How to Judge or Determine a Good Coach

I have coached with some very good professional, college and high school coaches. These observations are based on my experiences from what I learned from coaches who either succeeded or failed. The difference is in the small and simple qualities of leadership.

RECRUITING: High school coaches cannot be judged based on talent. Because of "no recruiting" rules, the talent you have is solely based on athletes who live within your school boundary. Professional coaches, meanwhile, are governed by owners and their agendas – a topic that requires more knowledge than I am qualified to comment on.

College coaches, on the other hand, can be judged more on their recruiting efforts than either high school or the pros.

Simply put, the junior and senior years of college athletes are the best barometer of how good a recruiter a coach is. Why? It takes time in a coaches system. Bill Walsh, the former San Francisco 49ers great and a man who impacted pro football more than any other person I know, once told me, "I could probably turn any program around in five years." That quote looks arrogant, but Walsh was very humble, yet confident in all he did. I could ramble on for hours about him.

Why does it take 4 to 5 years to turn around a program? While kids adapt fairly well, those a coach did NOT recruit are still in the program. They will test you, your style, your assistants, your off-season workouts, and your commitment to academics. In short, they will test your program.

Some of the older athletes may tell younger ones how much better it was when "so and so" was around. The new kids are getting hit from two sides and it can cause confusion. If you have a program with both the old and the new coaches, disunity can definitely be a factor the first few years.

In corporate America, sometimes the new CEO comes in and cleans house who he/she feels is not on board and continues until he/she has what they want. End of story.

The sooner a coach (like Bob Stoops at Oklahoma) has complete control over what players and coaches stay, the quicker the program will turn around. If a coach has any restrictions at all, it will take longer – occasionally, the expected turnaround never materializes because of this damaging restriction.

BYU is further hampered by the uncertainties of its LDS missionary program, which is why some major football and basketball programs don't want LDS athletes who plan to serve missions. Most coaches I know do not want an athlete to serve LDS missions. Other Provo restrictions include academics and the school's unique Honor Code.

DEVELOPMENT OF PLAYERS: Player development is directly related to coaching AND the player's own commitment to excellence. A player's resolve is evident in his workouts, practice habits and ability to tough-it-out in game situations.

A coach can be judged by the techniques, steady improvement and execution level of his players. What type of route does a receiver run? Where are his hands when catching a pass? How well does they adjust to the ball? How quick are they off the ball? How is the quarterback's drop? What is his body position? Where is his head? Where does he release the ball? What are his reads? Does he progress his reads?

PLAY CALLING: Some coaches are not great technicians, but are pretty good play-callers and vice versa. Coach Walsh was great at both. Good play calling skills is developed from three sources: Previous games played against the same opponent; Film study; real-time feedback from coaches in the booth above the field.

PRACTICES: Good coaches will get more out of a practice than lesser coaches. I get a little frustrated with coaches who have long, drawn-out practices and then tell kids they are doing all they can for them. A practice does not have to be long to be effective. Practices should be scripted and repetitive. Practices should be adapted and specific to game plans for each new opponent. Practices should be harder than games, but they should also be fun. Practices should be very competitive early in the week. Athletes should take pride in practices – and this will carry over to games.

WINNING: Everyone wants to win, but many are not willing to pay the price. The price is equal to the effectiveness and efficiency of time spent in practice. All coaches spend time, but some are not as efficient

A good college coach spends time studying film, making notes on individual player development, recruiting calls and letters, upgrading their personal coaching skills/techniques, developing relations/respect with players, and also involved in some worthwhile community endeavor.

A good college coach should also spend time with other coaches and explore and learn how to use certain players in certain situations. A good college coach also scripts practices to maximize each player's development.

I get a little agitated when I see coaches (mainly at the high school level) running individual skill development for say wide receivers that are meant for defensive backs; or the running backs doing lineman drills. I've seen this done at other high schools than my own. Running backs should be executing running plays, blocking assignments, pass routes that coincide with the offense you run. MOTIVATION: A coach should know or learn what motivates his individual players. Winning always motivates as does playing time and personal improvement in practice.

A good coach's actions and preparation after a winning week should be similar when they lose. That's what Coach Bill Walsh taught me. If you're losing a lot, the only change may be in who you select to play. To start yelling and become a totally different type of coach tells a player you lack confidence in yourself and him.

It is important for coaches to maintain and continue to exude confidence and stability. If you're losing and you don't know why, it's time to get out of coaching.

If you're winning, you have to be careful of complacency. Coaches should be careful of too much back-slapping of players after a win. They should be congratulated and good coaches point out exactly what they did to contribute to the win, but good coaches should continually focus on these more revealing questions: Did we improve? Did we execute? What was right? What went wrong? What needs to be fixed?

Winning is expected and has become a part of BYU's tradition and belief system. That's why the last two years have been extremely hard for long time Cougar fans to stomach. The key is how Coach Gary Crowton, his assistant coaches and players respond under all this adversity. Time will surely tell.

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