Interview by Liz Hanson, Client Director – Athlete Assessments

As a sports coach, when you think about your Season Performance Review or Annual Performance Appraisal do you start air-punching with excitement or do you shake your head with dread or worse, do you ask What Performance Review? Likely somewhere in between? This article is all about helping you get closer to the excited air-punching end of the spectrum when it comes to your Performance Review or Appraisal with our top seven tips for Sports Coaches.

(You might also be interested in our article for Sporting Organizations titled Coach Performance Reviews – what the best practice sporting organizations get right.)

One thing is for sure, you can’t rely on anyone else for a successful Performance Review.  In the end, you as the coach and person being reviewed, have the biggest impact on the results.  Now, that sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many coaches, even the top ones, do as much as possible to avoid the experience, do a rushed job at the last minute or see it as ‘necessary paperwork’ and don’t give it the attention and focus it deserves.
As coaches, we are continuously looking to improve our athletes’ performance.  As critical role models in our athletes’ lives, we are to be doing the same for ourselves.  Performance reviews, are one of the most critical performance enhancing processes to go through.  It is an opportunity to review and reward what is working well, and to create goals on what can be improved.

As you already know, (and what we’ve also written about numerous times), coaches are the most critical people involved in any sports club or program.  In reality, most sporting organizations exist to promote and develop teams to win their competition and/or provide the community with inspiration and opportunity to participate and enjoy their sport, with all the added benefits to good health and happy people.  Whether it be for participation or winning championships, the success of achieving these outcomes is primarily due to the people involved and especially to vital contributors such as coaches.

For sporting organizations, they not only need to ensure they are hiring the best people to take pivotal roles such as the head coach or development coach positions, but they also need to ensure they are looking after them, assisting them to develop and providing them with feedback on their performance.  But that isn’t always the case and this aspect of your coaching career is too important to leave to chance or in someone else’s hands.

Here are our top seven must do’s for Coaches when it comes to their Performance Reviews.

1. Know the ‘System’ – make sure you are fully aware of the Performance Review process and if one doesn’t exist, create it yourself.

Just like sport, before you can excel at something, you’ve got to know what it is you need to do well.  Take a similar approach to your Performance Review.  Find out everything about the process, including:

  • Timeline – find out all you can about the timing of your Performance Review.  For example, the formal meeting time; any prior submissions required; how long, where, when and whose involved in the formal meeting.
  • The Paperwork – what are the formal written submissions required.  Your coach employment contract and role description is the critical starting place.  Is there a standardized performance appraisal form that you need to complete and is there a separate one that the person/people you report to need to complete?
  • Feedback from others who have been through the process previously.  Or if you’ve been through this a number of times, spend time considering what went well in previous experiences and what areas you’d like to see improved, or that would benefit you if they were improved.
  • Have an informal chat with those involved with your review and also ask those who work for and with you for their informal feedback on how they see you’ve performed over the season or year.
  • If your sporting organization is large enough to have a Human Resources department, ensure to connect with the most senior person available to take you through their advice and suggestions when it comes to your Performance Review.  HR executives love proactive people who are interested in processes they are involved in such as this!  

If there isn’t a Performance Review process within your sporting organization, create one.  It is much easier than you may think and can be as simple as ensuring you have:

  • A role description that accurately reflects what you do,
  • A list of performance measures that details what you believe you should be judged on,
  • Your written response against each of the performance measures as to how you’ve achieved during the season or year, your goals for the next period and any development you’d like to focus on; and
  • Set up a meeting with the people you report to, to go over your review.  Ideally, they will also be involved prior to the formal meeting by way of you providing them with this information in advance.

You might find it useful to share our article written specifically for Sporting Organizations titled Coach Performance Reviews – what the best practice sporting organizations get right.

2. Make sure your Performance Review ISN’T only about the scoreboard.

It is very easy (but never an accurate measure of entire performance) to judge a coach purely by the scoreboard, but this is often the case.  Just pick up a newspaper and the headline usually provides a great example of this.  Often when a team or athlete does well, the team and athlete are congratulated and when they don’t do well, the coach is blamed.  A short-term and single-focus on the scoreboard can be as dangerous as it is in business to be chasing quarterly income goals at the detriment of the long-term financial success of the company.  It may actually do worse in the longer run and provide an inaccurate reflection of what is being achieved.  There always needs to be a balance.

At Athlete Assessments we understand that there is more to a Coach’s Performance than the Scoreboard alone. Find out More about our Performance Review Services now.

Making sure your performance isn’t only measured against the win-loss record is best dealt with in the pre-season or when your employment contract and performance measures are being agreed.  We recommend taking a more holistic approach to your athletic program to include areas such as leadership, athlete skill development, development of your staff and coaching team, depth in your squad, team dynamics, management of support staff, retention of key players and staff and loyalty within your program.

Ask us to send you our example of a coach performance review document for some ideas Contact US.

3. Get Feedback and Input from your Athletes.

Getting feedback from your athletes may or may not be a formal part of your performance review.  Whether it is or not, doesn’t matter as it should be something very important to you.  Any result achieved by your team or squad is directly created through your athletes.  And the biggest impact on your athletes is, and should be, you as their coach.

While a little challenging for some (which is completely normal), it is extremely useful to gain feedback from your athletes as to how you are doing as their coach.  Firstly, they are able to provide you with information about what works best for them and further opens the communication lines for them to help you coach them.  And you may actually find that you are doing a much better job than you give yourself credit for!

Importantly, they can share with you insights, ideas and strategies that you might not have identified yourself.  Now, of course not all of your athletes will have this ability, but the mere act of asking for their feedback can have additional benefit in your coach-athlete relationship.  It sends them a strong message that you value their opinions and input and will build their engagement and loyalty to you program even further.

Also, your athletes will likely have a different perspective and perception of your coaching.  Your perception of yourself is your personal point of view of how you prefer to behave in your sporting environment. It is possible, the behaviors you are displaying are interpreted differently by others, as only you know what your own thoughts and intentions behind those behaviors are.  It is therefore highly useful for you to understand how others see you.

Many of our clients who use the CoachDISC profile, also access the assessment’s ability to include a 360 degree review. Effectively, you can invite others (we call them ‘observers’ and they can include other coaches, management, senior athletes, support staff etc) to give you feedback as to how they see you perform your role. This is an automated service, included within the CoachDISC profile that sends email invitations to those selected to give feedback and automatically collates their responses into the CoachDISC Profile Report. This is also available for non-coaching staff with the ManagerDISC profile. Please Contact Us if you’d like more information about this.

4. Work on your Performance Review all year.

Now that sounds like a lot of work and I can hear the groans already.  But stay with me on this one.  It can be as simple as a piece of paper in the top draw of your desk that you add on-going examples of achieving and performing your role and performance goals.  Some of this will be purely anecdotes and others hard facts, but it is much easier to keep a running list than to sit down at the end of the year or season and try to remember all the great things you achieved that weren’t statistics or scoreboard results.  Or, keep all the ‘good news’ newspaper articles that are about you and the team – it will be as simple as cutting them out and putting them with your list or in a folder.

You can rest assured, there are always more than ample statistics on your team’s results that you will be judged on, so find a way to accurately keep account of all the other areas that build on your Performance Review and reflect the role you do as a holistic coach and role model to your team or squad, your sporting organization and the community.

Be conscious that often people mis-remember history based on how things turned out.  So whether you won the championship or were the wooden-spooners, yours (and others’) recollection of the entire season may be tampered by the season end result.  By keeping a list during the season you’ll have a great starting place when preparing for your performance review.  Also, don’t be shy about sharing some of the anecdotes or personal examples from throughout the year.  This may include when you supported a fellow coach through a difficult personal time or helped one of your athletes get through their exams.  They won’t be the most crucial parts of your review, but help demonstrate all that you do in your role.

So, please keep a running list of your achievements throughout the year, you’ll be so glad you did when it comes time to prepare for your formal performance review.
It is also an excellent habit to get into to read over your performance part of your employment contract or performance measures of your role description on a regular basis.  It can be as little as five minutes and may be as simple as the end of each month, running your eye over what it is your success will be gauged on at the end of the year or season.  This way, you won’t miss or forget anything and the important things will be front of mind.

5. Have Regular Updates and Mini-Reviews During the Season.

Again, this does not need to be formal or overly worked but it is extremely important to do.  Keeping those you report to up to date on an on-going basis can be immensely valuable to your end of season review.  For some sports coaches they find out they have not been performing to “expectations” (whose?) when it comes time to renew their contract.  Much to their disappointment, their contract may not be renewed.  This is not an effective manner in which to deliver high performance outcomes, especially in sport.

Generally speaking, it is primarily management’s responsibility to ensure that there are no surprises for coaches when it comes to their performance review time.  Often management will discuss both positives and negatives of your performance throughout the season, but unfortunately this may not be the case for everyone.  What is critical about this is that it is in the coach’s best interest to open up discussion about performance during the season or year, even if those you report to don’t initiate it.

The sooner you know where you are at, and what you may need to change (or keep doing), the sooner any problems can be fixed.  In fact many problems can be prevented if they are caught early enough.  It is too late to address something after the end of the season that would have benefited the team and the results achieved if addressed when it first arose.  Being confident to talk to and address issues with those who can make decisions or implement change can only help you.

And on a positive side, sometimes it is just the boost you need during the season to receive some personal recognition of dealing with a tough situation or achieving an important part of your role. Remember to share the ‘wins’ along the way.  Keep management informed with some of the anecdotes on your list (see 4 above) during the season – this will build a strong, positive perception and regard for you that will support you at the end of the season, with or without the championship.

Having open, two-way communication benefits any situation and especially when it comes to performance. 

One note of caution, management is usually looking for results, so keep this in mind when you share any challenges with them.  Always offer some solutions or suggestions for any problem and avoid dumping a problem on them, without at least a few ways to overcome the challenge.  A good way is to ask them to help you to resolve the problem, advice on how to proceed or be specific about what you need from them.

Remember, your athletes and players are receiving constant feedback on their performance.  So when it comes to touching base with management about your own performance as a coach, it doesn’t need to be on a daily basis like your athletes, or even weekly basis, that you check in with them, but monthly or every two months is good practice.

6. Be as Objective, Honest, and Realistic about your Performance and always have facts and/or examples.

This is also where your on-going list of achievements that you’ve kept throughout the season benefits you (refer to 4 above).  Ensure any statements you make about your performance are backed up with facts or examples.  Use the statistics and anecdotes to back up and confirm your perception of your performance.  The more you have, the stronger your position is.

I was personally a little surprised to read research from the business world, showing how employees have a tendency to rate themselves consistently lower than their supervisors’ rate them.  When you’ve completed your preparation for your performance review, stand back and look at it with fresh eyes.  Ensure that it does reflect an objective, honest and realistic account of your performance as you may be “underselling” yourself.

Also, include how you’d like to develop further.  All of the top coaches have a thirst for on-going learning and development in their own coaching – that is one of their distinguishing characteristics.   Consider the areas of your coaching or personal development you’d like to pursue.  This includes feedback you’ve received from others.  Ensure to do some research on how you’d like to progress this, whether it be through experiences, mentors, training programs or other means.

In this article, we’ve not touched on financial rewards.  This is definitely an extremely important area to cover when it comes to your performance review.  However, the situations and expectations vary so widely depending on where you coach.  This could be an entire article on its own.  In short, if you do everything else right when it comes to your performance review, receiving appropriate financial rewards are much easier to ask for.  Just make sure you ask and put a strong case to support it.  You may need to be creative with how this is packaged to fund the additional budget, but with sponsors and other opportunities, find a way to make it work.

7. Prepare, Rehearse and Rehearse Some More…

Everything improves with practice.  Your contribution to your performance review is no different.  Find someone you trust, with relevant experience and who can provide you with useful feedback to look over your written submission and ‘practice’ your review meeting.  Prepare like any other presentation with the three key points that are most important for you to get across.  Be prepared and rehearse.  And if all else fails, ‘Fake it till you Make it!”

You’ll be great!

Where to from here…

If you have any comments, suggestions or advice on this article, we’d love to hear from you – please Contact Us to share your thoughts.

Remember, your on-going performance reviews are an aspect of your coaching career too important to leave to chance.  You are the only one you can rely on for a successful Performance Review and you as the coach and person being reviewed, have the biggest impact on the results.

At Athlete Assessments we are experts at Best Practice Performance Reviews. Find out more about our Coach 360 now.

So, in summary, here are our top seven must do’s for Coaches when it comes to their Performance Reviews.

  1. Know the ‘System’ – make sure you are fully aware of the Performance Review process and if one doesn’t exist, create it yourself.
  2. Make sure your Performance Review ISN’T only about the scoreboard.
  3. Get feedback and input from your athletes.
  4. Work on your Performance Review all year.
  5. Have regular updates and mini-reviews during the season.
  6. Be as objective, honest and realistic about your performance and always have facts and/or examples.
  7. Prepare, rehearse and rehearse some more….

If you’d like a copy of an example of a performance review form, simply email us and we’ll send you ours. Contact us asking for the sample pro-forma coach performance review form.

You might also be interested in our article for Sporting Organizations titled Coach Performance Reviews – what the best practice sporting organizations get right.

At Athlete Assessments, we’re here to provide you with excellence in service and here to help you be your best. If there is anything we can assist you with, please Contact Us.

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