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Church Planters Need to be Like Kevin Kelley (part 1)

September 6, 2012

Kevin Kelley is a freak.  And I love him.

Unless you’ve read Scorecasting you’ve probably never heard of Kevin Kelley, so I’ll introduce you.  Kevin is the head football coach at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas.  The methods he employs as coach has gotten this 350-person school to win 3 high school state championships in the last 8 seasons, and ranked in the top 100 high schools nationally.  So what’s his secret that has turned this tiny school into a Goliath in high school football?

Kelley’s team doesn’t kick the ball.  Ever.  No extra points, no punting, no kickoffs.  When kicking off they do an onside kick…every time.  In a recent game highlighted by Sports Illustrated they were playing a big game in front of 8,000 people, with the local news broadcasting live from the game.  What happened?  Pulaski Academy got up 29-0….before the other team touched the ball!

His fans refer to Kelley as the “mad scientist”, but really he’s perfectly rational.  See, he has run the numbers and has realized that mathematically, kicking decreases his chances at winning.  So he doesn’t do it, ever.

From Scorecasting:

According to Kelley’s statistics, when a team punts from …deep, the opponent will take possession inside the 40-yard line and, from such a favorable distance, will score a touchdown 77 percent of the time.  Meanwhile, if the fourth-down attempt is unsuccessful and the opponent recovers on downs inside the 10-yard line, it will score a touchdown 92 percent of the time.  “So [forsaking] a punt you give your offense a chance to stay on the field.  And if you miss, the odds of the other team scoring a touchdown increase 15 percent.”

And that’s just the beginning.  Kelley knows the state high school stats for average 4th down conversions, average punt, average kickoff return, average yards per running and passing play, and pretty much anything else that influences whether or not you should go for it on 4th down.  And oh yeah, it’s been 2 years since one of his teams punted…and that was just because his team was up by so much he didn’t want to score.  (the irony?  The other team ran it back for a touchdown, further cementing Kelley’s belief that punting is detrimental to a high school team’s chances of winning.)

The reason I love Kevin Kelley is that he is both completely rational and completely insane at the same time.  He is rational because every decision he makes on what play to run is based on the math.  The numbers don’t lie, you can’ manipulate the data, and ultimately the numbers (on the scoreboard) determine the champion.

But he is also completely insane.  Not literally of course.  But in football, everyone knows…you have to kick sometimes.  Sometimes it’s just better to punt away or kick it off deep.

And everyone’s wrong.

I’m going to do some follow up to this post with a couple specific ways that church planters need to be like Kevin Kelley.

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