The 612 Board believes running a solid player evaluation is one of our most critical jobs. Here's an overview of how we manage the process from evaluations through team formation.
Scroll down to see a slide show of the evaluation stations and what your athlete should expect.
Who Evaluates Our Athletes?
612 contracts with Flexx, a provider of youth sports player evaluations to conduct its annual spring/summer tryout and make-up for general evaluations and catcher’s evaluations. Rachel Spiess, 612’s pitching coach, conducts evaluations for pitching. Flexx management and the evaluators are 100% independent from 612 and provide these same services to other community-based associations in our region, as well as player performance metrics for USA Softball Minnesota.
Why Does 612 Evaluate?
The 612 model for the Spring/Summer season is to form competive teams by grouping athletes by skill level. It is also 612's goal to put all athletes in the 612 program in a position to grow and develop with like-players.
The Flexx/612 Model
Flexx uses top-of-the-line equipment such as laser cells to measure running speed, radar guns to measure exit velocity and Pitching/Throwing Speeds, and a standard stopwatch to test catcher’s pop times. The technology used is in addition to traditional observation evaluations for hitting, throwing, fielding, pitching, and catching provided by experienced evaluators.
Evaluation scores are the primary tool for forming spring/summer teams. Keep reading to learn more.
Mechanics, Success, & P2P
The evaluators, when rating, are evaluating a player's mechanics, athleticism, and results during the stations. They use their knowledge of mechanics and what skills-sets should look like for athletes at that age-level. During age-level evals, they see an entire universe of athletes at one time as well, which allows them to factor in how these athletes compare to their peers.
(This is why we work hard to get all athletes in the dome on the main evaluation day as opposed to the make up -- even if they cannot make their scheduled time. It’s worth noting the same evaluators are scheduled for the make-up session.)
Evaluations Are Art and Science
In the end, there are objective measures like, how many pop-flies did they catch? And subjective assessments like, while they did manage to field the ground ball, their mechanics might limit their effectiveness in actual games.
At the end of the process, Flexx provides 612 Fastpitch, a data set containing scores for all athletes evaluated. This data is sent to the President and the Director of Analytics who prepare the final data for the selection committees at each age group. The stations, methods and processes for on site evaluation is a collaboration between Flexx and 612 Fastpitch and based on widely accepted best-practices for fastpitch player assessment.
Changing The Culture of Evaluations
Other facts about 612 evaluations: Since 2015, 612 has told athletes trying out they should come into evaluations with a positive attitude and that they play a role in strengthening 612’s culture by making evaluations fun and high energy. They should plan to cheer and encourage their fellow athletes. The first year Flexx evaluated for 612 they specifically mentioned to 612's board, this is unique and they rarely see it when performing evaluations for other associations.
How Important Is the Evaluation?
The most recent evaluation score is the primary basis for team formation for the Spring/Summer season. It carries the most weight. Generally, ancillary data, like coach feedback, for example, is used to help fine tune rosters and not as a 1:1 substitute for performance metrics from the evaluation. A player’s best chance to make the top team, if that is their measure of success, is to prepare for and have a good evaluation. But, it is the selection committee’s right and responsibility to use all the data to attempt to create teams and place athletes where they feel they will have the greatest opportunity for success. Other inputs (include) from coach feedback: coachability, level of commitment/attendance, what kind of teammate is the player and potential.
A player’s best chance to make the top team, if that is their measure of success, is to prepare for and have a good evaluation.
Pitchers and Catchers
It’s worth remembering too, the selection committee is forming teams so it must also consider pitching and catching for each team. As a rule, team formation normally starts by placing skilled players and is filled out to complete the roster. Pitchers and catchers are also placed by their performance in the evaluation. The highest-scoring pitcher and the top catcher will make the top team. The selection committees, using the universe of players who are evaluated at the skilled positions, work to put at least two pitchers and two catchers on every team formed. This can have an impact on the total number of roster spots available to non-pitchers and catchers. Selection committees also integrate players who have qualified to “play-up.” Roster sizes range from 10-13.
Additional data used can include: coach feedback reports from past seasons, past evaluation scores, and past team placements, number of seasons played. The selection committee is also provided coach contacts from past seasons in the event they need or want additional information about an athlete.
The selection committee has authority/leeway to assess the evaluation and the total athlete in the context of the information we have on that player.
Scores and Weighting
The athlete’s overall (general) score is a combination of scores from all the stations. In broad terms, the overall score is weighted around 45% for hitting, 25% for each infield and outfield and 5% for speed/athleticism. The selection committees can sort and study the data in several ways: by overall, by hitting score, by infield score, by outfield score, by speed score, and by granular measures for exit velocity and throwing velocity. When players are separated minimally in scores or tied, diving deeper into the individual data offers the selection team members a more three dimensional look at the athlete. This includes not only the scoring metrics, but coach feedback, past team placements, number of seasons played, etc. Peer to peer comparisons can include how far a player’s score is from the top scoring athlete, how their scores relate to the median score in their age group.
While it’s true, hitting performance carries the most weight, athletes are best served trying their best to achieve competency in all aspects, as incremental gains in stations which are less-weighted, can make a difference in moving an athlete up or down in the overall score within their peer group.
612's Partnership with the positive coaching alliance provides access to these resources for athlete's and their guardians
Evaluations and waiting for team formation news can be stressful for the whole family. We encourage families to take a proactive approach to managing this stress. There are lots of great way to prepare for evaluations like making sure your athlete is getting in some pre-tryout time in the gym, talking about goals, feelings and dealing with adversity. Here are some handy resources from the PCA DEV Zone, that might help you on this journey.
612 Selection Commitees Build Teams
At the end of the evaluations process, once the main tryout and make up are complete, the Analytics Director compiles the data into a comprehensive data set for each age group. This data is sent out to selection committees the board forms for each age group to build teams. These committees consist of 3-5 persons (board appointed) who are responsible for building team rosters.
No Conflicts of Interest Policy
These committee members are not allowed to: (1) To be coaching at the age level they are forming teams (2) They must not have an athlete playing at the age level they are responsible for forming teams (3) They must not have a spouse or another family member coaching at the age level they are responsible for forming teams (4) They must not have any other conflicts of interest with respect to team formation at that age level. The full board votes to approve the selection committees.
Rosters, Levels of Play, Number of Teams
The selection committees are tasked to create rosters from the universe of players in their age cohort. The selection committees are given direction from the board with respect to what levels the teams will play at (For example - Is it 612’s intention to field an “A” team at the age group? Forming A teams is both an internal process and a function of abiding by the league’s parameter’s based on associations size ) The selection committees will determine the number of teams and roster sizes based on the total number of athletes at each age group and the total number of athletes evaluated at pitcher and catcher.
About The Number of Teams
With respect to the number of teams formed - the selection committee must work out the team formations based on the total number athletes, which in most cases, does not fall perfectly into neat 12 player rosters. The selection committees also need to make sure there are players who identify as pitchers and catchers on each team. The selection committee might also seek out granular data on specific athletes/teams relative to attendance and commitment level to anticipate if teams with less than 12 athletes might struggle with attendance issues. This at times can result in the selection committee building teams with larger rosters, or give them confidence, a roster of, say 11 players is workable given the past performance of the athletes.
Analytics: Building Better Teams
612’s overall quality and level of detail in our player analytics and coach feedback process is unique among community associations and a strategic advantage when it comes to forming teams and striving to create a quality experience for all our athletes. Overall the association believes the best long term strategy for the athletes and the survival of community-based travel is to create teams and play those teams at levels which challenge the athletes to improve. In the long term, winning is less important than growth. The reason why 612 commits to a rigorous analytics program, and why the board invests time in resources understanding and training the universe of athletes in our program, is specifically to help form better teams and put those teams in a position to achieve success. (Again, success is not specifically tied to winning games. Though over time, we expect our teams will win games).
Kaizen: Culture of Continuous Improvement
As an organization 612 Fastpitch prioritizes the evaluation and team formations processes. It places great weight and applies as many resources as possible to achieve a successful execution from the launch of the evaluation to player check-in to the on the field operations (including our make-up). It is considered one of the two most high-priority functions of the board at-large. The process is evaluated each year in an effort to continuously improve the experience and effectiveness.