Hidden Dangers of Survivorship Bias in Youth Coaching

Nabil Murad
1 min readMar 16


After several bomber airplanes were shot down in WWII, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) decided to address this problem.

They studied the airplanes that came back to find out where the vulnerabilities were. A clear pattern emerged as the bullet holes accumulated on the wings and main body of the plane.

With this data, they concluded that reinforcing these areas would strengthen the vulnerabilities.

Unfortunately, they were wrong. . .

Fortunately, Abraham Wald wasn’t.

Wald pointed out that the data only looked at the planes that came back. He reasoned the planes that didn’t make it back were shot in the cockpit, engine, and parts of the tail.

With this new analysis, the RAF reinforced the armour around the engine and cockpit. The results were fewer fatalities and increased mission success. This is an example of survivorship bias at play. It leads us to draw conclusions based on a limited set of examples.

What on earth does this have to do with youth sports?

How do you evaluate the success of your youth program? Do you determine success by the number of players that make it into the first team? What about the players who drop out due to injuries, burnout, or lack of physical and skill development?



Nabil Murad

Full time professional youth basketball with an avid interest in meta-learning. Passionate about youth development, behavioural psychology and storytelling