I'd have to change course real soon or face a chain link corner that I wouldn't have gotten out of. Jose was only about 10 feet from me, so I faked left, then stalled for half a second.

And then I remembered, I was carrying my 'rade. It had given me obnoxious cramps, and I was feeling quite hydrated, despite only drinking half of the bottle. I settled on the only plan of action that I could see working, and chucked the bottle at Jose.

This served two very valuable purposes. Not only did it shock jose, but it also hit him in the shin. This made him terribly angry. So angry, in fact, that his new goal was not to tag me, but to hit me in the back of the head with my half-full bottle of 'rade. In the time it took him to realize he'd been thrown at and pick it up to retaliate I was gone. As soon as I released the bottle I booked it, hard straight just long enough to clear an opening back across the field and then a sharp turn to get out of that corner. I escaped, and jose missed the back of my head by about a foot. Lucky, that could have caused some damage.

Evaluating it, I can see that I got out of a life threatening situation by throwing something at Jose. Therefore, I am always going to carry some sort of projectile for sharks and minnows. It's just too valuable to pass up.

Number Four: I want to stay alive a lot more than the sharks want to catch me.

As a minnow, I only live once. There is no minnow respawn. Once you're tagged you're a shark until the game is over. Supply and demand says that since there's only one life, that life is ridiculously valuable.

Sharks, on the other hand, are already dead. Their goal is to catch people, and at any given point they may have five or six minnows that they could possible catch. Supply/demand states that since there are six possibilities, they are less valuable than if there was only one.

Since I have one out of one desire to stay alive, and they only have one out of six desire to catch me, it's a whole lot easier for me to "hit the juice" and sprint them out than it is for them to book it to catch me.

In a one on one encounter, sharks won't usually match your sprint for more than five seconds. After that period it hurts more than it is worth for the shark, whereas you've still got more value to keep running with. This is your last chance, whereas the shark will have infinitely more chances to chase minnows.

Number Five: evaluation of sharks and minnows is a really weird thing to write about at 12:16 AM. I mean really, who does that? I'll tell you.



Anonymous said...

Haha, very nice! I didn't think such a simple game could actually include projectile warfare and mathematical formulas, and still be fun!

Anonymous said...

We did that in Merrill's class.

I was traumatized.

Although this does sound fun, a lot of strategy is involved, so I would suck at that. Besides, I'd be caught in, what, two seconds?

Seeing as how, y'know, you're not fat.