Evaluating Your Coaching Staff
Manheim, PA- Let’s begin with the actual purpose of evaluating your staff. I have yet to meet a coach who does not want to work toward continuous improvement to enhance their program. Additionally, most all coaches want to be the best they can be and to accomplish this they do whatever it takes. Most likely they have learned much from others through life experiences, education and observation. Your skill set development most likely came from previous teachers and coaches and those who you work with today. Regular and intentional evaluation is crucial in determining where you are on that continuum. For me personally, and I think this is generally true of others, I always felt a responsibility to help my assistants grow professionally so that if they ever became a head coach they would be successful. We only need to look at some of the head coaches in many sports in our collegiate programs and professional teams to see examples of this concept. I find it interesting that many assistants became dynamic head coaches because they were encouraged, nurtured, educated and groomed by a head coach that they worked for on their way up. As an assistant coach this is what I expected from my head coach during my coaching infancy. I always felt that should be part of the head coach’s responsibility to evaluate my progress and to offer feedback relative to my current strengths and weaknesses (areas to grow). This hopefully allowed me to attain many of the goals I had established during my early coaching years.
I’m quite certain that today in most schools across our country the school district has a formalized process in place for evaluating their coaches and extra-curricular personnel. If not, they need to establish one ASAP. Not only does this provide coaches feedback on their progress and holds ALL coaches accountable for their professionalism it monitors the expectations established and will ultimately be what protects them in any litigation that may occur. The question is what input do you have in providing feedback to your administration? It might range from total, to limited, to none at all. I would suggest that you have a conversation with your administrators to clarify what your role as a head coach in the evaluation process of your staff should be. Ideally, collaborating with you’re A.D. or principal would be the most effective means of accurately capturing a fair assessment of their work. Obviously you probably have a much better idea of how your staff is performing than the school administration since you work closely with them to a much greater degree.
So, who should be evaluated? You should decide how involved you should/need to be in the program if you are the head coach or CEO of your school districts wrestling program. Should you evaluate only your assistants, include your junior high coaches, your youth coaches, etc. In my mind evaluating K-12 coaches provides greater involvement in the whole program, creates continuity from ground up and makes everyone accountable for achieving the goals and mission of their assigned level. It also establishes a tool for you in providing feedback, creating a self -improvement plan for those who need it and makes you aware of any concerns that could impact
your program. Ideally, a mid-season review will help coaches stay on track or if necessary readjust with your support. Obviously an end of season evaluation should be completed with each coach and a subsequent professional growth plan, including the identification and crafting of next years goals, established. Another strong evaluation tool I always felt was effective was providing the opportunity for your staff to complete a self-assessment of their annual accomplishments. This type of assessment is powerful, reflective and hopefully provides an opportunity for greater intrinsic motivation by your staff. (We are many times more critical of ourselves, especially those striving for excellence).
Last, what should we evaluate? The evaluation instrument should be the assessment of several things. It should minimally include the coach’s ability to meet the requirements of the basic job description (which should be published and shared). It should evaluate the level of accomplishment that the coach has met toward meeting their established goals. It should evaluate their professionalism, their ability to create a safe and nurturing environment, a wholesome culture for their athletes, and some method of athlete growth throughout the season. Not all inclusive, but some of these might be based on what a coach wants their staff to accomplish, i.e. how many athletes do they promote to the next level if you are a junior high coach. Another might be the technical skills’ identified in the district’s curriculum to be taught and mastered at that level, as well as parent/community relationships. However, no matter what is being evaluated it should be in writing, crystal clear to each coach and reviewed regularly. Again, the head coach wants to see his staff grow and achieve success. Assistant coaches should expect the head coach to serve as a mentor. I would also emphasize that any concerns or weaknesses you observe should be discussed, monitored for improvement and evaluated thoroughly. The courtroom has seen numerous cases where no corrective action has been taken to address problems. This ultimately endangers kids due to a lack of supervisory awareness, neglecting a previous concern noted on an evaluation, or no corrective practices in the process. Not remaining diligent in this area could cost people a tremendous amount of grief and hardship.
Finally, be sure to use the evaluation process as a fluid tool to mentoring. You should not put an evaluation in the drawer at the end of the year and check it off the list. Use it to continuously improve your staff and program. Some of the most successful programs I’ve seen over the years are those with a great deal of continuity and community involvement. These are coaches in the community that are working together collaboratively toward an intentional purpose to ensure continued program success. A strong evaluation component helps to keep a focus on what’s important and what needs to be adjusted. If we all look at an evaluation as a professional growth tool and not something used as punitive or threatening I think you will find it both rewarding and enlightening.
George Way – NWCA Scholastic Director