Has Your Season Been a Success?

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

by Shaun O’Loughlin
North Ballarat Rebels Assistant Coach

With the 2014 season now run and won, the key question to be asked by all good coaches and administrators alike should be, “Was the season a success?” The answer to this question is very much dependent on the age group that you are coaching and can be easily determined. If the expectations of you and your team have been clearly articulated at the start of the season, analysing how successful your season has been should be relatively straight forward. It is when the ‘goal posts’ change or when expectations are not clearly defined that coaches are blindsided. 

When coaching local junior football teams, thoughtful aims and expectations are imperative. The following outcomes should be discussed prior to the commencement of your season and will help you enormously when determining how successful your season was:

  • Did you provide opportunities for all of the players in your team to participate?
  • Did all of your players improve their skills and understanding of the game?
  • Most importantly, did each and every one of your players enjoy the game so much that when season 2015 rolls around, you are positive that all of them will return to play again?

It is crucial when coaching a local junior team that your efforts at training and on game day have focused on teaching the basic fundamentals of the game (skills, skills and more skills). By doing this along with facilitating opportunities for all players to fully participate and enjoy the game, the chances of the players maintaining an interest in the game and a passion to keep playing as they enter adulthood will significantly increase. And that I believe is the essence of successful junior coaching.      

Coaching elite juniors such as in the TAC competition brings with it a different set of challenges and expectations. As a key feeder into the AFL, providing an environment where players can ‘shine’ in order to attract the attention of recruiting staff is vitally important. But determining the success of your team in the TAC cup should not be restricted purely to the number of players from your TAC team that are read out on draft day. Statistics clearly show that the vast majority of players on a TAC Cup list do not reach their ultimate goal of joining an AFL club. So how is their success measured? It is my belief that many of the key outcomes for success for TAC players should not be dissimilar to that which is outlined above when coaching local junior teams. Some of the outcomes that should be clearly defined at the commencement of a season and then evaluated at the conclusion to determine a successful TAC program include: 

  • Did all of the players improve their skills and understanding of the game?
  • Did all of the players maintain a healthy balance between family, school/work, football?
  • Were opportunities provided for all of the coaches to develop and improve?
  • Most importantly, will all of the players continue to play, even if their dream of joining an AFL club does not eventuate?

Coaching and facilitating a TAC team has numerous challenges. For those lucky enough to achieve their dream of joining an AFL club, dedication and hard work will help to ensure that their talent is nurtured. But it is those that don’t achieve their dream that must be guided with care. And that is why determining the success of your season with outcomes not simply related to drafted players and having steps in place to support them is a necessity. 

So now that your season is over, take the time to evaluate how successful it was. By using some of the outcomes mentioned above, your effectiveness will become clearer and your preparation for season 2015 may well have greater clarity. 

Shaun O’Loughlin is North Ballarat Rebels TAC Cup Assistant Coach and Vic Country Youth Girls Championship Coach. He has recently been appointed the first head coach of the AFL Goldfields McDonald’s junior academy.

This article was written by Shaun O’Loughlin as part of the requirements for the AFL High Performance Coaching Accreditation.

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