Player Feedback and Evaluations

Not all coaches give player evaluations I’ve noticed. My middle daughter received formal player evaluations when she played soccer, starting when she was in middle school. Both her town team coach and her club team coach gave written reviews, but with different frequencies. Her town team coach gave weekly performance evaluations after every game. Not her teammates liked getting graded weekly, but I thought it was great. Her club team coach gave written evaluations twice a year at the end of each season, but also did a face-to-face meeting to go over the form. I’ve saved all these forms and it’s fun to look back on them to see what she was working on, and her progress that year. In any format (written or verbal), feedback is helpful for player development. The delivery of the feedback is critical though. Even though my daughter got mostly positive feedback, she worried about her face-to-face assessment. After each evaluation meeting though, she would have a giant smile on her face!

 Player Feedback and Evaluations Player Feedback and Evaluations

For volunteer parent coaches, the first thing to consider when thinking about individual player goals and evaluations is how much time you have to spend on it, and therefore the frequency that you can realistically commit to. It’s not necessary as a parent volunteer coach to do formal written evaluations. The important thing is to have players feel good about themselves.

Positive Verbal Feedback versus Written Evaluation

It’s time consuming, but girls need feedback. Constant positive verbal feedback during practices is sufficient for girls younger than middle school, but if you have the time, a face-to-face evaluation at the end of each season can be a powerful way to let each player know how much you appreciate their efforts. You can also use this time to help them set development goals for next season.

It’s not necessary as a parent volunteer coach to do formal written evaluations. The important thing is to have players feel good about themselves.

Age Appropriateness of Player Evaluations

There’s a few factors to consider when deciding if you want to do written player evaluations:

  • Age of player
  • Your time availability
  • Level of commitment for improving

Continue reading “Player Feedback and Evaluations”

How To Be a Good Teammate Game

How To Be a Good Teammate Game

I love how this game combines teaches kids in a concrete and physical way how to be a good teammate but also is really fun. It’s essentially a version of freeze tag, and can be modified for any sport, and changed up to make it a technical drill. An added bonus is that it teaches kids to look up and really see the field. By identifying who is in trouble, this game is a defensive drill to teach doubling down. Use it as a fun way to end practice!

How To Be a Good Teammate Game

How To Be a Good Teammate Game

This game builds teamwork and is hilariously fun. Note that this game is not about winning, and there’s no score!

Count off by 10’s and put the evens on one side and the odds on the other. You want approximately 10 players per side, but it’s easy to modify for a larger or smaller number.

With 10 players per side, you will need three pinnies and 3 balls. You can use any kind of ball. The primary way to play this game is to throw and catch the ball, therefore a nerf ball would work such as a nerf football. You can also use the ball of the sport the athletes play such as a soccer ball, basketball, or lacrosse ball. You can also use a different ball from the sport the team plays as well like a tennis ball.

Give three pinnies to the even number side, and three balls to the odd number side. If you have a ball, you are “safe.” To tag a player which makes them unable to move, touch her with a pinnie that the player holds in her hand. To “unfreeze” a player, throw her a ball. When she catches the ball, she is “unfrozen.” Now, she has the ball and can look around the field to spot a player on her team in trouble (i.e. being chased by an opponent with a pinnie), and throw that player the ball to give her immunity.

Continue reading “How To Be a Good Teammate Game”

Parent Code of Conduct

Parent Code of Conduct

70% of kids drop out of organized sports by age 13. As parents, what we say during the game and especially on the ride home heavily influences how our kids feel about their experience. Are we focusing on having fun versus winning? Are we coaching from the sidelines when we are not actually the coach? Do our kids feel like mistakes are learning opportunities?

I think we’ve all been on the sidelines and witnessed parents yelling at referees or worse. The only way to curb bad behavior is to have the coach set clear expectations of parent expectations. And to enforce this code of conduct? My daughter’s soccer coach would call a mandatory meeting for all parents after a practice every time there was an infraction. This was extremely inconvenient for the parents of kids in carpools. After one such meeting, parents would remind other parents on the team of the rules during games because no one wanted to attend more meetings about the Parent Code of Conduct.

Parent Code of Conduct

Parent Code of Conduct

Setting clear parent expectations at the start of the season goes a long way into creating a positive team atmosphere. As part of your Team Orientation Packet, include a Parent/Athlete Code of Conduct and have both the parents and athlete sign an agreement. This is an opportunity to set clear expectations and goals for the team, both athletes and parents. You might want to start with overall goals such as:

  • Having fun.
  • 100% of kids on the team singing up to play this sport again next season.

I think it’s important for parents to know that girls drop out of sports six times the rate than boys according to the Center for Disease Control, and thus the goal of having fun and continued participation are actually quite ambitious goals. But how do kids define “fun” with regard to sports?

In a 2014 George Washington University study, 9 of 10 kids said “fun” is the main reason they play sports. Out of 81 reasons kids said sports were fun, “winning” ranked as 48. Young girls gave “winning” the lowest ratings.

In the 2014 George Washington University Study, the top six things that kids find the most fun in sports are:

  1. Trying your best.
  2. When the coach treats the player with respect.
  3. Getting playing time.
  4. Playing well together as a team.
  5. Getting along with your teammates.
  6. Exercising and being active.

“Winning” ranked 48th out of 81 factors defining fun in sports by kids. In young girls, “winning” ranked even lower. It’s clear that “having fun” is not related to “winning” in the eyes of the athletes. Parents need to understand that pressure to perform creates a negative environment and is a high contribution factor towards kids quitting sports before high school.

That’s where a Parent Code of Conduct can set expectations and even educate parents on what’s important to you, as the coach.

For more, please get How to Coach Girls book out March 2018.

Handling a Losing Streak

Handling A Losing Streak

Let’s face it: winning doesn’t suck. That being said though, it’s the coach who determines the team’s focus. When my oldest started club volleyball, her team lost every game the entire season. What was amazing, though, was how her coaches made her feel. Because the focus was on development, their coach made them feel like winners because he could see visible improvement from game to game. He told them how proud of them he was and noted specific instances of how the team improved. It turns out, it’s not whether you win or lose, but how the team performs based on the goals the coach sets for the team. Setting goals around team chemistry and development is a more powerful message, both for sport and in life, for the players. The coach has the ability to transcend winning versus losing statistics into something bigger and more inclusive.

Handling A Losing Streak

Handling a Losing Streak

The first place to begin when creating team culture as a coach is to define team goals. What do we want to get out of our season? For me, team goals do not include win/loss record. Instead, my goals are focused on team chemistry. I believe that if there is team work in the form of good team chemistry, the wins will come.

Typically, a volunteer parent coach isn’t being evaluated on their win/loss record.  If team record isn’t being used to evaluate ourselves, what are the other measurements that we are using? Usually volunteer coaches’ priorities are based on if they are creating a healthy environment, and being positive. Continue reading “Handling a Losing Streak”

Coaching Your Own Daughter

Coaching Your Daughter

My husband coached all our kids for soccer in various capacities including head coach of kindergarten soccer, and assistant coach for our oldest’s U13 team where he ran a weekly practice session. It was harder for him to coach girls as they became tweens. He felt that the girls tended to waste time talking amongst themselves, and didn’t seem to take seriously enough. That put pressure on our daughter to be the “good example” which she did not enjoy. On the other hand, my husband felt he was volunteering specifically for her because the team had a coaching crisis. While they worked through their challenges as the season unfolded, it would have been helpful for them to address these issues before they stepped on the pitch.

Coaching Your Daughter

Coaching Your Own Daughter

Coaching your own daughter can be tricky. The best way to handle conflicts that arise when your mom or dad is also your coach I’ve found is to talk about it before the season begins.

Step 1: Accepting Your Parent in the Coaching Role

The immediate reaction of my daughter when she learns that I am volunteering to assistant coach her team is generally not one of enthusiasm. One way to position my role is to let her know that parents are helping out the team in different ways because of their skill sets and that this is my way of contributing. Parents who are good at computer skills are helping out behind the scenes by organizing carpools and snacks, ordering uniforms and sweatshirts, or doing team communications. My daughter probably didn’t realize that other parents help out the team because their roles are not as visible. Once my daughter realized that other parents are also volunteering, and that helping out practices is my strength, she willing to accept me in this role. Continue reading “Coaching Your Own Daughter”

Building a Player’s Confidence

I’ve noticed that every time my daughters’ come into something new, whether it’s a new team or a new sport, there’s a period of adjustment and of finding their place in the pecking order. During this assessment period, they aren’t feeling very confident. They rely on signals from their coach and teammates to relay to them that they are valued and that they are “good.” It’s an uncomfortable place of insecurity, of being judged, and of not having secure relationships with everyone. It doesn’t matter if it’s an individual sport or a team sport, I’ve noticed. For every new beginning, a player needs support to build her confidence.

Building a Player’s Confidence

Building a Player’s Confidence

There are some crucial fundamentals to establish in order to build a player’s confidence. The first step is to the culture that you create. It’s crucial to create a culture of safety. I, as your coach, can’t help you with your confidence level if you are looking over your shoulder thinking that you might be cut. First and foremost, is making every player feel safe.

How do you, as the coach, create this?

Trust is Number 1

It starts with trust and establishing a relationship with each player based on her as a whole person, not just her skills as an athlete. Continue reading “Building a Player’s Confidence”

Keeping It Fun

Keeping It Fun

It’s always the small things that my kids remember about why they loved playing a particular sport or on a particular team. I asked my middle daughter what made her sport teams’ experience fun, and she said it was being with friends. And cake. It really made her happy when birthdays were celebrated after practices or games (whatever was closest to the girl’s actual birthday), and the parent supplied cupcakes. It’s easy to lose sight that the reason why my child is doing this sport is that it’s fun and the minute it stops being fun, she will move on to something else.

Keeping It Fun

Keeping It Fun

Coaches are the first line of defense to make sure the sport is fun for the players. We as coaches are driving some of the pressure in sport. Kids are feeling the pressure … to be number one, and to be compared through measurements and stats.

We have to make sure that our athletes aren’t feeling the pressure to be number one, to get that scholarship, to have an undefeated season. That’s just too much pressure. Continue reading “Keeping It Fun”

Body Image, Puberty and Sports

Body Image Puberty and Sports

Navigating body image as girls go through puberty is challenging. Add in sports and there is an added level of complexity. On the one hand, sports teach girls that their bodies are to be celebrated for what it can do; being strong and capable. On the other hand, media informs girls that they are being evaluated solely on their appearance. As a parent, this drama plays out in small ways – is there an after-game team snack and does it have to be “healthy?” Are matchups with size differences – “that team is so huge” — seen as intimidating or “unfair?”

I was that mom. My middle daughter who played a lot of soccer was usually the smallest kid on the field. A matchup with a girl much taller seemed like a doomed proposition. Team snacks were also a minefield had to be carefully considered for parental approval, and I usually provided multiple options just to be safe. But this was the tip of the iceberg.

My oldest daughter played town soccer for a volunteer dad coach who also happened to teach at one of our local middle schools. My daughter was an awkward phase of puberty – she would gain weight first and stay the same height for a long time, before shooting up. She also had knee problems from tight hamstrings and puberty and often couldn’t participate from being in pain. Her coach was not sympathetic, and called her out in front of her teammates for being lazy and unfit. This ended up being the last year she played soccer.

Body Image Puberty and Sports

Body Image, Puberty and Sports

Even a decade ago, I noticed that young girls in the age range of eleven and twelve, weren’t thinking about their bodies. But now puberty is happening at a younger age. There’s also a trend in more form fitting soccer uniforms. Even for youth players like U12 girls, the kits are more narrow and it makes girls more conscious of body image. One consequence of these trends is that some young girls will restrict their eating, and that’s where the coach can come in and be a positive influence.

We, as coaches, have to be careful how we describe girls’ bodies. “Girls in the back are HUGE.” Nobody wants to be that huge girl. Continue reading “Body Image, Puberty and Sports”

Positive Reinforcement is Critical

female players can't be in the unknown

My daughter’s club volleyball coach is an amazing coach. He would thank players for running for an out of bound ball that they had no hope of getting to. He’s say, “Thank you so much for running after that ball.” And they would walk through fire for him. I asked him walking over to the team dinner that night if he had always coached this way. He said that he used to be the coach that was the hardest on the most promising player, but he learned that you can’t coach girls that way.

female players can't be in the unknown

Positive Reinforcement is Critical

Girls want to be pushed but they need some positive reinforcement. They have to feel that when you’re pushing them, you still believe in them. Which means that you can’t tell them at the end of practice; they need a small amount of positive feedback during practice. Continue reading “Positive Reinforcement is Critical”