Coaches Evaluate Your Basketball Program

Why should coaches evaluate their basketball programs… I mean, don’t they do that every day?

Regarding your first question, it is very important to assess your program. This typically happens periodically to make sure that the activities are meeting the needs of the overall program. Evaluation, if done the right way, can identify areas for improvement not only for the program but the coach, as well. In short, it helps lead the vision and goal setting for the future.

To respond to your second question, not every coach evaluates their program in the same way each day and honestly many do not have the support needed to take as much time doing the work necessary to evaluate completely. I know that I have been on my own as a head coach with a lack of assistant coaches in the past and at times it took off-season work to evaluate how I could improve my program. But the one thing that is clear is this- each coach should evaluate their programs. If not, no real measurable progress can be made for the long haul.

What are the potential processes that can be used to evaluate?  

I have always been big on setting pre-season goals via discussions with my players and coaching staff. This sets the baseline for the end of season evaluation. Additionally, I ask my team leaders to get the team together before every game to set goals for that specific game- it only takes a few goals to help drive their own vision and this provides the team with the chance to have a say in what they are trying to achieve each game, whether that is a rebounding goal or a shooting percentage goal. Buy-in from the players is critical for any program to flourish.

I always have a coach’s meeting before every practice to go over the plan for the day’s practice and then have a short meeting after the practice to evaluate things that went well and things that could improve going forward. This is an informal way of assessing/evaluating how all went.

What top tools do you recommend coaches use to evaluate their basketball programs?

I know some coaches utilize surveys or questionnaires for evaluation. The use of notes from practices (as stated in the last question response) is extremely helpful. In addition, having a master practice plan is essential to guide the coach to meet the mission and the vision of the program. Lastly, a major tool for evaluation in basketball is video, as it is clear most times what is needed to improve as video does not lie. The use of systems like Hudl, Krossover, or LongoMatch can be very useful for game-by-game evaluation.  

What times(s) of year should evaluation be done?

Evaluation should be ongoing- it should never end. It is a cumulative process, not just an end-of-season process, so I always do my part to keep notes on each practice and then file my plans.

Is anonymity important and why?  

It is essential especially if issues that deal with safety/mental health of the player are involved. The player must know that they trust you in the evaluation process.

Should an athletic director be involved? How?  

I do not believe the athletic director should be involved in the evaluation process of your team, at least from the standpoint of the evaluation coming from you to the team members. However, most head coaches are evaluated by the athletic director each year on an individual basis using a process that the overall athletic program utilizes for all coaches. Much of the evaluation of the coach by the athletic director could utilize numerous measurements such as winning percentage, team academic success, and athlete surveys. This evaluation can help the coach guide the team in the direction they need to go. As someone who teaches students in the area of sport management, I would say that the best athletic directors are those who mentor their coaches, not control them.

When should an outside evaluator like your company be used?  What are the criteria for hiring?

I believe that a good time for bringing in an outside resource is when a coach has grown stale in terms of drilling or practice planning. I found during my head coaching career that I had become that coach- the coach who was bored and worn out without the energy to go out and dig up new ideas. It is something that happens more times than folks think in this profession. The key is for coaches having these issues to be willing to reach out. The teams that I work with in my business (www.basketballmentoring.com) all seem to improve, perhaps not always on the scoreboard, but in the areas of team cohesion, enjoyment of task attainment, and in terms of more success on and off the court.

I believe that any outside source should be vetted properly before bringing them in. In my case, I offer client testimonials and have a full biography and background of my coaching career on my website. It is always a good thing to do background work to make sure the outside evaluator has the credentials and experience to be of help for your program.

After the evaluation, then what?  

Use what you found in the many aspects that you have measured and put it to use. For instance, if you evaluate that your team is losing the battle on the boards you should do your homework to find good drills to get this down. Many coaches will just put the information they learn from the evaluation in a folder to be shelved and lost for years; that is a big mistake and loss of a learning moment. Coaches should always take advantage of what is gained in the evaluation and use it to better themselves as a coach, which in turn can improve player development leading to a more successful program. The feedback might sting a little, but in the end it is about better performance, not egos or personal agendas.

Do you have any tools you can recommend for evaluating…like a cheat sheet?

Honestly, I believe that all coaches have their own way of evaluating their team and their program. There are tons of tools out there on the Internet that are useful. I would offer one particular coach who was the master of evaluation, in my opinion: John Wooden. One of the eight suggestions found in the book “Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court,” is “Know that valid self-analysis is crucial for improvement.” Coach Wooden won 10 NCAA titles at UCLA in a 12-year span, with seven of those in a row. However, he did his part each year to reflect on what worked and what did not work from the previous season and he always hit the road to pick the brains of fellow coaches out there who did a specific thing well. He was all about bettering himself and that was a major reason why he was so successful as a leader of young men and as a coach. Read up on his leadership and coaching legacy and you will find a treasure trove of great ideas- a good place to start is http://woodencourse.com/index.php.

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