As coaches, our mind is always in evaluation mode, and if you've been around the game for long enough it often happens subconsciously.
Throughout the off season, leading up to Week 1, as coaches work with guys in the weight room during the off season, through summer practices and two-a-days, coaches are asking themselves a series of questions to ultimately decide which guys are going to be contributing on the field.
While talent and skill certainly play a factor, there are at least twelve other things that coaches ask themselves about every single player on the roster. Those 12 questions include:
1 - Can I trust them?
At the end of the day, coaches want 11 guys on the field they can trust to give maximum effort, that are going to execute what is being asked of them, and that will do it the right way. Trust is paramount and is always being evaluated. It can be earned by not missing workouts and summer sessions, by going above and beyond what is being asked, and by taking initiative.
2 - Are they receptive to coaching?
Regardless of talent, if a player refuses to take coaching, how can the coaches possibly rely on him to do what is being on game day, or when the game is on the line? Guys that can take coaching and apply it are often labeled as "favorites" because coaches know that they can be trusted to do what is being asked of them.
3 - How will/do they respond to adversity?
How a player responds after a mistake, or after being beat on a certain play says a lot about them. Do they hang their head and pout, or throw a mini-temper tantrum or do they come out and respond with vigor the next chance they get? "Body language never whispers, it always screams."
4 - How do they respond to criticism? How about praise?
A big part of coaching is preparing kids for life after sports, so keeping an eye on how they respond to both criticism and praise, and managing them both, is very important.
5 - How do they act when no one is watching?
There's an old quote about character about true character being revealed when there are no eyes on you, and coaches prefer all guys to be made up of high character, that way they know they can be trusted to make the right decisions when their coaches and teammates aren't present.
6 - What motivates them?
Coaches want guys that are motivated to do the best thing for the team, not the guys that are keeping their own stats and concerned only about their bottom line.
7 - Can the team and I count on them?
Being reliable is another important area always being evaluated. Can you trust a player to be where he is supposed to be, when he is supposed to be there, doing what he is supposed to do in the manner which is expected?
8 - Do they have the trust and respect of their teammates?
In get the most out of the 11 guys on the field, everyone needs to have a trust that the man next to them is doing what they're supposed to be doing, just like in the real world. Also, getting along with teammates also shows that they're able to relate to a melting pot of personalities, backgrounds, etc.
9 - Do they understand what is expected of them?
In order to take the field, players have to know a lot including; where to line up, what to do on a certain play, the effort that is expected, and a host of other things. If they don't understand these things like that, things won't go well for them on the field.
10 - What are their strengths? Weaknesses?
This is where their skills and talent come into play - and it's way down the line after a bunch of other things for a reason. How can those skills help the team, and what do they need to improve on to maximize their athletic abilities?
11 - How often do I have to question their effort?
Simply put, the guys who never have their effort questioned often find themselves on the field in some form or fashion. It's that simple.
12 - Do they act like they WANT to be here?
I'm a big believer that positive energy and enthusiasm are both contagious, and the same can be said of their counterparts on the other side of the spectrum. Coaches want guys on the field and in the locker room that have a contagious energy worth spreading.
Parents and players that question their playing time can likely find the reasoning embedded somewhere in those 12 questions.