Continued evaluation of your athletes is an important part of being a coach. Most of us do it subconsciously, while other take the time to discuss game performance with their assistant coaches, write down notes about each player and keep a running “report card” of how the team is performing. My guess is that most of us fall into the first category. We see (and “feel”) how the team is playing and then make decisions based on those observations. We regularly do the same with evaluating how each player is performing. We observe, then adjust - often going on our gut feelings or a quick post game conversation with assistants.
A number of years ago, I began to take 15 minutes after each game to record on paper those thoughts about the team and players. You can access the form I use by clicking here (It is a Word Doc so you can edit it to your needs). Writing notes helps in two ways: it creates a record that I can look back at and reference in the future, and it forces me and my coaching staff to think about, digest and make comments in areas that will be helpful - particularly the next time we play the same team.
Included on the form:
1) Game particulars. 2) Whether there is video of the game or if stats were recorded. 3) The pre-game “keys”. Three points of focus I would have spoken about in the dressing room. 4) Notes on offensive, defensive and special team play. 5) How we performed mentally and physically in the game. 6) Notes about players. 7) Other notes that might be important.
None of this is an exact science but the habit of team evaluation, done more formally by a quick two page form, can greatly improve team direction, practice curriculum, and team and player improvement from game to game.
I also believe it is a terrific habit for our athletes to take a few minutes and do some self-evaluating as well. Click here to download a Word Doc of a Game Log and a Practice Log that I put together in a binder for my players to keep in their locker and fill out after each ice session. It is not an onerous task and only takes a few minutes to complete. Of course, there will always be players who see this as an opportunity to get better and a few players who aren’t as keen to be so introspective. I have made sure there are very easy questions: How did you sleep? Did you eat well today? I purposely keep the log form short so that those athletes who are ambivalent to a routine of filling them out won’t feel like it’s a burden. Athletes who are keen to self-evaluate also have the opportunity to make notes about the team performance, their own individual performance, and anything else that might be pertinent (“We had a bad warm-up.”, “The bus was late and we weren’t focused.”, “The team was super-pumped because we were playing our biggest rival today.”)
What I most want to accomplish with these logs is for my athletes to find some correlations between performance and their daily habits, as well as a connection with their mental preparation before a game or practice. The simple exercise of filling out the form will undoubtedly help some athletes find those correlations. They may realize that if they don’t eat well on game day they don’t play well. Maybe a good sleep almost always translates into a good game performance.
When I have one on one meetings with players throughout the season I always tell them to bring their logbooks with them. This creates a little more accountability to be using them, and we can often find ways to improve game performance through better mental and pre-game preparation.
When we talk about good habits for our athletes, self-evaluation is critical to long term success - both on the playing field and in life. Although these logs are simple, to the point, and easily completed, they can be hugely useful in making simple changes that translate into improved performance.