Creating a post-competition analysis sheet for your players
Do you wonder what your athletes think about following a contest? Depending on their commitment, confidence and competitiveness levels, your athletes responses will run the gamut.While the competitors on your team take your losses to heart and your confidence-challenged athletes beat themselves up after a game, many of your athletes probably don’t give too much serious analytical thought to the competition afterward. They move on to the next item on their social calendar.
In some ways, not dwelling on or obsessing over a previous competition is good. Giving too little thought, however, is a problem as your athletes miss important opportunities to learn and improve. Each competition provides your players (and coaches) with a concentrated chance to learn more about themselves, your opponents, the game and even about life itself.
Investing the time to learn important lessons from competition — both wins and losses — is a key practice for players and coaches. Your athletes should go through a constant cycle of: perform, reflect, analyze, apply, practice and starting again with perform. What’s most critical is that your athletes learn how to apply the lessons, so they can replicate success and minimize failure.
Post-competition analysis sheet
In an effort to help your athletes learn lessons from competition, this article provides you with an example of a “post-competition analysis sheet” shared with me by former Yale men’s soccer coach Brian Tompkins.
Virtually every coach spends time analyzing previous competitions. This sheet provides a systematic tool to ensure that your athletes do the same in a constructive manner. Tompkins says the sheet he uses with his program is a combination of different tools used by various coaches.
Yale’s post-competition analysis sheet includes the following:
- Basic info: Name, date, opponent, location.
- Participation (check one): Started, played, did not play.
- Eight-question sheet: Whether an athlete has played or not, Tompkins has all his players complete the post-competition analysis sheet. He feels that each athlete can and should closely observe what’s going on during the contest and learn how to be a better player because of it. There are eight questions a player answers on the sheet.
1. Assess your personal level of preparation for this game.
This question is great because it puts the ownership of physical and mental preparation on the athlete. It’s up to each athlete to know where they need to be to get ready to perform and then get themselves there, whether they are at home, away or playing on a neutral site.
2. What did I do well in today’s game?
No matter what the outcome or their role in it, each of your athletes should inventory the successes and the strengths they displayed during the competition. This question helps build confidence, even though some of your perfectionist athletes might have a hard time writing something down.
3. What could I have done better in today’s game?
Players on the bench should be able to observe the competition and provide feedback for coaches.
Again, despite the outcome, there is likely at least one, if not several things, the athlete could have done better as a player, leader and teammate. Help your athletes see that each competition is an opportunity to improve. Or as North Carolina women’s soccer coach Anson Dorrance likes to say, “Life should be a never-ending ascension.”
4. What did the team do well in today’s game?
Looking outside themselves, have each of your athletes analyze the team’s overall performance. This gets them thinking on a larger, more strategic level. It will be interesting for you to see how your athletes appraise your teams performance in comparison to your coaching staff. This question allows you to see who gets it and understands your concepts and strategies, and who still needs work. Additionally, your athletes might pick up on some things your staff might have overlooked.
5. What could the team have done better in today’s game?
Have your athletes analyze and, hopefully, internalize what the team could have done better during the competition. They should be able to pinpoint at least two to three things for improvement. Asking this question helps you gain their attention when you work on shoring up these areas in your upcoming practices.
6. What did the opponents do well?
A good analysis should also include learning from your opponents. Have your athletes dissect what your opponents did well in attempting to win the game. How did they attack your team’s weaknesses? How did they make adjustments? Think about how you might counter those measures should you face them again, or a team that uses similar tactics.
7. What did the opponents not do well?
Similarly, have your athletes notice what your opponents did not do well. Did your team’s strategy or aggressiveness contribute to why your opponents struggled in these areas? Assessing your opponent’s weaknesses and struggles gives you a leg up the next time you face them or a similar opponent.
8. How did I impact today’s game?
Regardless of their role, this question reminds each of your athletes that they are responsible for impacting the competition in some way. Your starters and regulars obviously have the most noticeable opportunity with their play on the field. Yet your reserves and injured athletes also have a chance to make a difference with their encouragement and ability to refocus those who might be struggling.
Using the sheets
Tompkins often handed out the evaluations following the matches but says he will include one for each competition in a player notebook. To reinforce the value of the post-competition analysis sheets, the Yale players must turn them into the coach before the next practice. If the sheet is not completed, they are not allowed the privilege of practicing.
The coaching staff then reads over the analysis sheets during the week so that they have a better feel for their athletes’ insights. As the season goes on and time becomes more scarce, Tompkins and his staff are more selective in the sheets they read.
Tompkins feels the greatest value in doing the sheets is for the athletes themselves. It gives them a chance to really think through the competition, which appeals to Yale’s cerebral type. You too will likely find that you’re more analytical and intellectual athletes really enjoying this process. The secondary benefits of the sheets are for the coaching staff to get a glimpse into their athletes’ psyches, what they’re seeing on the field and how they understand the game.
Rather than leaving your athletes’ post-competition analysis to chance, think about creating a post-competition analysis sheet for your players. Like the one Tompkins uses, it doesn’t have to be long and involved. It should simply help your athletes focus on the important lessons they and the team can learn from every competition.