How do you know a S&C coach is doing a good job or poor job?
Head coaches are evaluated by wins and losses.
Coordinators and/or position coaches are evaluated by statistical success or success of their position players.
But how are S&C coaches evaluated?
Here are three common ways people tend to evaluate S&C coaches and why it's a mistake
1. By the success of a team?
People like to use this as a contention point, but there needs to be extreme caution with this.
Where or who or the success of the team you coach doesn’t necessarily make someone a great coach or validate the coach.
Remember this, there are a lot of great coaches on lower levels and coaching poor teams, and there are a lot of poor coaches, coaching very successful teams.
2. By how much their athletes lift?
I don't know where this idea started, but it's another area I don’t feel is a good road to trek down. We aren’t trying to develop lifters, we are trying to develop athletes.
How much one can lift is no indicator of on-field success and solely using squat or bench numbers is a very poor approach to the job of an S&C coach.
3. By the amount of All-Conference, All-American, or draft picks
The success and more importantly the improvement of an S&C athletes is undoubtedly important, but it's not smart to hang your hat on these things.
Remember S&C coaches are given athletes that the coaching staff recruits. They cannot control who is on the team, and guess what?
Better athletes = better team = more honors/awards
S&C coaches cannot control what type of athlete they are given. They also have a very limited role in whether they are all-conference, all-american, or draft picks.
First and foremost, genetics is most important, then the specific sport improvement and practice, and finally S&C.
Don't take credit for the success of your athletes. S&C coaches definitely play a role, but a small role, and don't ever try to put the spotlight on yourself when it deserves to be on the athlete.
Here's a novel idea for S&C coaches, and one that I feel will give us a better evaluation of the impact a S&C has.
Why don't you ask your athletes, or coaches?
Ask your athletes if they feel they are improving in all areas of athletic performance.
This means a lot more than just purely strength. Are they improving movement skills, increasing usable range of motion, getting faster, are they more confident and resilient, do they believe in the program and buy-in to what you are doing, are their specific conditioning and ESD demands improving?
Below is a questionnaire I gave to 153 of my athletes and to 3 sport coaches to fill out and asked them to be brutally honest with their responses.
This might seem very scary or exposing for a coach, but doesn't it make sense to actually get a sense of what those experiencing your coaching are feeling?
If you are afraid of what your athletes and coaches will write, then that alone should tell you something. You should be excited and confident to hear the responses and use the info to make yourself an even better coach.
Here are the simple questions I asked. The 153 athletes I asked included athletes from 7th grade – seniors in college - to professional athletes. They didn't put their name on the sheet and again I told them to be brutally honest, my feelings wouldn't be hurt!
1. Male or Female?
2. What is your favorite part of this S&C program?
3. What is your LEAST favorite part of this S&C program?
4. What is your favorite exercise?
5. What is your LEAST favorite exercise?
6. What do you wish we’d do more of?
7. What do you wish we’d do less of?
8. Do you feel you have improved since we've started to now? In what areas do you feel have improved the most?
9. In what area do you feel you're stagnating or feel we could a better job addressing?
10. If you could change 1 thing or make 1 suggestion to this S&C program or for how I can improve as a coach, what would it be?
It was honestly refreshing to receive this feedback and delving into the information has been very beneficial to me as a coach – I urge you to do the same.
After going over all the responses 3-4 times, a couple of things really stand out to me as interesting, and I think can really help all coaches out there. Here they are in no particular order.
Females asked for much more feedback on technique.
I take this as a compliment and also great tool for improving my coaching.
I am very open to having my athletes all exhibit differences in technique and giving them autonomy and freedom in their movements. If I have 12 athletes squatting, they will all look different, with different depths, different stances, different toe angles, etc.
With that being said, I have noticed that females tend to be more skeptical of their technique and lack a little confidence with their technique. I will often tell a girl everything looks great technique wise, and they'll often come back and ask me to watch again to make sure here technique is solid.
So my takeaway is when working with females, put more emphasis and feedback on technique and ensuring you are giving valuable and specific information on technique.
One of the common themes in the feedback was that just about every response said their favorite aspect was how I made the program fun and the enjoyed the games/competitive aspects of the program.
Let me repeat that:
All ages, even professional and high level college athletes all stated they enjoye games, competitions, and play
We are a species that enjoys and thrives with play.
One reason I dislike the idea of working in bigger college or professional settings is they tend to be really serious. Their athletes can't be having fun or involved in "silly" games, and this is something I whole-heartedly disagree with.
Not only do games and play-type environments enhance the enjoyment and fun for the athletes, but they also encourage the use of creativity, open-sided and reactive movements, stimulate cognitive function and recognition, encourage competition, and involve strategy and communication with teammates.
Please tell me how this isn't beneficial for athletes?
Moral of the story, find ways to make your training more game-based, open, and competitive.
Everyone really hates the ISO BSS.
This means I'll most definitely continue to include this in their programs!
People do not like early morning lifting, especially if the are doing it 3-4 times a week. And to be honest, I really don't enjoy as a coach either. I've been getting up at 4:45am, every week day, for 2+ years, and I'd be lying if I said I absolutely love it when my alarm goes off.
What's interesting to me is we know the importance of sleep and how a lack of sleep has numerous negative effects on various areas of an athletes health and performance, but we continue to ask for 5:30 or 6:00am lifting sessions?
Obviously, those of us working in a University setting are restricted by things we simply can’t get around. The fact that is we work with student-athletes and they tend to have classes from 8am-2pm and there aren't a plethora of time options for training times.
But can we shift the believe that these early morning sessions are essential??
I breakdown all of my college athletes sleep and bed times on a DAILY basis, and it’s rare to see these athletes in bed before 11pm despite the urging and preaching about the importance of sleep. I can get pissed at them and try to educate them until I'm red in the face, but what better am I if I then go and have them train at 6 or 7am, for 3-4 times a week, knowing they are only getting 6-7 hours of sleep, at max each night.
Obviously education is a integral part to helping our athletes and trying to get them to buy-into getting to bed earlier and improving their sleep habits, but I also feel we as coaches are often hypocrites when we continue to make them be up at 5am each morning.
The feedback I received was very clear, they do not like getting up for 6am workouts. My thoughts are this - if we can avoid these early morning sessions, then we absolutely should. Obviously in a college setting, with limitations of resources, class conflicts, etc - then yes we need to use these early morning time-frames, but maybe we need to find ways to rotate teams, so it's not the same teams/athletes doing 6am every single day.
I look at it as, if we can even reduce a specific team needing to train at 6am, just 1-day a week, we are likely adding 2-3 additional hours of sleep a week for these athletes - which could be huge for performance and recovery.
Athletes have a decent understanding of buzz words and they want to perform those buzz words.
In the question, what do you wish we did more of – three common responses occurred.
2. Explosive Exercises
Two of the three responses would be what I would consider buzz terms. Athletes probably couldn't even tell you what the "core" is or what muscles make up the "core", to them it just means abs.
Maybe throwing in an ab or arm burner at the end of sessions is a good idea from time to time. Plus these won’t negatively effect or pull away from the CNS stimulus you're trying have the body adapt to.
Those questioned also tended to make notes to wanting to do more explosive type exercises. We know we perform different med ball variations or jumping/bounding movements to train various power production applications, but do they?
Just adding, hey this is to work on our explosiveness, might be something they really want to hear and enhance the intent of the drill.
Well I hope this sheds some light as a way to give greater insight into your coaching. I think ever coach should give this questionnaire at the end of a semester or year and really evaluate what you are doing as a coach. This will definitely be something I address with my athletes and coaches every year from here on out and I encourage you to do the same or share your results as well!