Review, Research, Re-Focus, Recruit, Re-Connect, Rejuvenate
While all of us have many meetings and conversations with our players about what they can do to recover and prepare for the following season, it’s just as important for coaches to find some time to reflect and re-focus as well.
For me that preparation starts in late spring/early summer after our season ends. Everyone has their own self-review process once their season ends, but these are the different stages of my post-season.
For me, the toughest time of year is the week or two after the season ends. Regardless of how successful the season was or whether we met our season goals, I miss being around the team and seeing them daily. Part of our team culture revolves around creating and being a family, so saying goodbye to one another as the season and school year come to an end is a sad time of year. It’s amazing how much great energy college athletes have and that enthusiasm always impacts our coaching staff positively and helps keep us young!
However, this is also the best time to reflect on the season and determine what went well and what needs improvement. We work hard to try and develop a game plan to maintain our team strengths and improve moving forward. We objectively evaluate performance through video and statistical evaluations from the season and, although it’s more challenging, we also work to determine if any subjective factors may have had a positive or negative influence on our team’s performance. Individual player meetings are extremely valuable as we try and learn more about the season from the player’s perspective. This insight allows us to constantly evolve and analyze our team culture to identify anything we’d like to uphold or any changes we want to make once the team returns to campus in the fall.
When our season ends, I start to research other teams and I watch a lot of college playoff games (Division I, II and II) through the IWLCA online video exchange. This gives me a chance to watch and learn different styles of play (offensively and defensively) and pick up any trends or tendencies that these successful teams demonstrate. As a coach at the Division III level, it also gives me a chance to see how strategies for new rules are implemented. This year was especially important, as we will be adding the 90-second possession clock in Division III in 2018. I can’t wait to coach with that rule in place!
Once we complete our review process and the NCAA playoff games are over, we shift gears and develop a game plan for next year. This involves two primary areas. First, we reinforce and/or tweak the important values and tenets of our program. We re-emphasize team expectations and team philosophies and communicate those with the team. Next, we make plans to introduce new ideologies or playing philosophies that can enhance our returning group of players.
This is very likely the one area that every coach spends most of their time on. As a result, it often becomes a tedious task during the nicest time of the year. However, I think that recruiting is a ton of fun – while we’re not on a lake or at the beach, we are in the sun (usually!) and we are watching kids play this great game that we all love.
More importantly, besides what we do on the field coaching our teams, this is the one part of our job that can directly impact the future success of your program. I love that! There are so many great kids who are playing this game and I really enjoy the challenge of putting together the puzzle pieces to round out a recruiting class.
Summer provides an opportunity to catch up with great coaching friends and re-hash the season. As a more experienced coach, I am beginning to value my coaching friendships more and more. I love chatting about my team’s season and sharing opinions with my colleagues about coaching ideas and philosophies, rule changes and hot topics in recruiting. I also look forward to feedback from my closest colleagues about my own team, in the hopes that it will help me assess and evaluate our strengths and weaknesses from a different perspective.
This might be the most important thing – take a break, be with family, go on vacation, have a stay-cation. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do, but you must find a way to do something that takes you away from the responsibilities of the job to give yourself a chance to rejuvenate.
I firmly believe that to be our best during the school year and in-season you should feel fresh and ready to go. At times, coaching can feel like an all-consuming 24/7 job and while we need to be able to meet the demands of our job, we also should take a break. Feeling and acting like a normal human being is an important piece in preventing burnout and staying enthusiastic about a job that we love.
Have a great summer and happy relaxing!