At any track meet, from age group meets to the Olympic Trials, if you hang around the coaches, you will hear them grumbling about athletes who did not do as well as expected in a race, because “They didn’t want it bad enough” or “Their head wasn’t in the race” or “They were afraid to hurt”.
There are occurrences where athletes do not perform as expected due to conditions over which their coaches have no control.
But, coaches have much more control over their athletes’ performances than they may be willing to admit. They design the season, the workouts, and the preparation for racing. Any time the athlete does not perform as expected, the coach needs to accept some if not most of the responsibility for the outcome. Coaches need to question what they did in preparing the athlete to determine what may have gone right and/or wrong.
The goal of this article is to assist coaches in beginning to ask the difficult questions concerning how successful the past season was, and what changes to make future seasons more successful.
Even after a successful season, the coach should always be looking to make the next season even more successful than the one before. For me, this means you need to be planning the entire season before hand and evaluating your daily workouts after they happen. The coach also should be evaluating the season as a whole and writing down any changes that need to be made for the next season.
Other questions include, was there too little work or too much work done to prepare the athlete for the conditions they met in the season or culminating race? Could the coach time the peaking period better? Did the coach enhance the athlete’s strengths and work on their weaknesses during the season? The list of questions is only limited by the imagination of the coach.
Each coach will also have to define how that success should be measured for each athlete. For some coaches, nothing less than a state championship team or individual defines success. Some coaches define success as having a larger team or having each person on the team set personal bests in all events.
The season should be your report card as a coach and you need to have markers which can help you to grade your performance at the end of the season.
A. OVERALL EVALUATION
- How satisfied overall were you with how your season went
0-5 scale- 5=Best it could possibly be 0= Everything went badly
2. What area(s), in your opinion, need the most improvement?
a. Preplanning the season
b. Communication with athletes
c. Communication with other members of the staff
d. Organization of Practices
e. Preparation for Races
f. Peaking at the right time
g. Injuries and interruptions of the training during the season
B. INDIVIDUAL AREAS TO EVALUATE
1. Planning the Season
a. written overall plan
1) Enough detail?
2) Plan from the peak back?
3) How well did the plan cover changing circumstances?
b. Individual Athletes Overall Plan
1) Goal sheets – How well did individual athletes meet their goals?
2) How well did the athletes set their goals?
3) Did you plan the correct work to achieve these goals?
4) Did the athletes do the work? If not, what interfered? 5) Does there need to be a modification on how goals are set?
6) What markers were used along the way so the coach and the athlete knew whether they were advancing toward the goals?
2. Communication with the Athlete
A. What conditions aided the communication between coach and athlete? E-mail? One on one? Confrontation?, third party?
B. Does your style of communication work with all of the athletes you coach? What could you have done to aid communication?
C. What effective methods did you use to communicate with those athletes who were not communicative?
D. What methods did you employ to get the athlete to “buy into” the training program? What seemed to work the best?
3. Communications with other staff members
A. What effective methods of communication did you use with staff?, B. If there were breakdowns in communicating with staff members, why did they occur? How can these be avoided in the future?
C. How effective were you at working with people whom you reported to? What could you have done to improve communication with these individuals?
4. Organization of Practices
1). Did each workout have a goal?
2). Was the goal of each workout appropriate for the athletes you coached?
3). Did the athlete understand the purpose of the workout? If not, what could you have done to improve this?
4). Were paces appropriate for each athlete to achieve his/her goals?
5). Is it possible to individualize enough to suit all of the needs of all of your athletes?
6). How did you evaluate the effectiveness of individual workouts?
7). Did you record enough information during workouts to be able to return and evaluate the workout at a later time? (Many times, our minds play tricks on us later concerning the details of a particular workout)
1) What were the goals of the warm up?
2) What changes if any, are necessary to achieve these goals?
3) Did you cover all elements of the warm up that needed to be covered? Warming the body for harder work, dynamics, drills, core exercises, strength building for different parts of the body, preparing the body for different kinds of workouts (long run, lactate, VO2 max,, anaerobic, sprint work)?
4) Were you happy with the time commitment to your warm up? Would you have liked it shorter? Longer?
C. Body of the workout –
1) Did each workout have a clearly stated goal?
2) Was the goal appropriate for each athlete you coach?
3) Did the athletes understand the purpose of the workout?
4) Were you able to explain the reason for the workout to the athlete?
5) Did you have enough variety of kinds of work for your athletes to achieve maximum success in their chosen event?
6) Did athletes get enough specific work to maximize their growth in their chosen events?
7) What kind of job did you do in choosing how much of each type of workout, the athletes needed.
8) Were paces appropriate for each athlete in the program? 9) Were you able to individualize enough to suit all of the needs of all your athletes?
10) Did you put ways of evaluating individual workouts into practice?
11) Did you write down what was done in workouts so you can return ands refer to individual workouts at a later time in the season and when you are doing your season re- evaluation? (Many times, our minds play tricks on us if we don’t write down as much detail as possible. Trying to remember what you did, a month after the workout is too late)
12) Did you also illicit information from your athletes after the workout and write their comments down for future reference.
13) Did you have enough markers during the season, so you can be constantly evaluating how the training plan is working?
14) Were your markers effective in evaluating progress during the season?
15) Did you have a mechanism for evaluating when it is necessary for making changes in a training plan and when you are just experiencing “coach’s panic”?
16). Weekly Workout Modifications
a. How often did you have to make modifications in your weekly plan?
b. What were the primary reasons for these modifications?
17). How often did you have modify your daily training plan?
a. What were the primary reasons for the daily modifications? 1). Athlete not hitting the proscribed paces
3) Scheduling problems
b. What components did you most often change? Speed, duration, Recovery time?
18) What compels you to change your season plan in the middle of a season?
19) Were the changes effective?
20) Were there athletes in the program that did not seem benefit from your plan?
21) How were paces and volumes determined for each athlete? Were they appropriate? 22) Are there athletes in the program who might need to be treated differently than the general plan which you are using for everyone else? Examples: really talented athlete, athlete with more fast twitch or slow twitch muscle fibers who need slower or faster work that you are currently providing.
23) Have you been gearing your workouts toward your “stars”, which means the lesser athletes are performing their races during the workouts, trying to keep up with the star, and then are not able to perform in the actual races?
D. Cool down
1) How satisfied were you with your cool down procedures?
2) What were the good things which you accomplished with your cool down?
3) What improvements would you make so your cool down accomplishes everything you want? Lowering the body temperature, stretching (this is the best time because this is the time when the muscles are still loose and supple from the workout), Core, strength for different body parts.
4) How good was the organization of the cool down? Everyone on their own, everyone cools down together? Coach controlled, athlete controlled?
5. Preparation for Races
A. Overall grade for athletes being prepared for races during the season –
0-5 scale 0=no preparation done with athletes to prepare them for races (just go out and race), 5=Did everything possible to prepare athletes for all races throughout the season.
B. Preparation for races – Early Season
1). Goal setting for individual races – did each race during the season have a specific purpose Related to the goals set out for the athlete?
2). Did the athlete participate in a variety of races during the season? 3). Was the method of goal setting effective? Coach directed, athlete directed, consultation between coach and athlete. Which method did you use?
4). Did your athlete achieve his or her goals?
5). If not, what may have prevented them from doing so?
6). How much did team considerations come into play when setting goals for your athletes?
7). Was there any other information which was important to planning next season’s goals which were not already covered?
8). What differences in race preparations exist in your program to separate early season, midseason and championship season races?
9). Is the number of planned races appropriate for the developmental level of the athlete?
10) How many high intensity races in a season?
11) How were they spaced?
12) Were there races used to teach tactics?
13) Were some of their races used as workouts?
6. Peaking at the Right Time-
A. In your opinion, what constitutes a successful “peak” for your athletes?
1). Doing well in the championship meet
a. Good placing
b. Any improvement in time over season best
c. All of the above
d. Meeting their season goal
B. In your opinion, what would be a disappointment for your peaking strategy.
a. Not placing as well in the championship as you thought they would
b. Equaling their best time but not beating it.
c. Not meeting their season goal.
d. Any of the above
C. Overall evaluation – How well did your athletes “peak” during the season?
0-5 Evaluation form.
0=Didn’t peak at all or actually ran worse than they had run before
5= Set incredible PR’s at every race distance at just the right time of the season
1. My athletes all peaked at the right time and I could repeat the process with different athletes in a different set of circumstances.
2. My success at peaking my athletes is based on the following factors.
3. If I could improve my peaking process, I would add the following:
4. My peaking process would have even more successful if I eliminated:
E. I have no idea of how to peak my athletes but these are the things I did during the season.
F. I don’t believe in peaking and just follow my plan to the end of the season
7. Injuries and Interruptions in Training During the Season
A. Injuries – What percentage of my athletes had injuries during the season? What types of injuries did the athlete have? Strains, pulls, joints, ligaments, tendons
In what parts of the body did these injuries most frequently occur?
What may have caused them? (Growth in undeveloped athletes, overuse, too much too soon, too much intensity,
B. Sicknesses -
1. What part of the season did the sickness occur? Beginning, Middle, End.
2. Was there a change in training shortly before the sickness occurred?
C. Other training interruptions
2. Activities which can divert training energy (band, school play, club sport, family obligations, weekend obligations )
I’m sure there are smarter coaches out there that can use this checklist as a jumping off point toward creating their own post season checklist and report card for how the season went. I am sure there are many areas I missed in creating this list. Each coach should feel free to create a list that works for you.
Being a coach encompasses many professions. You are part cop, psychologist, psychiatrist, mother, father, statistician, overseer, organizer, cheerleader, bus driver, teacher, doctor and Indian chief.
When evaluating your own performance, use the same skills you have used to coax the best performances out of your athletes. You treat them with respect, kindness, love and a view toward what is in the best interest of the athlete. When necessary, you boot them in the butt to get them to strive for that higher performance, but the good coach is always more positive than negative when dealing with athletes.
When you are evaluating your own performance, use these same criteria. Realize you probably did more things right than things you need to improve. Treat yourself with respect, love, kindness and caring.
In dealing with elite athletes, I have found them to be their own worst critics. Coaches are the same. When critiquing ourselves, it is important to be able to see areas we need to improve, but we also need to be able to celebrate all the good moves we made, the lives we changed, because we were in the right place at the right time, making the right decision so our athletes were able to achieve at their highest level possible.
Change what needs to change, so the next group will have the benefit of your expertise, but don’t lose the good parts of what made you a good coach before you did the evaluation.
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Thank you to Al Berrin for the above contribution. Please feel free to offer your thoughts on his article. Do you evaluate your season once it's complete? How do you go about planning for the season ahead?