With the high school football season concluding in most areas of the country, coaches cannot lose the opportunity to provide valuable feedback and assessment to both returning and non- returning players. This assessment can go a long way in the development of these student-athletes during the winter training program.
By David Sedmak
Head Football Coach
Desert Mountain High School (AZ)
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Introduction by X & O Labs Advisory Board Member, George Karafantis
Coaching is teaching. Both require the ability to connect with players first. These connections are essentially the relationships that we have with our players. I believe these connections are what many football coaches do best. When a coach can make those connections, he then must engage his learners/players. The process of engaging those learners (players) is what makes up and defines teaching. Teaching, and hence coaching, includes giving your learner information, concepts and the processes to get there. Bill Belichick is most famous for using the term, process, as an important cog in coaching, however most educators will tell you that how you teach the information is the greatest determinant in if the information is truly learned.
An important and often overlooked part of the process of teaching includes evaluating or assessing the lesson that you are giving both before and after, that lesson. At Desert Mountain HS, Coach David Sedmak and his staff, have created and utilized two evaluation systems that have helped his program evaluate and improve his football program. These evaluation systems are critical in both the identification of learning and the assessment of the application of that learning. Simply put, these evaluation methods put concrete statistical information that Coach Sedmak uses to analyze the learning and performance of his athletes.
Pre-Season & Post Season Application
Coach Sedmak’s evaluation systems include, and assesses, both tangible traits of players and the all-important intangible traits. In an age with greater parental involvement but not necessarily greater parental awareness, this tool is important in helping them determine who is most deserving of playing time. His Quest for Excellence System is used in the preseason and his evaluation tools are used during football camp and in season. It’s highly effective in helping to determine if they made the correct choice as to who plays and starts football games. It also provides some statistical information that is effective to use if anyone outside the program questions why someone is playing over another individual.
This report will focus on Desert Mountain’s player evaluation system and their Quest for Excellence System. That system will help determine who is on the first unit when practice starts in late summer. In this system players earn points in the off-season for a variety of accomplishments that help him to be a better player/person/student, in turn helping the team to improve and earning a starting spot.
In determining which players actually play in the games on a football team, there is a great deal of subjectivity involved. We as coaches see and coach the players daily, and essentially judge the players based on what we see live in practice and again after reviewing practice video. One method I have used for many years is an evaluation system that brings more objectivity to the decision and allows the coach to give more detailed feedback to the player regarding his strengths and specific areas in which he needs to improve. I have created position specific evaluation forms our position coaches use to evaluate the players. These forms are completed twice a year, at the end of pre-season prior to game week and again after the season (for underclassmen).
The evaluation forms are divided into two sections – tangible traits and intangible traits. There are roughly 10-11 tangibles and 8-10 intangibles for each position. Before sharing the various position evaluation forms, we will first look at these traits a little more in depth.
While often difficult to quantify, intangible traits are probably the most sought-after traits we as coaches look for in a football player. The intangibles are often the difference in giving a player playing time versus not playing them, usually the difference between a good player becoming great, and very often can be the difference in winning a championship or losing it. Coach Sedmak has identified his top 9 intangible traits which are shared below.
These traits are measured, graded and evaluated using a 10-point scale with 10 being the most positive and a score of 1 being the lowest. Looking at the table below you can see that Hustle is an important intangible that is awarded 10 points if the player is always hustling in practices and games. A score of 1 would indicate the player walks all of the time which we would imagine would lead to him walking off of the football team!
*It is important to note that while these intangibles are somewhat difficult to see and measure, they should be consistent across each position group. Later we will show Coach Sedmaks tangible evaluation traits that vary from position to position.
HUSTLE- the player always hustling, usually, inconsistent in hustling, rarely hustling or always walking.
CONSISTENCY IN EXECUTION OF ASSIGNMENTS- Consistently executes, consistent, inconsistent, rarely executes or never.
GENERAL RELIABILITY/ACCOUNTABILITY/SELF-DISCIPLINE (Attendance, Timeliness, Follows Instructions & Rules, Behavior)- Can Always Count on him, usually reliable, inconsistent, unreliable, or is a real problem.
EFFORT TO IMPROVE- Exemplifies a great drive to reach his potential, good effort, inconsistent effort, little effort, shows no care in improving.
DEALING WITH ADVERSITY- Great mental toughness, usually good bounce back ability, inconsistent, often pouts, quits.
COACHABILITY- takes instruction well, usually very coachable, does things his own way, fights instruction with excuses.
TEAM SPIRIT-Unselfish, sacrifices glory for the team, good team player, cares mostly about himself, shows no positive emotion for the team.
DURABILITY- Never injured or sick, rarely Injured, injuries/illness are a problem, always inj./ill.
LEADERSHIP ABILITY- Hardest worker full control, takes some control, average leadership skills, no leadership qualities.
The tangible traits that are used for each position groups differ slightly because the traits that make an offensive lineman successful will vary from the traits that make a defensive back successful and so on. Diagram 1 shows the evaluation tool that the Desert Mountain football staff, which includes Hall of Fame Quarterback Kurt Warner, uses to evaluate the tangible ability of their quarterbacks.
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- Offensive Line
- Wide Receiver
- Running Back
- Defensive Line
- Defensive Back
Coach Sedmak also provides the framework for his “Quest for Excellence” system, a point system geared to rewarding those individuals who work year round to become better players, better students and better people.
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These evaluation tools are helpful in several ways. They help the coaches determine who should play, they help the player to understand specifically where he must improve, and it also gives objective feedback to that parent who doesn’t understand why his/her son is not playing. While it takes some time to fully and efficiently grade the players in each position grouping the immediate and impactful feedback, they receive is priceless.
The “Quest for Excellence” system, in which players earn points in the off-season for a variety of accomplishments has increased participation and ownership in the Desert Mountain Football Program. While these evaluation methods are not foolproof, they offer a great amount of objectivity to what is a very subjective decision – who will play?
Meet Coach Sedmak: Coach Sedmak is presently the head football coach at Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, Arizona. He has coached HS football for a total of 36 years in Ohio, Minnesota, and Arizona. Coach Sedmak grew up in western Pennsylvania and played high school and college football in Western PA. HE has been a Head high school football coach for 23 years with a record of 145-95; State play-offs 9 years; 40+ players went on to D1 football and well over 100 went on to college football at some level.