Coaching evaluation | Education homework help

Part II: After reading Chapters 1-2, please describe evaluation.  What aspects of a player’s game should be evaluated, and how would you do it?  What methods of evaluation have you used?  What methods have you observed being used?  What methods keep players motivated and moving toward development both physically and mentally? Pay close attention to the section entitled EVALUATION TOOLS on page 15. Share your thoughts on how you would evaluate position specific game day performance. How would you evaluate tactical skills? What about technical skills? Although you want to ensure you are examining ON the field evaluation, don’t limit your discussion.  What have you seen work in the off-season?  The key is to discover methods of furthering player development and maintaining motivation through various methods of evaluation.  

Part III: Pages 6-8 in the text discusses the  “traditional” versus “games approach” to coaching. Define both of these strategies. Describe which method you prefer as a football coach and explain why. Be sure to provide specific examples as to how you incorporate one or both of these methods as a coach. 

From the Book

Evaluating Technical and Tactical Skills 

Football is a team sport. In building your team, you should use specific evaluation tools to assess the development of the individual parts that make up the whole of the team. You must remember that basic physical skills contribute to the performance of the technical and tactical skills. In addition, a vast array of nonphysical skills, such as mental capacity, communication skills and character training, overlay athletic performance and affect its development (Rainer Martens, Successful Coaching, Third Edition). In this chapter we will examine evaluation guidelines, exploring the specific skills that should be evaluated and the tools to be used to accomplish that evaluation. Evaluations as described in this chapter will help you produce critiques of your players that are more objective, something that you should continually reach for. 

Guidelines for Evaluation 

Regardless of the skill that you are measuring and the evaluation tool that you are using, you should observe the basic guidelines that govern the testing and evaluation process. First, the athletes need to know and understand the purpose of the test and its relationship to the sport. If you are evaluating a technical skill, the correlation should be easy. But when you are evaluating physical skills, or mental, communication or character skills, you must explain the correlation between the skill and the aspect of the game that will benefit. 

Second, you must motivate the athlete to improve. Understanding the correlation to his game will help, but sometimes the games seem a long ways away during practices and training. In the physical skills area, elevating the status of the testing process can help inspire the athletes. If you can create a game-day atmosphere with many players present and watching as you conduct the testing, the athletes will compete with more energy and enthusiasm than they would if you ran the tests in a more clinical fashion. Goal boards and record boards with all-time best performances can also motivate the athletes. The best of these boards have several categories (separating the linemen from the backs, for example, to give the backs a chance to compete in strength contests and the linemen a chance to compete in speed tests) and list several places, such as the Top Five or Top Ten performances, to give more athletes a reasonable chance to compete for a spot on the board. 

The best motivation, though, is the concept of striving for a personal best effort in physical skills testing, or an improved score, compared to his own last evaluation, on measurement of technical, tactical, communication and mental skills. When the athlete compares himself today to himself yesterday, he can always succeed and make progress, regardless of the achievements of his teammates. And when he sees himself making progress, he will be motivated to continue to practice and train. This concept, while focusing on the individual, is not antithetical to the team concept. You simply need to remind the team that if every player gets better every day, the team must be getting better every day! 

Third, all testing must be unbiased, formal and consistent. Athletes will easily recognize flaws in the testing process and subsequently lose confidence in the results. You must be systematic and accurate, treating every athlete the same way, for the test to have any integrity. No athlete can be credited with a test result on a physical skill if he does not execute the test regimen perfectly. You must mandate good form and attention to the details of the test. The same is true of evaluation tools that are not quantitatively measured. A position coach who wants to evaluate technical skills must use the same tool for all athletes at the position and score them fairly and consistently for them to trust the conclusions reached. 

Fourth, you must convey the feedback to the athletes professionally and, if possible, personally. No athlete wants to fail, and all are self-conscious to a certain extent when they don’t perform to their expectations or the expectations of their coach. At the same time, all athletes have areas that they need to improve, and you must communicate those needs to the athlete, especially if the athlete does not see or understand that he needs to make the improvement! Personal, private meetings with athletes are crucial to the exchange of this information. Factual results, comparative charts ranking the athlete, historical records of previous test results and even study of videotape of the athlete’s performances can discreetly communicate both the positive areas of improvement and the areas where progress needs to be made. If you have a large number of athletes, you can accomplish these individual meetings in occasional and subtle ways—by asking the athlete to stay for a few minutes in the office after a position group meeting, by finding the athlete after practice or a workout in the locker room, by going out to practice early and creating an opportunity to talk to the player individually or by calling the player in to the office at random times just to talk. These in-person, one-on-one meetings are by far the best method to communicate to athletes the areas in which they need to improve. 

Finally, you must apply the principles that you are asking of your players to the process of evaluating them. You must be an expert in your field in terms of your knowledge of the technical and tactical skills for your sport, and for your position group in particular, so that you can accurately and consistently evaluate the skill that you see your players perform. You must understand the value and importance of the physical skills (perhaps even in your personal lifestyle and health habits!) to convey the importance of these skills to the game. You must exhibit outstanding communication skills to be effective in your teaching, and you must exhibit those same skills in your dealings with other staff members, especially when you are visible to the players, so that you can establish credibility with the players regarding communication. 

Evaluating Skills 

Clearly, players must know the technical skills demanded by their sport, and they must know how to apply those skills in tactical situations when they compete. You must remember, however, that basic physical skills contribute to the performance of the technical and tactical skills, and must be consciously incorporated into the athlete’s training plan. In addition, an array of nonphysical skills such as mental capacity, communication skills and character training also overlay athletic performance and affect its development. 

As you evaluate your athletes, one concept is crucial: Each athlete should focus on trying to improve his own previous performance, as opposed to comparing his performance to those of his teammates. Certainly, comparative data helps an athlete see where he ranks on the team and perhaps among other players at his position, and this data may motivate him or help him set goals. But all rankings place some athletes on the team below others, and the danger of focusing on this type of system is that athletes can easily become discouraged if they consistently rank in the bottom part of the team or position group. Conversely, if the focus of the evaluation is for every player to improve, compared with himself at the last testing, then every player on the team can be successful every time tests are conducted. Whether you are looking at physical skills or nonphysical skills, encourage your athletes to achieve their own personal bests. 

Evaluating Physical Skills 

The essential physical skills for football are strength, speed, agility, power and flexibility. The training and evaluation of those five physical skills is especially important in the off-season and preseason periods, when athletes are concentrating on overall improvement. In-season evaluation, however, is also important, to ensure that any off-season gains, especially in strength, do not deteriorate because the players and coaches are devoting much of their time and attention to game-plan preparation and practice. 

Testing should occur at least three times a year—once immediately before the football season begins to gauge the athlete’s readiness for the season, once after the season to measure the retention of physical skills during competition and once in the spring to evaluate the athlete’s progress and development in the off-season program. In addition, you will be constantly evaluating your athletes throughout the season to make slight adjustments, as you will learn more about in chapter 9. 

Of course, training programs can positively affect several skills. For example, improvements in leg strength and flexibility will almost certainly improve speed. Furthermore, no specific workout program will ensure gains for every athlete in each of the five skill areas. Consequently, testing and measurement of gains in these areas is critical in showing you and the athlete where he is making gains and where to place the emphasis of subsequent training programs. 

Strength 

Strength testing can be done safely and efficiently using multiple-rep projections of the athlete’s maximum performance. The risk of injury for the athlete is minimal because he is working with a weight that is less than his maximum load. After a proper warm-up, the athlete should select a weight that he believes he can rep at least three but no more than seven times. Using a chart of projected totals, the number of reps that he accomplishes will yield his max. This type of test is slightly less accurate than a one-rep max, in which the athlete continues to work with heavier weights until he finds the highest load that he can rep one time. But the one-rep test takes much longer to administer and is less safe because the athletes are working with peak loads. Furthermore, the accuracy of the test would be critical only if the athletes were competing with each other. Because the focus of the off-season training program is the development and improvement of each athlete, the multiple-rep projection is adequate for determining comparisons for each athlete with his own previous performances. 

Core Strength 

Like the proverbial chain that is only as strong as its weakest link, the core ultimately determines whether the athlete can put it all together and translate his strength, speed or agility into successful football performance. The core refers to the midsection of the body—the abdominal muscles, the lower-back muscles and the muscles of the hip girdle—that connect lower-body strength and functions with upper-body strength and functions. Core strength, then, is essential for football, but at the same time it is extremely difficult to isolate and test.

Football coaches repeatedly use the phrase “low pad wins” to emphasize the importance of keeping the legs bent and the center of gravity close to the ground for improved balance, leverage and transition from one direction to another. Without a strong core, the football athlete will experience great difficulty in keeping his pads low as he plays the game. The core also must be strong for the football athlete to be able to play with great explosiveness—combining strength, power and speed into decisive and effective blocks, tackles, runs and kicks. Every physical training program for football, therefore, must include exercises that strengthen and develop the core. This training program must go beyond sit-ups and crunches, which are important but not comprehensive enough to develop true core strength. Football athletes must incorporate active exercises such as lunges, step-ups and jump squats to focus on development of the core. 

As mentioned before, isolating core strength is difficult because it is involved in the performance of every physical skill. But any exercise that recruits one or more large muscle areas and two or more primary joints (such as the bench press) can be used to test core strength (NSCA, Essentials of Personal Training). The ultimate evaluation of core strength, however, is the athlete’s performance of football skills on the practice field and on game day in the stadium. 

Speed 

Speed testing for football has always focused on the 40-yard dash. Rarely does a football athlete have to run longer than 40 yards on a play, so longer distances are not indicative of the type of speed needed to play the game. But pass plays, kicking plays and runs from scrimmage that break into the open all require sprints that are in the 40-yard range, so the athlete’s time over that distance is crucial. Still, the majority of runs that a football player makes in a game are short bursts, so a test of the player’s initial 10-yard speed from a standing start also correlates well with the type of speed needed to play the game. The 10- and 40-yard tests can be administered simultaneously, with a coach or electronic timer stationed at each of those distances to record times for both yardages on the same trial. If the players are in the full-pad part of the season, test them in full pads. You want the test situation to resemble the game situation as closely as possible. 

Agility 

Football also requires the athlete to change direction quickly in short spaces and use quality footwork to get into proper position to make tackles, break tackles, block and shed blocks, cover receivers and get open on pass routes. So agility and footwork are physical skills that must be trained and measured. The most common agility test for football is the pro shuttle, a 20-yard lateral shuttle run. In this test, the athlete starts on a designated line, runs 5 yards to his left or right, returns through his starting point to a spot 5 yards on the other side of that starting point and then moves back to finish at the point where he started (yardage run is 5, 10 and 5). This test measures the athlete’s ability to plant and change directions and requires him to keep the core low, in the athletic body position frequently mentioned throughout the skills in this book. The time on the pro shuttle should be about two-tenths of a second less than the athlete’s 40-yard dash time. If the margin is greater, the athlete should emphasize speed development in his program; if the margin is less, the athlete should emphasize agility drills in his training program. 

Power 

Power is the fourth primary skill required for football. The emphasis here is on the lower-body explosiveness that helps the football athlete sustain blocks, finish tackles, break tackles, win on a pass rush, or jump to catch or intercept a pass. The two simplest and best tests for power are the standing long jump and the vertical jump. Administer both tests with the athlete in a stationary position so that the test measures pure explosiveness unassisted by a running start. Allow the athlete to take several trials at each event, using his best effort as his recorded score. 

Flexibility 

Flexibility is the most neglected physical skill but one of the most important. Increases in flexibility will help the athlete improve his performance in just about every other physical skill. Off-season programs should stress stretching, and you should encourage, or mandate, athletes to stretch for at least 15 minutes each day. In addition, the training program should include exercises that require the athlete to bend and move, such as lunges, step-ups, and so on, so that the athlete is stretching and training the hip girdle and lower-back area as he works on strength and power. Flexibility is difficult to measure, but the classic sit-and-reach test provides a reasonable indication of the athlete’s range and gives him a standard to improve on. 

Evaluating Nonphysical Skills

Athletic performance is not purely physical. A number of other factors influence it. You must recognize and emphasize mental skills, communication skills and character skills to enable your athletes to reach peak athletic performance. 

Despite the importance of the physical, mental, communication and character skills, however, the emphasis in this book is on the coaching of essential technical and tactical skills. For an in-depth discussion of how to teach and develop both physical and nonphysical skills, refer to chapters 9 through 12 in Rainer Martens’ Successful Coaching, Third Edition

Mental Skills 

Football is a complex game because of the large number of players on the field at one time; the vast number of possibilities for alignment, formations and plays; and the huge diversity of athletic types and abilities that make up a team. Consequently, football requires excellent mental skills, if for no other reason than for memorizing and remembering the plays and assignments! 

More important, however, the successful football player has to have the mental ability to sort out and isolate the cues that allow him to execute those assignments. Linebackers have to see only one or two key blockers and ignore the rest, so that they can read what the play is and where it is going. Quarterbacks have to find only one or two key defenders and ignore the rest, so that they can determine where to throw the ball on a pass play. Defensive backs have to focus on only one or two receivers and resist the temptation to peek into the backfield after a pass play begins, so that they can cover their area or their man. And field goal kickers have to focus entirely on the ball and ignore the onrushing defenders, so that they can successfully execute their kick. The performance of these skills takes study, discipline, focus and belief that the system of cues will produce the desired results. The term mental toughness might be the best and simplest way to describe the concentration and determination required to perform these skills in the dangerous, high-risk intensity of football. 

Communication Skills 

Football also requires communication skills at several levels—among the players on the field and between the coaches and the players in classrooms, in practices and on the sidelines in games—to get the desired skills accomplished. Football teams use numerous and specific forms of communication to get all players on the same page on every play. Coaches send plays on to the field by messengers or by hand signals; both offense and defense have a huddle in which the play is conveyed to every teammate on the field; both sides of the ball use oral or signaled checks or audibles at the line of scrimmage to react to schemes that they see. You have to convey adjustments to the game plan and strategy in sideline meetings and halftime talks. All these communication skills are essential to football, and you must spend considerable time coordinating your system of communication. 

Character Skills 

Finally, character skills help shape the performance of the team. Although the game is tough, physical and hard hitting, officials regulate it so that it is fair and as safe as possible within the rules. Football athletes must play hard and aggressively, but they also must stop at the whistle and keep all contact in front of the player whom they hit. Failure to follow the rules results in major penalties or disqualification, and both outcomes clearly affect the team’s performance. Football players also must avoid becoming distracted by any pushing, shoving or talking that might go on between plays. In all these cases, the team that has the most character among its players will have the best chance for success. 

Evaluation Tools 

Football coaches, perhaps more than coaches of any other sport, use recordings of practices and games to evaluate athletes’ performance of basic technical and tactical skills. Recording is useful because so many players are participating at one time and it is difficult, if not impossible, to watch each of them on every play. The problem is compounded, especially on game days, because the players are a considerable distance away and you cannot see from the sideline precisely what is happening on the line of scrimmage and on the far side of the field. Recording allows you to review reps in practice or plays in a game repeatedly, enabling you to evaluate each player on each play. The recording also becomes an excellent teaching tool in individual, group or team meetings because the players can see themselves perform and listen to your comments evaluating that performance.

You can use many different systems to evaluate what you see on the recording. The most common system isn’t really a system at all—it is the subjective impression that you get when you watch the recording, without taking notes or systematically evaluating every player on every play. Because of limitations of time and staff, many coaches use the recording in this manner, previewing the recording, gathering impressions and then sharing those impressions with the player or players as they watch the recording together later. 

Other coaches systematically grade the recording, evaluating the athlete’s performance on every play as to whether he executed the correct assignment, technique and tactical decision. The grading process can be simple; for example, you can simply give the athlete a plus or a minus on each play and score the total number of pluses versus the total number of minuses for the game. Alternatively, you can score the athlete on each aspect of the play, giving him a grade for his assignment, a grade for his technique and a grade for his tactical decision making. More elaborate grading systems keep track of position-specific hidden statistics such as knockdowns on blocks, plus yards for ball carriers after encountering the first tackler, pass breakups for defenders, hurries of the quarterback for defensive linemen, hustle plays in which an athlete gives extra effort, and bonus points for big plays such as touchdowns, interceptions or blocked kicks. 

Regardless of the level of sophistication or detail of the grading instrument, most coaches use a grading system of some kind for evaluating game tape. Most grading systems are based on a play-by-play (or rep-by-rep in practices) analysis of performance, possibly coupled with an analysis of productivity totals such as the ones listed previously. Rarely does a coach systematically evaluate the technical and tactical skills required for football on a skill-by-skill basis. 

Furthermore, when coaches evaluate a skill, they generally evaluate only the result (did the wide receiver catch the ball or not?), not the key elements that determine the player’s ability to catch the ball (eye contact, hand position and so on). 

Figure 2.1, a and b, are examples of an evaluation tool that allows you to isolate technical and tactical skills. By breaking down the whole skill into its component parts, this tool enables a more objective assessment of an athlete’s performance in a skill than can be produced by statistics. By using these figures and the technical and tactical skills in parts II and III as a guide, you can create an evaluation tool for each of the technical and tactical skills that you want to evaluate during your season. In figure 2.1a, using the technical skill of drive blocking as an example, we have broken down the skill by pulling out each of the key points from the skills found in chapters 3 through 5 so that you can rate your players’ execution of the skill in specific targeted areas. 

As you may already know, evaluating tactical skills is more difficult because there are many outside influences that factor into how and when the skill comes into play. In figure 2.1b, rather than listing each of the various possibilities, we have targeted the general areas that need to be addressed when evaluating tactical skills. The breakdown of these general areas, as shown using the pass-run option as an example, is consistent with the format for how the tactical skills have been broken down in chapters 6 through 8. The hope, then, is that the more you work with chapters 6 through 8, the more automatic the information in those chapters will become, making figure 2.1b an effective guide for you as you evaluate your players’ execution of tactical skills. 

This evaluation tool, and the process of scoring that it advocates, may help you avoid the common pitfall of becoming preoccupied with the result of the skill and coaching and evaluating only the final outcome. This tool will help you pinpoint where errors are occurring and enable you to focus on correcting those errors with your athletes. 

The tool is admittedly somewhat subjective because it asks the evaluator to rate on a scale of 1 to 5 how well the athlete executes the basic elements of each technical or tactical skill, and ratings would simply be an opinion based on observation. But you can add some statistical weight to the process by scoring the player on each play in which the skill came into use. For example, a linebacker involved in 40 plays during a game might have 10 opportunities to make a tackle. You could then score the linebacker on each of those 10 opportunities and calculate an average score. Most coaches would simply grade the linebacker on whether or not he made the tackle, but this tool allows you to organize your evaluation of the elements of tackling. You can pinpoint where the player is making mistakes by breaking down the skill and analyzing the component parts. 

Likewise, if a wide receiver who plays 40 plays in a game has five opportunities to run crossing routes, you could use the evaluation tool to grade each of those five plays on the tactical skill of recognizing man or zone coverages and making the correct adjustment. This score would give both you and the receiver an excellent evaluation of his ability to perform this tactical skill, regardless of whether he caught the ball or even whether it was thrown to him. 

You must go beyond the result and focus your teaching on the cues and knowledge needed to execute a specific skill, giving the athlete an evaluation that alerts him to the key elements of the skill that need improvement. An important corollary to this teaching and evaluation strategy, then, is that sometimes when the result is positive, the evaluation of the athlete’s technique might be substantially critical.

You must go beyond the result and focus your teaching on the cues and knowledge needed to execute a specific skill, giving the athlete an evaluation that alerts him to the key elements of the skill that need improvement. An important corollary to this teaching and evaluation strategy, then, is that sometimes when the result is positive, the evaluation of the athlete’s technique might be substantially critical. 

For example, if the wide receiver is working in a practice session on catching the chest-high pass in the hands instead of on the pads, you need to reinforce the key point of using the hands, whether or not he catches the ball. If the receiver drops the ball but uses his hands, you must be positive about his effort to use that technique and avoid comments about his dropping the ball. Likewise, if the receiver catches the ball but uses his pads, you need to tell him that he is using an unacceptable technique. You cannot give the receiver mixed messages; you must focus on the process of catching the football, not the result, if you truly want the receiver to catch the ball in his hands. 

This lesson was graphically illustrated to me, a career college football coach, at a Little League baseball game. I was coaching a team of 10-year-olds, including my son. After completing several practices, we were playing our first real game. I was excited about coaching this team of eager youngsters and confident about my ability to help them be successful. In the top of the first inning, our best pitcher was on the mound, and he, too, was excited and probably a bit nervous. His first four pitches were too high, so he walked the first batter. The next batter stepped in, and the first two pitches were also high. By now, his teammates, the assistant coaches, and more than a few parents were shouting advice to the young pitcher: “Throw strikes!” or “Get the ball down!” Although I knew that he was nervous, another thought occurred to me—he’s only 10 years old, but he knows that he needs to throw strikes, and he knows that he needs to get the ball down! The comments that he was hearing were not only unhelpful but also contributing to his anxiety. What he needed was some advice from his coach on how to get the ball down—some instruction on the key focal points of the technical skill of pitching a baseball. And that’s when I realized that I didn’t know enough about pitching a baseball to tell him what to do. I have never felt more powerless or ineffective in my entire life as a coach. 

The sample evaluation tool shown in figure 2.1, a and b, constitutes a simple way to use the details of each technical and tactical skill, providing an outline for both the player and you to review and a mechanism for understanding the areas in which improvement is needed. The tool also can be used as a summary exercise. After a game, after a week of practice, or after a preseason or spring practice segment, the athlete can score himself on all his essential technical and tactical skills, including all the cues and focal points, and on as many of the corollary skills as desired. You can also score the athlete and then compare the two score sheets. The ensuing discussion will provide both the player and you with a direction for future practices and drills, and help you decide where the immediate focus of attention needs to be for the athlete to improve his performance. You can repeat this process later, so that the athlete can look for improvement in the areas where he has been concentrating his workouts. As the process unfolds, a better consensus between the athlete’s score sheet and your score sheet should also occur.

You must display the identical mental skills you ask of your athletes—skills such as emotional control, self-confidence and motivation to achieve—because the players will mirror your mental outlook. Likewise, players will model your character, in terms of your trustworthiness, fairness and ability to earn respect. You are a role model, whether you want to be or not, and the athlete will develop the proper mental and character skills only if you display those skills. 

You must evaluate athletes in many areas and in many ways. This process of teaching, evaluating and motivating the athlete to improve his performance defines the job of the coach: “taking the athlete somewhere he could not get to by himself.” Without you, the athlete would not have a clear direction of the steps that he needs to take, or how he should proceed, to become a better player. You provide the expertise, guidance and incentive for the athlete to make progress. 

One final rule, however, caps the discussion of evaluating athletes. Athletes in every sport want to know how much you care before they care how much you know. You need to keep in mind that at times you must suspend the process of teaching and evaluating to deal with the athlete as a person. You must spend time with your athletes discussing topics other than their sport and their performance. You must show each athlete that you have an interest and a concern for him as a person, that you are willing to listen to his issues and that you are willing to assist him if doing so is legal and he wants to be helped. Events in the athlete’s personal life can overshadow his athletic quests, and you must be sensitive to that reality. 

Another reality is that athletes will play their best and their hardest for the coach who cares. Their skills will improve, and their performance will improve, because they want to reward the coach’s caring attitude for them with inspired performance. They will finish their athletic careers for that coach having learned a lifelong lesson that care and concern are as important as any skill in the game of football.

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