Clubs and coaches providing post-season player evaluations is a trend that has caught on in the last few years. The best clubs will even provide a mid-season evaluation or report to allow players time to work on specific skills before the end of the season.
95% of the time, providing these evaluations is a waste of time, energy, and resources for youth clubs. In most cases, the players don’t even read them, and if they do, they read them once and never look at them again. They certainly don’t act on the limited information provided and work on improving their game.
I know this doesn’t apply to every individual club, team, and certainly not every player; however, for the VAST majority of clubs (yes, even top “competitive” or “travel” clubs), this rings true. Players simply don’t pay attention to, or care about, their evaluations.
Perhaps it’s a cultural thing with our country overall, or perhaps it’s individual club and organizational culture. Regardless of the reason, the reality of youth soccer in the United States is that most of our players don’t care about receiving evaluations. Yet most clubs still provide them.
The reality that players don’t really care about evaluations is no secret. The truth – that no one seems to want to admit – is that player evaluations are not for the kids. They are for the parents. Player evaluations have become a gimmick that clubs use to show parents how great of a job the coaches are doing, as opposed to being an actual tool that is used for player development.
On top of the fact that these evaluations are just a display for parents, nearly every coach I’ve met hates doing them. Writing evaluations is time consuming and monotonous. The fact that coaches know that players will likely read them once and never act on them makes the task incredibly discouraging.
Furthermore, when coaches hate doing them, they end up doing an uninspired and mediocre job. They write just the minimum required information to make the parents happy. This results in feedback that is not detailed enough to help kids who are actually interested, and not inspiring enough to actually motivate kids who might be on the fence about doing extra work.
The Right Way to Give Feedback
It is important for players to get feedback and to know where they stand in terms of their development. It is the coach’s job to give this feedback every single day in practice and games. Even without an evaluation, players should already know where they stand and what they need to improve. We don’t need to waste our time filling out formal evaluations to get feedback to players. In fact, if there is something on an evaluation that a player or parent is learning for the first time, then the coach is not doing his/her job.
On the other hand, players who truly care about their own development and want to know how they can do extra work to improve will ask for additional feedback. Therefore, for a player who truly is taking ownership of their development and growth, it may not be a waste of time to do a player evaluation.
Here is what I recommend to clubs in lieu of wasting their time and resources doing an evaluation for every player:
Provide an evaluation only if a player asks for one (notice that I said player, not parent).
Individual Development Plans
An individual development plan is not a synonym for player evaluation. It requires a lot more time and many more meetings, consisting of an actual action plan for a player to follow. Some clubs do player evaluations and call them individual development plans, but not many clubs actually implement these plans – they just provide highlights of what needs to be improved.
An individual development plan requires multiple one-on-one meetings with each player to learn about their goals, co-identify the player’s needs, and co-create an action plan for improvement. Once the plan is created, coaches need to follow up regularly to help track progress, assist in the improvement process, and adjust the plan if necessary. Ultimately, an individual development plan is a tool to teach players the progress of self-reflection and self-improvement.
If a club is organized, has the right resources, and has the right people who are willing and able to put in the work, these plans can certainly be implemented. However, for those of us coaching 3 or 4 teams at a time, it is virtually impossible to develop true individual development plans for every player. I suggest being honest about what is most important to your organization and what you can commit to doing, then decide accordingly. Don’t pretend to do these, then not follow through.
Have players take some time to fill out an evaluation of themselves. This is a great tool to help them learn to self-assess and realize what they need to improve. It also: takes the risk of offending parents out of our hands, helps us learn about our players’ self-awareness and understanding of learning outcomes, more meaningfully conveys to players their needs, is less of a time commitment for us as coaches.
Make the Most of Limited Time
Player evaluations are a fine idea in theory, but if they are not actually going to contribute to a player’s development, we shouldn’t waste our time. Think of all the meaningful, useful things we could be doing to improve the player experience instead of filling out hours and hours of paperwork…
We all have limited time, so we should always be asking: “What’s the best use of my time right now?” Chances are, filling out paperwork that’s meaningless to our players is not the answer.