For most coaches outside the spring sports, it’s not too early to start planning for the “off” season. While coaching is now a year-round endeavor, the spring and summer months offer an opportunity to step away from the day-to-day demands of the job. Without the daily grind of practices and competitions, coaches can see the bigger picture of what their program needs as well as dedicate the time needed to address issues that can be put on a back-burner during the season.
In an article on the USA Basketball website, Sue Phillips, Girls’ Basketball Head Coach at Archbishop High School in Sacramento, Calif., explains how she uses the offseason to improve. In addition to working with players on skill development, this means investing in coaching development efforts.
She spends time each summer meeting with coaches around the country, discussing both the Xs and Os and program philosophy, taking close notes on drills she likes and catch word phrases that reinforce the fundamentals she stresses. She also strives to challenge herself as a coach by working at camps and speaking at coaching clinics. “To hone your craft as a coach, one must be a teacher and a student all at the same time,” she says.
Writing for the NFHS website, Kyle Elmendorf, a football and girls’ basketball coach at Orchard Farm High School in St. Charles, Mo., stresses the importance of giving athletes time away from your sport and from you as a coach. He explains that players can easily become burned out if they’re expected to continue playing a sport year round. Giving them some time away can rekindle their love for their sport.
He also says that it can be beneficial for your athletes to play for other coaches, whether it’s in your sport or others. Learning how to lead other teams can only make athletes better and hearing from different voices during the offseason should make a player more receptive to your messages once your season starts.
He recommends staying involved with the offseason activity however. “As coaches we receive a ton of mail,” he says. “A good practice would be to create a file and save all of the information you receive on upcoming camps and skill training sessions outside of your program. Do some research and develop a relationship with a coach or trainer that you trust. The more voices with similar philosophies the better.”
While most coaches will be evaluated by an administrator or head coach following the season, a self-evaluation can also be a great help in determining where you are as a coach and where you want to go. A website for field hockey coaches offers an easy-to-follow method for conducting a self-evaluation.
They suggest compiling a list of the top 10 to 15 behaviors and qualities of a good coach, such as “Listening to players.” Then turn those into statements you can use to assess whether you are showing these qualities, such “I listen to my players.” Choose a ranking scale, such as 0-5 or 1-10 and then rank your performance in regards to those statements.
If you’re honest with yourself, the results can show the areas you feel you need the most improvement as well as those you are doing well in. This can give you a guide to where you should focus your coaching development efforts. It can also be helpful to ask a mentor or trusted colleague to evaluate you using the same form to see if your perceptions match reality.
Although it’s important to give athletes some time away from your sport during the offseason, this doesn’t mean disconnecting from them completely. As an article on the Dr. Dish website explains, regular communication should be a part of your offseason plan, even if your players are playing for other teams or in other sports.
This can be done through formal team meetings a couple of times each month or through more informal channels, such as short conversations with players. Formal meeting are most effective at making sure all players know what your plans are for the offseason as well as any important events or deadlines. Informal conversations are great for learning more about the person behind the player and establishing stronger bonds before going into the competitive season.