One of the most difficult tasks for a coach is fairly and accurately evaluating players. Some coaches use the “eyeball test,” meaning that they watch the kids play and then decide who to cut, keep, promote, etc. Others have extensive rubrics outlining every last detail. The method you choose is really dependent on your goals.

In the US Lacrosse Coaching Education Program (CEP) Level 2 curriculum, we talk about being “player-centric”—keeping our focus on putting the athlete in the best position to be successful. Consistent evaluation methods and objective criteria are great ways to maintain this focus. Not only are you evaluating all of your players based on standardized criteria, you are also able to give them constructive feedback to help them reach their potential.

The US Lacrosse Coaching Education Program has developed a set of age-appropriate evaluation rubrics to help coaches evaluate players, which you can download below. The rubrics are broken down into four core characteristics of athletic performance: physical, technical, tactical and psychological. Let’s take a deeper look at each of these characteristics.

1. Physical

This refers to an athlete’s general athletic abilities and really is not sport specific. Footwork, coordination, quickness, speed are examples of physical evaluation criteria. At the younger youth age groups (U8-U11), the main focus should be on the ABC’s (Agility, Balance and Coordination). As kids mature, you can add in attributes like strength and power.

2. Technical

The technical domain gets into sport-specific skills such as throwing and catching, shooting, dodging and scooping. Essentially, you’re looking at the fundamental skills required to play the game. Of particular importance for older youth and high school players is the ability to execute these basic skills under pressure, on the run, and with both hands.

3. Tactical

Tactical evaluation looks at how well the individual works within your team’s offensive and defensive systems. Examples of tactical evaluation points include knowing and executing their responsibilities in on- and off-ball defense, communication with teammates, and their role in a motion-style offense.

4. Psychological

This is all about their demeanor and approach to the sport. Are they coachable? How do they treat their teammates? How is their effort level? Are they respectful to coaches, opponents, and officials? These are traits that transcend lacrosse, but are of great importance when trying to assemble a team.

Taking an objective look at these four criteria can benefit the coach and the athletes. For the coach, these characteristics help you make decisions on where players are placed. How besides the “eyeball test” do you determine if an athlete is an “A-Team” or “B-Team” player? How do you defend that decision when a program leader, parent, or player questions you on it? Objective and consistent evaluation methods will make some of these tough conversations a little bit easier.

One of our jobs as coaches is to help athletes reach their full potential. When an athlete has documented goals, they know what they need to do to make it to the next level. By taking the time to evaluate these four critical areas and openly share the results with players, you give them a goal to work toward.

What systems does your program have in place to ensure fair and transparent tryouts? Suggest ideas for other coaches and program leaders in the comments section.

TJ Buchanan is the coaching education manager at US Lacrosse. Want to hear from TJ on another topic or issue? Suggest ideas in the comments section.