Whenever a team achieves competitive success, we see lots of social media posts, public praise, and gratitude. And rightfully so. When a team comes out on top of the rankings the coach is usually a big reason why. We should celebrate and congratulate that coach on a successful season.
But what about when a team doesn’t have a great competition and they fall short of their goals for the season? Is the coach any less successful?
I think it’s important to stop and consider what makes a successful coach, and more importantly, how you as a coach should measure your own success each year. Your personal success as a coach is very different from the competitive success of the team. Let me reiterate that… how your team performs is not tied to your self-worth as a person or value as a coach.
How to Evaluate Success
There are three ways a coach can evaluate the season and determine if you “did enough” that year. Unsurprisingly, it’s related to how I recommend you set goals as a team. It’s just as important that you have a clear goal setting process, achievement strategy and reflection process as an individual. Part of your job as a coach is to be the person with the overall vision for the program. You can’t get stuck in the weeds of the day-to-day, but instead you should take time to step back and see the program as a whole. Here are a few suggestions of how to assess your personal success as a coach each season.
Set personal goals and evaluate them at the end of the year
Hopefully you take goal setting seriously and understand the immense value it can have for your athletes if done well (for more on that click here). However, as coaches we are so focused on the team and their success that we don’t often set goals for ourselves on a personal level. At the beginning of the season, set some clear goals you would like to achieve as a coach this year. Make them measurable and actionable so you can really track your progress.
Or just pick one VALUE as a coach and start there
If going through a whole goal setting routine as a coach feels daunting, you can take baby steps and still see the payoff at the end of the season. I recommend choosing a word for the year as a coach and keeping that in the forefront of your mind. Chose a value that you really want to focus on this year and make it your goal to see that through. For example, your word for the year could be balance. You strive to find a better balance in all aspects of your life. (Although I have an opinion on why work/life balance is not a thing… but I digress). Then your goal is simply to have that value on the forefront of your mind when making decisions. You simply pause for a few minutes at the end of the month and your sense of balance and make adjustments as necessary.
Or maybe your value is team focused and something like creativity or initiative. Then your goal is to help foster their creativity or teach them to take more initiative. If it stays top-of-mind and you really introduce it into your coaching, then when you get to the end of the season and the team is more creative, you were successful that season.
However you approach it, from fully fleshed out personal coaching goals to a singular focus, determine what you define as success at the beginning. Without that, you have nothing to measure your season against.
Reflect on accomplishments
At the end of the season, always take the time to really stop and see the progress that was made, on and off the floor. Watch videos from camp or the first time they learned a competition piece and see the growth. Pay special attention to individual dancers and consider the technical improvements they made during the season. A lot of your value as a coach can be seen in both an individual dancer’s progress, and in overall team growth. Stop and pay attention to both at the end of the season. In dance team world we go for 12 months and it’s easy to get wrapped up in tryouts for the next season without stopping to see how much growth we truly made in this season.
Be proud no matter what the external success factors look like
More than any of the aforementioned strategies of setting and tracking goals or noticing progress in technical skill, you survived this crazy dance world for an entire season and that alone is success. This world is hard. It can suck you in and spit you out if you don’t have solid boundaries (my interview with National Champion Coach Atchison makes this abundantly clear). No matter what happens on the floor during competitions and despite all the science behind proper goal setting and measurable scales for success, I believe you can measure your success as a coach through a feeling.
Read those notes you receive at the banquet. Stop and notice when a parent offers a thank you. They may be few and far between, (and sometime the thank you comes years after graduation!) but notice how the small things make a big difference in people’s lives. By being a coach, you are making an impact that no one else can. Teachers, parents, best friends… they all have influence on our dancers but a coach is unique. We are role models, and we usually push our dancers because we believe in them more than anyone else does. When we believe in them all season, they begin to believe in themselves. That alone is success.