Whether you won a state title, or only won a game or two, every program has something to gain from spending some time in the off season evaluating the how and why behind certain aspects of your program.

After talking with a number of coaches, I compiled seven suggestions of things you should spend time evaluating this off season.

1 – Practice structure
While it’s not a hard and fast rule, typically you’ll find that organized coaches are often among the more successful bunch, so if you’re a program that simply runs an hour or so of strictly team sessions against a scout team, and then flipping to do the same on the other side of the ball, you probably aren’t getting the most out of, and developing your players as much as other teams. Ask yourself, and your staff if there is a more efficient way for you to practice, so instead of being on the practice field for two and a half hours a day, is there a way to condense it, demand a laser focus from your guys, and do it in an hour and a half instead? That’s the approach that a lot of college programs are taking, and many high school coaches are following suit. It doesn’t work for everyone, but every off season you should be exploring ways to tweak your practice structure to be efficient, engaging, and effective.

The best way to do that? There really isn’t a substitute to simply talking with other coaches to see how they approach practices. Try to get your hands on a practice plan (if they have one), or a script (if they script plays during sessions).

2 – Parental and community involvement
One of the most integral parts of a coach’s success at any school is having the parents and community behind him, and one way to increase the chances of that happening is making sure they’re involved in different aspects of your program. Some teams have a group of team moms or dads that help with different events, other programs name guest captains and invite them into the fold for their weekly and game day preparations. There are endless ways to do this, and around this time last year, we talked with a few coaches on our Podcast about some creative ideas they used that you may find interesting as well.

3 – Upgrades
Every staff wants what is ultimately best for their kids, so take some time over the next few months to see if there is upgrade in equipment, staff, uniforms or something else out there to improve your program. Don’t get caught up in the latest toy or technology out there, instead ask yourself how it will affect 1) the kids in your program first and foremost, and 2) how will it affect the scoreboard? If it doesn’t move the needle for either, it’s probably not worth it.

4 – Staff education and development
I think most folks who read the “staff education and development” headline will immediately think about clinics, but while those are great resource for coaches, education and development of your coaching staff isn’t limited to just that. Just as important to coaching your players during the season, is coaching your coaches and making sure you’re all on the same page with the how and why behind why things are being taught. A few coaches I’ve talked to get together as a staff once or twice a month just to informally bounce around ideas on everything from scheme and X’s and O’s to practice structure suggestions. Everyone having an opportunity to bring an idea to the table goes a long way in making sure assistant coaches feel that they have a voice and are invested in the program’s future.

5 – Tweaks to off season strength and conditioning program
When a head coach takes over a program, they also bring in their own strength program. Every off season, new research comes out on various topics, including injury prevention and the relation it has to what you’re doing in the off season so this is an area that should be revisited and tweaked as necessary every off season. No weight program should be cookie-cutter and unchanged from year to year, because as the kids that makeup your roster changes, your off season should get tweaked accordingly as well.

6 – Your off season calendar
Whether it’s family vacations or kids having to take their animals to the local fair for a few days, your off season calendar is another area that should be evaluated every off season. A few staff’s I’ve talked with have two options for the weight room (morning before school starts, and then right after school) to limit the excuses that kids have to not be at one of them, and I’ve also heard that coaches only schedule their 7-on-7 stuff in the summer for Monday-Thursday, and try to stay in a certain time frame to help kids with work schedules. The Monday-Thursday schedule also allows guys to recharge and enjoy their summer a bit more than some approaches as well.

7 – Your scheme
Just as important to tweaking anything else, your scheme also deserves your attention. Your roster next year won’t look exactly the same as last year, so some adjustments in your scheme is likely also necessary. You should be asking yourself what you can tweak in order to maximize the talent you expect to put on the field come summer and fall. Solicit input from your staff, and keep an open mind while going to clinics to see if there’s stuff you can take back and adjust to fit what you do best.

8 – How to increase participation
Overall player participation numbers, especially at the high school level, seem to be down overall over the last decade or so. Therefore, finding a way to combat that and get those kids in the hallway that are on the fence about whether to play or not. To do that you’ve got to find a way to create excitement in the building around your program. One of the most creative ways I’ve heard of a program doing that, is with a special signing day event for rising 8th grade kids. Read more about that here.

9 – How to create more of a family environment
The wives and kids of coaches sacrifice so much during the summer and falls months, that it’s always good to have a number of ways to bring them into the fold with the rest of your staff and their wives and children. Even if you feel like you already do a great job of this, surely there are ways to improve. Chat with other coaches and their families on the types of stuff they do within their program and plan a camping trip, ice cream outing, or a retreat of some kind of build some additional camaraderie.

Is there something you feel like I missed that’s worth spending some time evaluating this off season? Let me know @CoachSamz, or via email at [email protected]

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Content manager - Doug took the reins in 2011 and the website has been better ever since. A former college player and small college coach, Doug now serves as assistant head coach / offensive coordinator at West Ottawa HS (MI).