Setting Goals and Measuring Performance for Youth Athletics
Why do we track youth athletic statistics? Most often because players and parents love to see how they are doing. Unfortunately, we are accustomed by our interactions with professional sports to track the end results – who scored, who assisted, who was penalized, etc. But the real value comes in tracking what leads up to the end results. If players are watching and thinking about the scoreboard, then they are likely to be scored upon because they aren’t paying attention to the basics of the game. UCLA Basketball Coach, John Wooden, used to tell his players, “Focus on what I’m teaching. Don’t focus on the score.”1
A few years ago as I helped coach a youth lacrosse game, I gave a point to any player who I saw putting in an extra bit of hustle – “Hustle Points” as I referred to them. Interestingly enough, one player who was usually unmotivated and seemed to be on the team because of a parental mandate, came off the field, sought me out on the sidelines, and asked how many Hustle Points he had gotten that shift. I thought that if a simple statistic like Hustle Points could motivate a player like him, then there must be value for all players in tracking similar aspects of play.
I tried the same thing in ice hockey. Players were asking in between periods how many Hustle Points the team had that last period. It truly motivated all of the players to do their best. It was a way for all of them, not just the most gifted players, to “score”. It takes a team to score but usually only the player achieving the score gets the recognition. Players who were good at defense finally were able to share some of the spotlight. Overall, the performance of the team as a whole improved.
Over the course of my first ten years of coaching youth sports (ice hockey, lacrosse, baseball, and soccer), I saw no instances where players were given constructive, written feedback. The volunteer coaches just didn’t have the time to devote to such coaching techniques. So the feedback was limited to the end results. Instances where players were being evaluated on specific skills (throwing, shooting, skating backwards, etc.) were limited to tryouts. Unfortunately, the tryout data was never shared with the players. It was seen only by the coaches and used for the sole purpose of selecting teams. Players would undoubtedly love to see that data to understand the motivation behind their placement and what they should work on to improve as a player. But to avoid an unending quagmire of having to justify placement decisions, the data would be kept confidential.
So why not hold mock tryouts or skills sessions periodically throughout the season after which the data is actually shared with the players? One reason is that there are technical barriers that burden the coaches. One would think that a simple spreadsheet could be used to handle the task. But limitations of a spreadsheet quickly come into play. An application that
- allows data to be shared with only a single player or all players on the team,
- allows data to be confidentially and securely disseminated via a web site,
- provides a means for all coaches to submit their inputs on players by way of a customized coaching survey,
- provides a means for a player’s rank on a team, based on a coaching survey, to be integrated with evaluation results from a tryout or skills session,
- can compare how a player performed during the last two skills session versus the first two (i.e., what’s improving and what continues to need improvement),
- can compare how a player is performing compared to her/his teammates (by name or simply by team rank for a particular skill),
- can compare how a player is performing compared to her/his peers (all players in the same sport who have the same birth year),
- allows links to video clips to be associated with the evaluation data,
is an application that far exceeds the benefits of a simple spreadsheet that a coach can create on their own.
These are the reasons why HelpSetGoals was developed. It is a website that enables coaches with the capabilities described above. You decide what is best for your players to focus on. HelpSetGoals provides a platform for your ideas to be turned into valuable lessons for your players. Whether you are trying to conduct fair tryouts, teach players on your team skills essential to your sport, or offer private training sessions that include valuable written and visual feedback, HelpSetGoals is the answer.
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1 – “Wooden on Leadership” by John Wooden, ebook location 1789-90.