As sad as a 0-12 record is, a team that goes undefeated in the regular season but loses the big one can be just as sad. Both situations point to a poor regular season schedule and beg the question: “What was the athletic director thinking when he made that schedule?” While some factors are unavoidable (such as injuries or a team that just doesn’t progress the way it should), no team should be left without a win on the season. The key to guaranteeing a few wins while still keeping a competitive edge: scheduling. Depending on your methods, scheduling can derail a promising season or be the launching pad to a championship. Join us for a look at the science of scheduling.
In a perfect world, the AD would be able to schedule two games a week, plus a couple of tournaments and postseason play, and everyone would walk away completely satisfied.
Of course we don’t live in a perfect world, and coordinating an athletic schedule with school concerts, special services, and weather cancellations can be a nightmare.
Despite these complications, creating your ideal schedule will be easier if you follow these tips.
Evaluate Your Team’s Skill Level
Before scheduling your first game, evaluate your returning players. A senior-heavy team will not want to compete against cupcakes all year that will do little to improve them.
On the flip side, a team with little returning talent will not want to schedule the reigning conference champion.
It may be helpful to have someone outside your program look at your players to determine whether your competition level will be on the low, middle, or high end.
Evaluate Your Competition
Within your conference you should have a good understanding of how your team will stack up. Obviously teams change from year to year and players come and go, but you still should have a general idea of the teams you will beat and the teams that will beat you.
With high school sports sites like Maxpreps, scouting opponents has become much easier.
Also check the opposing team’s website, which will give you a good idea of the school’s size and athletic emphasis.
Combine all of these factors, and you should have a pretty good idea of what you’re getting into every time you schedule an opponent.
Implement 33-33-33 Plan
A wise athletic director once gave me this advice:
Schedule 33% games you can’t lose; schedule 33% games you can’t win; and schedule 33% games that could go either way.
If your conference is really weak that year, schedule your out-of-conference game against stiffer competition.
If you are in the region of death, don’t be afraid to add in a few weaker teams to pick up some wins.
Evaluate Your Calendar
The week after Thanksgiving break, Christmas, or Spring break can be difficult to schedule.
For a coach, nothing is more frustrating than playing a tough game or major rival the day after a long break.
Make sure to give your athletes and athletic staff time to readjust and get back into the athletic mindset.
Don’t Be Afraid to Schedule Up
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is scheduling too many teams that don’t measure up to your team.
Winning games by 30 points can be fun, but it will not prepare you for the playoffs. Schedule teams that are a division or classification above you; you may be surprised to see your team rise to the occasion.
Don’t Over Schedule Your Team
Whether your team is dreaming of a championship or just trying to build a foundation, one of the potential pitfalls of scheduling can occur when we over schedule.
Over-scheduling is the ONE factor in athlete burnout that you, as the athletic director, can control.
If you have players that are uncommitted, a large schedule may also lead to disenchantment.
Some student-athletes want to play all the time, but their first priority is being a student. Your job as the athletic director is to oversee an athletic program that produces student-athletes. If you’re scheduling three to four games a week, then you’re not keeping their academic responsibilities in perspective.
Athletes also need to spend time with their family, and their families need a break in the action a few times throughout the season.
Tournaments and postseason play are special circumstances, but for the most part, you should limit your calendar to about two games a week.
Use these tips when making your next schedule! What tips would you would recommend when scheduling a season?