Coaches — especially youth and interscholastic coaches — have quite the task when it comes to leading their teams and picking the best kids for starting positions and playing time. In some sports with clear winners (i.e. track, wrestling) these decisions are somewhat easier to make as the distinctions in talent are clear, but what about sports where subjective coach appraisals are all that’s left to use when making playing time decisions? For example, if a kid has a high degree of mental toughness will that factor in decision-making, even if her on-field success has been limited to date? In an ideal situation coaches use both objective and subjective evaluations to make final coaching decisions, including the following:
Objective data – the unbiased collection of information through direct and clear observation (objective data is often numbers-driven, meaning you can count occurrences of something happening).
- information you can count (i.e. times, victories, weight lifted, etc.)
- experience (amount of time an athlete has competed)
Subjective data – unique observations made by individuals (often these observations are biased and reflective of what the observer “sees”).
- information you witness and pass unique judgement (i.e. how an athlete looked with respect to his shooting technique, or how much “heart” an athlete has)
- reports given to you by athletes (i.e. when an athlete tells you she is motivated to play or feels fine after an injury).
Most coaches have to use a combination of both objective and subjective appraisals, but to the degree one approach trumps the other is often left to the individual. For example, some coaches value hard work, motivation, and perseverance as much or even more so than they do on-field stats. Conversely, other coaches focus more on the bottom line and give the nod to on-field performance, regardless of how hard a reserve practices in an attempt to start.
Youth and interscholastic coaches not only need to find their own unique balancing point when it comes to these two types of data collection, but they also need to convey their coaching philosophy to their players (and parents) for optimal team success. By letting kids know how you arrive at playing time, it allows them to “work smarter, not harder,” and give it their best in order to earn time on the field. Similarly, coaches who are clear with how they evaluate talent also mitigate a lot of future parent conferences by eliminating ambiguities.
Create a coach rubric
One way to make things simpler is to create a coach rubric that specifically outlines important criteria, as well as the methods used in collecting data. For example, if a coach is more top-heavy valuing effort, it is important kids know this so that they can work harder in the weight room, do extra running, etc. Coach rubrics standardize the process some, and make decisions more clear for both the coach and his or her student athletes.
For more help with sport success follow me on twitter @drstankovich or visit the Advanced Human Performance Systems webpage.