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One great way to really understand your locker room is by simply asking your student-athletes questions. Survey your players, or spend some time with each of them one on one to debrief your season. Surveying your players will help you to better understand what your players are thinking about your staff, the direction of the program, the morale and more.
I survey my players after every season and do it two different ways each season. The first thing to do is have them take a survey online, via Google forms. It is very simple to create a survey that is easy to navigate and use via Google forms. Plus, it is free! If you aren't technology savvy, there is sure to be a person on your campus that can help you with this.
Create 10 simple questions about your season that the kids can all answer. What are you curious about? What would help you and your staff to debrief this year, and head in to next year?
Perhaps you didn't start games well, ask your players about the pregame routine. Perhaps your third quarters were awful, ask them about halftimes. Maybe your program incorporated weight training during the season, ask your kids if it was beneficial or not.
Or take the whole team into the computer lab at one time if you can. This way they all get it done in one shot. Some schools have laptops or netbooks for all students, so if that is the case, bring them all into the weight room and have them complete it right there. Make sure to take time to review their answers with your staff.
Another thing to do is to debrief the season with each kid, one-on-one. Try to do it about two or three weeks after the season. It's always a great time with the student-athletes one-on-one. Ask for further clarification about the survey results. If there is some glaring issue that comes through that survey, ask for more input during the meeting. It helps to better understand the situation, and what might need to be addressed.
Once you have spoken with the players, get your staff together and create a top five list from the surveys. Give your staff the responses to the survey, and do some brainstorming with them as you review the answers together. Spend some time on the white board categorizing the results.
Is there a theme that comes through the answers? Perhaps the kids had a difficult time with Thursday practices, how can you address this? Maybe the team will perform better on Friday nights if you make adjustments to the Friday after-school routine. Write down all of these concerns while it is still fresh in everyone's memory, then create an action plan for next season.
Chris Fore is a veteran Head Football Coach and Athletic Director from Southern California. He consults coaches and programs nationwide through his business Eight Laces Consulting.