Using Peers and Self-Reflection for Postseason Evaluation

Keeping your ath­letes and fel­low coach­es moti­vat­ed when their sea­sons are can­celled isn’t easy, but encour­ag­ing peer and self-eval­u­a­tions can bet­ter pre­pare them for the next time they take the field.

Using Peers and Self-Reflection for Postseason Evaluation

Keeping your ath­letes and fel­low coach­es moti­vat­ed when their sea­sons are can­celled isn’t easy, but encour­ag­ing peer and self-eval­u­a­tions can bet­ter pre­pare them for the next time they take the field.

As sea­sons draw to a close for most pro­grams through­out the coun­try, I find an essen­tial part of your devel­op­ment lies in self- and peer-reflec­tion. While this is eas­i­er said than done, thanks to the sched­ules of high school coach­es who shuf­fle from sport to sport, it’s imper­a­tive to get to these tasks before the off­sea­son prepa­ra­tion begins for the next season.

As a foot­ball coach, I usu­al­ly take the week­end of Thanksgiving to work through the fol­low­ing assess­ments on how the year shaped out. At the end of each sea­son, it’s impor­tant for coach­es to take a good look in the mir­ror and pro­vide an hon­est assess­ment of their craft while con­sid­er­ing the feed­back of their play­ers and oth­er coaches.

For clar­i­ty, I sep­a­rate eval­u­a­tions to include my per­son­al eval­u­a­tion, play­er eval­u­a­tions and coach evaluations.

Personal Evaluation

The first rule I use when eval­u­at­ing my suc­cess as a coach is sim­ple — don’t place too much impor­tance on the win/​loss record.

As con­tra­dic­to­ry as that sounds, it’s impor­tant to be objec­tive and take all fac­tors into con­sid­er­a­tion before mak­ing a self-judg­ment. After all, there are many ele­ments that attribute to suc­cess (or fail­ure) dur­ing the season. 

Circumstances such as injuries, turnovers and oth­er out­side obsta­cles can eas­i­ly shift the bal­ance between a win­ning and los­ing sea­son. I remem­ber for­mer FBS head coach Rich Rodriguez telling me that some of the best coach­ing he ever con­duct­ed result­ed in two- or three-win seasons.

So I try to have some per­spec­tive and answer the fol­low­ing ques­tions after each season:

  1. Did I devote enough time to devel­op the skill sets of my players?
  2. Did I get my play­ers to play hard each and every week?
  3. Was I a good foot­ball teacher for my play­ers and my staff?
  4. Were my play­ers play­ing in the right posi­tion to max­i­mize their suc­cess on the field?
  5. Was I involved enough with par­ents, sup­port staff and administration?
  6. Was I a good pub­lic ambas­sador for the foot­ball program?

While there are oth­er fac­tors spe­cif­ic to each indi­vid­ual pro­gram, these ques­tions are a sol­id frame­work to gauge my coach­ing abil­i­ty that season.

Player Evaluations

The week before the sea­son ends, I sched­ule a 20-minute block of time to sit down one-on-one with each play­er post-practice. 

It’s hard to meet with all play­ers on the team, so I’ll select the ones that I’ve had the most inter­ac­tion with. (For exam­ple, a posi­tion coach could meet with his var­si­ty posi­tion play­ers or a coor­di­na­tor with the 14 – 15 con­sis­tent per­form­ers on that side of the ball). 

I find that if I don’t get this done before the sea­son offi­cial­ly ends, it’s hard to con­nect with play­ers when they’re play­ing oth­er sports. It’s a process I start­ed with a dual pur­pose — to pro­vide return­ing play­ers with a plan to improve for the next sea­son, but also to get their feed­back on how I coached them. 

While it does take some vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to engage in the lat­ter dis­cus­sion, the out­comes of these con­ver­sa­tions are immea­sur­able in improv­ing as a coach. 

I begin with ask­ing my play­ers the fol­low­ing questions:

  1. What did you like most about this season?
  2. What did you like least about this season?
  3. Was I com­plete­ly hon­est when work­ing with you?
  4. How, specif­i­cal­ly, can I help your devel­op­ment on the field?
  5. How, specif­i­cal­ly, can I help your off-field devel­op­ment as a person?
  6. What are your per­son­al goals for next season?

My goal is to elic­it hon­esty among my play­ers. The easy part is get­ting these respons­es — kids are incred­i­bly hon­est when they are away from their peers. The chal­lenge is turn­ing their feed­back into a devel­op­ment plan head­ing into the offseason. 

Each play­er will get a devel­op­ment plan (which could be as brief as one or two pages). Then I’ll fol­low up after the next sea­son with them to see if we accom­plished the goals.

Coach Evaluations

This is the most dif­fi­cult task of the three because it demands hon­esty among your peer group, which is why a one-on-one, pri­vate set­ting works best. These types of meet­ings are pri­mar­i­ly for head coach­es and coor­di­na­tors and may not be nec­es­sary for posi­tion coaches. 

While I rec­om­mend meet­ing direct­ly after the sea­son when things are still fresh, it can be dif­fi­cult coor­di­nat­ing sched­ules with coach­es who have oth­er jobs and fam­i­lies to occu­py their time. 

When we do sit down, I make sure I ask the fol­low­ing questions:

  1. Did I suf­fi­cient­ly pre­pare you each week to coach your position?
  2. Did I answer every ques­tion you had about run­ning this system?
  3. Did I hold you account­able in coach­ing your position?
  4. Did I give you the auton­o­my to coach in a style you were com­fort­able with?
  5. Did I hold you in a high regard in front of the players?
  6. Was I a good exam­ple of liv­ing the program’s mis­sion statement?
  7. Did I ever put you in a com­pro­mis­ing posi­tion where you couldn’t car­ry out your duties to the best of your ability?
  8. Did I help you enjoy the game of foot­ball and work­ing with our players?

Whatever comes from this par­tic­u­lar con­ver­sa­tion, both par­ties must be will­ing to take crit­i­cism and move on. No hold­ing grudges or har­bor­ing ill will, regard­less of whether or not that coach stays on staff. Decisions could be made based on these con­ver­sa­tions, but they shouldn’t direct­ly impact any of these decisions.

As the years add up, we can for­get every year of coach­ing is dif­fer­ent. I’ve often assumed I know the pulse of my team and coach­ing staff. This sim­ple post­sea­son pro­gres­sion not only chal­lenges that assump­tion, it solid­i­fies the mis­sion of any coach — to eval­u­ate him­self before he can eval­u­ate his staff and players.

For more coach­ing con­tent from X&O Labs, check out the Film Room. This search­able data­base has more than 1,600 con­cepts and drills, all view­able in Hudl.