Effective strategies for team evaluation

October 5, 2018 / Football
Some coaches rely only upon intuition when it comes to making decisions for their team. However, data and direct feedback can be crucial to make sure intuitive decisions align with the team’s success. Similarly, many coaches rate players on speed, strength or how well they complete drills – but there are other ways to figure out what’s working and what isn’t.

Bob Wager, head football coach at Arlington Martin High School, has a specific method for effectively evaluating both the direction his team is heading and how individual players are doing. His method includes a set of evaluation tactics for both inseason and offseason, as well as exit interviews with every graduating player.

Immediately after the completion of their last football game, each senior fills out a short questionnaire. Wager utilizes these questionnaires and exit interviews to evaluate the team, the coaching staff and learn how the coaches can support players in the future. Wager includes the following questions:

  1. What are your future plans?
  2. How can coach Wager help you accomplish those plans?
  3. What will you take with you from the program?
  4. What can we do to improve the program?

Wager often finds out from this process that his players could use a letter of recommendation, assistance getting recruited or even a simple phone call to an employer or college. “I want to understand where they want to go; this really leads to being able to coach them for the rest of their lives. The meeting is critical so we as a coaching staff are aware of what they can accomplish and have tangible information to help them meet their goals,” Wager said.

The other thing that these surveys and meetings accomplish is getting critical feedback that Wager and his staff can apply to the program starting the next season. After four years in the program, players may be leaving with life lessons such as strong work ethic, loyalty, honesty or selflessness. Wager believes this is the more valuable information, because his goal as a coach is not just to win games, but to also mold young people into excellent humans off the field.

During the offseason, Wager coaches players as humans first and student-athletes second. Wager spends time building better relationships with each player while his position coaches help monitor grades to ensure that the “student” part of student-athlete doesn’t fall behind. Together, all coaches work athleticism with on the players.

In the offseason, the football team is tested on athletic fundamentals and evaluated on current progress. Wager holds these tests every six weeks, corresponding with his school’s grading periods. These tests evaluate speed, change of direction, agility and strength. Coaches should test the same skills compared throughout the football season to watch for improvements or decreased performances as time goes on. This can help coaches determine a student’s commitment to the program and give position coaches an opportunity to provide feedback outside of practices. “Knowing these tests are coming every six weeks also helps keep players motivated,” Wager said.

During football season, Wager leans on film and the scout team to give strong feedback and help the team with self-evaluation. The scout team is important as they will be able to see their work in action — or note if it’s not. If players don’t listen to the scout team, they are held accountable. They may say, “I prepared you, and you’re lined up in the wrong gap.” The film is how the players see what they need to do differently. “The film doesn’t lie,” Wager said. This process not only helps bolster accountability, but it also gives the scout team tremendous ownership of the team which enhances a core concept Wager teaches: every single player and every single role is very important.

Wager’s team participates in one other activity, primarily in the offseason. “Because football is a game of change of direction, the very best games to evaluate your players’ ability are tag and dodgeball,” Wager said. It’s fun, but it’s also an excellent way to see how his players are on their feet.

© 2018 USA Football

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