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Deflections - Should Mentors Evaluate?


A key component of the field evaluations for Development 1 and High Performance certifications is the discussion the evaluator has with the coach before and after practices or games. It’s designed to not only provide an assessment but also be a mentoring experience. Here’s where the field evaluator can give the coach some guidance.

To be clear, this isn’t a true mentoring situation. It can’t be, of course, since the evaluator and coach meet only once or twice. The question is, though, should mentors, in their normal environments do evaluations of any sort of the coaches they work with? This has produced interesting discussions with mentor colleagues. Most feel they shouldn’t.

Mentoring is a trust relationship. Often discussions with coaches are less about how to teach a skill or tactic than “soft” issues like problem-solving issues with players or parents. I recall the time during a tryout camp when a troubled AAA coach sidled up to me to discuss a dissertation-like email he got from a parent who whined about whom his little darling was on a line with and why those kids would not present “Joey” in the best light. The coach and I spent about 20 minutes examining the issue. He already knew how to approach it (ignore the email and carry on); he just wanted to bend someone’s ear. Mine was available.

That’s just one of many examples I’ve experienced. So whenever I hear of a mentor who has, as part of his job description, the evaluation of coaches, I wonder on what basis I could possible give that AAA chap a score. One fellow told me recently he looks at how the coach was at the beginning of a season and then at the end and arrives at an assessment accordingly. Really? What do you assess him on? Are we giving scores for how much the coach listened to the mentor’s advice? What if the advice is garbage? Is the coach expected to suck up in order to score better? 

In other words, what are the criteria for evaluation? Moreover, what’s the objective?

Do coaches improve their techniques over a season? I suppose so. But like the kids playing the game, it’s usually a long-term development. During a season, a coach may fine tune aspects of his approach. A mentor may suggest less time spent at the rink board, or more engagement from assistants, or more time spent on stick checking skills, etc. The coach though may feel some of these, while proper, are inconsistent with his plan or vision for the moment. It very well may be that stick checking is on his list, but isn’t a priority because once he got the team, he recognized some real deficiencies in some other skills he considers priorities.

Mentors who evaluate or assess their coaches risk denting or damaging a valuable relationship. It’s not worth it.

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