Evaluating Staff

Managing Your Program: Evaluating Staff – Creating an Environment For Success

by: Keith Grabowski

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The season ends, equipment is collected, banquets are planned, and goals are set with the returning players. It’s important to not lose sight of one very important component in your program – the coaching staff. The team’s success is very closely tied to the coaches who create the environment that nurtures that success, yet often, the staff is the last component attended to in the transition  from one season to the next. 

Years ago, former Navy Commander and author of It’s Your Ship, Mike Abrashoff delivered a great message at the AFCA Convention. In a nutshell, Abrashoff created an environment that took his ship, the SS Benfold, from one of the worst performing vessels in the Navy to the best. His story of leadership and empowerment of his people is inspiring. He set his organization up to be one of learning and reaching potential. It also points out how important leadership is in creating an environment in which people can rise to the level which they aspire.

This off season, don’t forget to do that with your staff.  Be sure to create a situation in which they are able to grow and learn, and where their success personally is an important part of the development of your program. Have meaningful conversations not just about the team, but about what they want from their involvement in the program and for their future as a coach. Helping people get what they want will help the organization get what it wants.

One way of organizing this is to have an exit interview for the season. Use some standard questions to get to the heart of what can help the organization and individuals improve for the future. To do this, use the questions that are asked of the coach in an interview for the job, and focus them on what he learned this season that enforced his beliefs and principles, or what he learned that could help improve those beliefs and principles. The season is so dynamic that we may neglect learning from the little things that help or hurt the team’s success. Reviewing the season in this way helps to highlight the aspects which are positive and should be reinforced, as well as pointing out areas where improvement is needed and uncovering the cause of failures.

Here are questions used when first interviewing the coach followed by the post-season question.

What’s your Philosophy of Coaching? – What did you learn this year that helped further define your philosophy of coaching?

What’s your discipline philosophy? – How did discipline of this year’s team affect your beliefs on how to handle discipline? What can we do in the future to have a more disciplined team?

How do you evaluate your players? – Did you develop any new techniques or understanding of how to evaluate players, give them feedback, and institute changes that improve performance?

How do you build pride within your unit? – What did you do to create ownership and pride in this year’s team, and how can you use what you learned to improve pride in the future?

What is your philosophy of winning? – How did the results of this season reflect your beliefs on winning?  Did anything cause you to alter your beliefs?

How much time do you put in to prepare for the next season? – What would you like your role to be either next season if possible or in the future, and what must you do to fulfill that role successfully? How do you plan to develop yourself as a coach?

How do you prepare your players for each opponent? – How did you do in preparing your players? Are there aspects of preparation you want to learn more about, or is there technology available that can help you prepare?

What do you do to build a relationship with your players off the field? – What relationships did you build with the players this year and how did you do that?  Were there any relationships you were disappointed in, and how can you improve them? What relationships are strongest with next year’s players? Which are the weakest? How do you plan to have a strong relationship with the players you lead?

How do you motivate your players? – In terms of motivation, did you feel you got the most out of your players?  What did you learn about the methods you used, and how does that work into your motivation plan for the future?

What do you do to prepare for each practice? – What was successful in planning for each practice? How could you have done a better job when you felt we didn’t have a good practice? Are there things we can do as a staff to have better practices?

The questions below are in the interview process and asked in the same format in the post season exit interview:

What clinics will you attend this offseason? What topics do you want to learn more about?

What will you do to improve yourself as a coach/improve your knowledge of the game?

What off-field responsibilities are you strongest in? What roles can you fulfill off the field that can help the team?

What challenges do we face in building a successful football program? In your opinion, how do we meet those challenges?

What are you long term goals as a coach? What would you like to happen in your coaching career? What can I help you with as a head coach?

It’s good to ask your coaches to write their responses to these questions for you to keep on file and track how the coach is developing. Over time, the coach will be able to see his progress as a coach in both his method and strategies as well as his knowledge of the game. 

It’s easy to neglect the needs of a staff. They are adults and the kids in your program are much needier. However, tending to what your coaches need both professionally and personally is critical to the future of your program. People want to be valued and feel that they influence the  success of the program.  Empowering them to grow and learn as well as work toward their own goals is the way to keep a staff together. The consistency of a program is very reliant on the consistency of a staff. This process allows you to discuss how your coaches are succeeding as well as how they can improve. The overall result, if followed through with, will be an environment in which players are growing and learning because the staff is doing the same.