Preparing for the Season

Posted: February 2, 2011 in Coaching Philosophy, Psychology, Team Management
Tags: , , , , ,

Coaching is a tireless job.  Preparations seem to never stop for the upcoming seasons.  At the collegiate level we are constantly recruiting and preparing for future seasons that we might not even have completed schedules for.

But on a more practical level “preseason” begins with my post season player meetings.  I actually just got done with my last player meeting today, and it’s an evolving process for me.

How do you evaluate the effectiveness of a season?  How are players appropriately debriefed?  How do you set to the tone for the new and upcoming season?

Here is the evolution I’ve personally taken with player evaluations…

2002- As an assistant coach I sat in on some of the post-season player evaluations we did.  Mostly the head coach pointed out to the players what he saw from them and opened it up for the players to vent about their season.

2005- My first year as a head coach, I debriefed my players and asked them to set three goals for themselves related to soccer for the upcoming competitive season.

2006- I started using a form I stole from a fellow coach (with permission).  The players had to take the form home and have it filled out when they returned for their post-season meeting.  The form covered several areas for short term (in college August of the upcoming year), midrange goals (approx. 3 years), and long term goals (6-10 years).  The goals were supposed to be wholistic, not just related to soccer.   The players are asked to set goals academically, athletically, and basic goals they want to see achieved in their lives.

Present Day- I still use an updated version of this form.  I’ve found that it does a great job of tackling several things.

  • Goals need to have a time limitation!  What’s the point of having a goal without having a deadline?  So we’ve established that short term goals are set to be achieved by the beginning of the upcoming season (approx. mid-August).  Midrange goals I’ve established as the time table they have until they graduate with their bachelors’ degrees (I think it’s important for college students to think about that last year and what they want to achieve by the end of the collegiate career).  And long term we’ve left as 6-10 years down the road.
  • Goals need to be wholistic.  I like that our players set goals for academics and life.  Some players set GPA goals, deciding majors, spiritual goals, and relationship goals.  This shows our players that we care more about them as a whole person rather than just an athlete.  And, it helps the athletes prioritize soccer in the big picture of their lives.
  • Identify obstacles to achieving success!  At the beginning of each season we try to help our athletes identify what the other teams are going to do to stop our attacks, or to break down our defensive shape, and why not in goal setting.  The biggest challenge I’ve noticed in goal setting for soccer players is they meet a challenge and don’t know how to overcome it so they give up.  Identifying that we will have obstacles to success and establishing a game plan to overcome is a great psychological victory!
  • Goals need to be written and shared!  It’s too easy to give up on our goals when we don’t put them down on paper and share them with our teammates.  There’s no accountability if they’re in our head.  Each of my players turns a goal setting form into me, and I photocopy it and give them a copy to leave in their lockers.  For our individual meetings in August I pull these sheets back out and confront the players with them.

These are just a couple things I have learned about goal setting with our players.  After we have individual meetings with the team we sit down as a community and set goals for the upcoming season as a unit nine months in advance.

This is important to put all of our off-season work into perspective.

How about you?  What do you do for goal setting with your team?  I’d also be very interested to hear from club coaches on how you tackle this with your teams.  I coach a club team in the off-season and I find it very challenging to establish goals.

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Comments
  1. val says:

    I’ve done year-end reviews for my players, and in contrast to what you are describing, they are for my players as opposed to with my players. I have a form that I got from Junior Soccer Coaching that I complete and send to each parent just so they can get an idea of what I think their progress was. I did that for two seasons and never got a single comment of feedback from parents, so the last year (of the three I had the team) I dropped it. Just too much work. I guess what you are describing is more than I want to do. I am naturally a socratic teacher so I do get a lot of player input in general throughout the course of the season and we talk alot, but I wouldn’t want to be as in-depth as you are because I know if I’m in a one-one situation with a player, I come on way too intense. I need to lighten up, and sitting my girls down with their own set of goals would be a recipe for disaster.

    • Our club requires coaches to use a program called Zoom Reports, and they want us to leave a mid-season and end of the year evaluation. But I don’t think it’s really looked at by our players, just the parents. Interesting to hear that your parents weren’t even interested in them. I always thought this was the main audience for these, but if they aren’t than why are we doing them?

      At the college level I think it’s positive to have players do a self evaluation and to sit down with the coaching staff. But this is a situation that I have more time to be intentional about what I say and write down. I also think it helps our players motivation.

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