Perfecting your end-of-season evaluations
Regardless of how successful of a season your team had, it’s important to conduct a thorough postseason evaluation to improve your program in the future. It’s also important to undergo such an evaluation immediately after the season ends, ensuring that everything is fresh in your mind.
There are many different components of a postseason evaluation, and here are some of the most critical elements.
The first, and most obvious, part is team achievements. To put it simply, did your team reach the goals that you set for the season?
The nature or level of the goals would depend on where your program was going into the season, and what you wanted to achieve. If you are a high school coach who took over a team with just a few wins the previous year, your goal may have been more victories while advancing in tournaments.
My team won five games last year, and so far this season we have 10 wins and one tournament title. So we are in the process of working toward our goal. If you are fortunate enough to have one or more Division I athletes, your goal may have been a state championship. No matter what your goals, the first step is to evaluate what you achieved and where you fell short.
After you assess the achievements, schedule a team meeting. I prefer an open forum, where players are free to speak and offer their thoughts on the season, while the coach gives his or her thoughts and assessments. Whatever format you decide is best, there are some key areas to address.
The first is to discuss how the team fared in pursuing its goals. The players usually have a lot of input in this area and a good feel for whether the season was a success. Sometimes hearing their thoughts offers a new perspective that you had not considered before. It’s important to listen to their feelings about the season.
Another item to address is the “why?” — why did you meet your goals, or why did you not? You can look at specifics such as skills that were emphasized in practices and weight lifting programs, or even broader topics such as heart and effort. You can also use this time to highlight certain players’ contributions to the team’s success.
Whatever you feel led to goals being met or not, this is the time to discuss them so they can be addressed before next season.
Another component of your postseason meeting must be setting new goals. This requires you to consider how well you met the goals for the previous season and what players are returning. If you keep a lot of your talent, and your team had success, you most likely want to set your sights higher. If you lose seven seniors, and most juniors did not see playing time, then you must adjust accordingly.
Just make sure your new goals fit your team and they’re realistic. Don’t tell a team that finished 6-18 that the goal for the next year is to win the state championship. Set attainable goals for your players and team, and when they reach a goal, set a new one.
It’s important to keep players striving to achieve more. If your goal for the year was to reach the state or national tournament, and you achieved that goal but lost in the first round, a good idea may be setting a goal of making the second or third round. Set realistic goals which, once they’re reached, motivate your players to attack the next goal.
You can also set statistic goals, such as turnovers or free throws. If your team lost close games by giving up too many offensive rebounds, try to reduce those the following season. While the ultimate goal is winning games, give your team goals to strive for. By achieving these goals, they will start winning more games.
Use team meetings to address team issues, but also schedule individual player meetings. These should address how the player helped the team, where he or she needs to improve and what steps you both will take in the offseason to get them there.
You should also have a handout for each player, with stats and other information like your thoughts about their performances. You should get the player’s thoughts on their performance and give them positive feedback, highlighting their strengths. You should also have the player set goals for themselves, with you helping guide those goals. Then construct a plan for getting the player where you need them to be for the upcoming season.
Be encouraging to the players during these meetings. It’s important to motivate them to get where they need to be for the following year, and a great way to do this is by being positive. I have had these meetings last five minutes and I have had some that exceed 30 minutes. As long as they want to discuss goals and working towards them, you should be ready to talk about it.
You should set individual meetings with your assistants. During these sessions, just like the individual meetings with players, you should provide a handout with your assessment of how they did their jobs, things they excelled at and areas where they need improvement.
Discuss how you feel about all of these items, but be complimentary in the areas they did well. A lot of times, the assistants get the grunt work that’s overlooked, and many times the assistants are overlooked, feeling that their work is not appreciated. This is a great time to pat them on the back and give them some encouragement, which helps motivate them moving forward.
Honoring players is something that should be done, usually at the postseason banquet, to show appreciation and respect for the time and hard work they put in. It’s good to give awards for offense, defense, hustle and leadership.
It’s also a good idea to give awards to the seniors, regardless of playing time. It helps them to feel appreciated and know that you care about them. It also gives the younger players encouragement when they seeing how the seniors are honored. It can make them want to achieve more.
Planning for the future
Whatever goals you set for the following year, you cannot expect to reach them unless you implement a plan to improve your weaknesses. This can be a tedious task, but consider everything from the weight room to practices and offensive and defensive schemes. Take a long look at your team and try to envision what you want it to look like when the season begins. Then determine how to get there.
You have to make sure you do not lose focus throughout the offseason and preseason. I have posted the goals and points of emphasis on a board in my office to keep it fresh in my mind. It’s easy to say, “We need to do a better job on our man defense” only to get sidetracked by your offense and neglect your defensive work. You have to strike a balance between things that need improvement and the parts of your game where your team has been successful.
It’s also helpful, once you have the goals for the following year and the steps to reach those goals, to put it all on a handout and give it to your players. You can have them hang it in their lockers or at home, but you want to make sure that you and all of your players are on the same page. They need to understand your goals, and what they’re working toward. If rebounding was an issue for your team, your players must understand why they are working more and more on rebounding drills. That will help them buy into your plan. I firmly believe there is no such thing as too much communication with your players.
There are many different options when it comes to evaluating your season, and it is important for each coach to choose what fits their personalities and is most beneficial to their teams. If you want to improve each year, like all coaches do, it’s imperative that you do a postseason evaluation and communicate with your team about it. This helps you set the bar for the next season, and it’s never too early to start working toward next year’s goals.