“For teachers, as for students, the most effective evaluation comes from someone who sits beside us and helps us grow.” Carol Ann Tomlinson
A quality coaching evaluation process is needed to support a values-driven, education-based high school sports culture. For coaches and administrators interested in anything from freshening up your evaluation program to undergoing a complete coaching assessment overhaul, this blog post will take a look at different ways to help interscholastic coaches meet your department’s transformational goals.
There are many important reasons for employing a thoughtful evaluation system. Striving for continuous improvement is a fundamental way to define success and a great coaching evaluation program can lift an athletics department. Furthermore, our coaches deserve an honest, quality, annual evaluation that documents both aspects to celebrate and areas to work toward.
Developing a system that achieves your school’s goals is the key to the evaluation system’s success. It is crucial you have an assessment model that meets your programs’ goals and has your staff’s support. Similar to the influence of a great coach, when implemented properly evaluation has the power to assist transformational change—it does not need to be a transactional exchange. A new InSideOut AD quickly identified the transformational power of coaches evaluations after attending a year of InSideOut cohort meetings. Irondale (New Brighton, Minn.) AD Chris Fink set out to evaluate his staff in a more meaningful way. Fink devised an evaluation tool that uses key areas such as Mission and Vision, Matching Actions with Intentions, and Coaching Skills and Abilities. Each area is assessed and framed with examples as “Transactional Coaching” or “Transformational Coaching.” In short, coaches are assessed on whether their methods, words, and behaviors are transformational or transactional. It is a clever way of organizing what an ISOI approach is all about—providing transformational experiences for its participants.
At St. Anthony Village High School, the athletic department’s coaches were partners developing the coaching evaluation system in use. This collaborative method ensured two important outcomes: 1.) staff buy-in, and 2.) the areas that our school values would be measured by the new assessment tool. Whether you are creating your own evaluation program or making updates to your current system, here are some ideas to consider:
- Invite all your head coaching staff and key assistants to take part. In the end, everyone may not be able to help, however, the key is to provide the opportunity. If your response rate is too great (a good problem), you may need to limit how many are on your committee. A final committee of 10 worked well for our school.
- If possible, include key stakeholders, such as your athletic department assistant(s) and principal.
- Meet over lunch so you limit the amount of time teachers are away from the classroom. With meetings around an hour to an hour-and-a-half, this reduces costs related to substitute teachers and does not extend coaches’ already busy days.
- If possible, pay for lunch. Pizza or sandwiches were relatively inexpensive, yet greatly appreciated.
- A new or revised evaluation system is a great year-long goal. Invite coaches to participate on the committee over the summer or at the start of the year. Your back-to-school department meeting would be a good time to invite staff and answer questions.
- Meeting once a month is about right. Our group met through January for a total of four meetings.
- Pilot your new evaluation system with spring coaches who are willing to volunteer and help work out any last kinks.
- Toward the end of the spring, distribute the final evaluation system to be fully implemented the following school year.
- Do your pre-work. Gather other evaluation systems for the group to consider and review. This is a great summer project. Start collecting different assessment tools from colleagues and at conferences.
- Be sure to clearly communicate your goals and the intended process ahead of time. Make sure staff knows you aim to collaboratively build a transformational assessment tool designed to assist coaches improve and that coaches will play a significant role in the evaluation’s development.
- When messaging with your staff, be clear with your vision. I sent emails to the committee to set the stage and help set expectations. Here’s an example from an email to our staff as we prepared for the first meeting, “It is my belief we should evaluate what is expected of our staff. In other words, at the end of the day, what do we value most and what is our purpose (sprinkle in some goals, too)?”
As an educational-leader, there are many ways to organize and run a meeting based on your style and the group you are working with. We framed our first meeting agenda around these questions: What do we value? What benchmarks capture what we value? Were there ideas from other sources that were liked or not liked? What kind of system is best to match values with performance? From this foundation, our group was able to gather ideas that set the stage for building a transformational coaching evaluation system that received a seal of approval from our coaches.
Over the next meetings, brainstorming moved from draft ideas, and then to categorical themes which represent what we value and what these values look like in action. The final product became the confluence of purpose and a coach’s job description. Drafts were reviewed by a group of assistant coaches, an athletics and activities advisory committee, and then a final draft was presented to our coaches before a review by our school board and being fully implemented. The themes represented in the final draft were: Philosophy, Student Experiences, Promoting Growth, Communication, Coach as a Leader, and Coach as a Manager. In each theme, a strong transformational coaching presence can be felt. For example:
The 3D coaching pyramid, coaches purpose statement, and Ehrmann’s Four Questions are all part of the Philosophy theme, e.g. “Coach has a clear understanding and is able to articulate 1. Why s/he coaches, 2. Why s/he coaches the way s/he does, 3. How it feels to be coaches by her / him, 4. How s/he defines success.”
Within the student experience, the team environment and student feedback are explored. “Purposefully creates opportunities for time together or builds special traditions as a team away from practice/competition.”
Under promoting growth, coaches professional development is delved into. The evaluation also looks at how the coach promotes student growth, e.g. “Promotes and affirms whole-person perspective, understanding “student” is first and “athlete” is second.”
Coach as a Leader
Coach as a leader investigates a number of different areas including expert coaching, captains, and sportsmanship. “Coach models appropriate treatment of officials, understand the rules of the sport, displays model sportsmanship through the use of verbal and body language, and actively communicates the importance of sportsmanship to team and assistant coaches.”
Within an InSideOut culture, the goal is to be transformational in all we do. Evaluation does not need to be any different. The process of collaboratively developing a coaching evaluation tool with our coaches has been one of the most rewarding professional highlights of my career. If anyone would like more information on the process we used at St. Anthony Village High School, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be very happy to share any ideas that could help you and your programs.