Our competitive cauldron at North Carolina is not a team development tool. It is a player development tool. But by making the player better, it makes the team better. We don’t use players’ rankings to determine starting positions or playing time. The rankings are for the players’ information. Those that are ambitious will want to climb and those that are content to be mediocre will also be content to remain in the middle to bottom of the rankings.
The rankings are primarily used to motivate players to get better. Secondly they allow the players to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and along with the coach decide on a course of action to improve parts of their game that need it.
This is cumulative look at a player’s performance in the competitive cauldron. It is a compilation of all of the results of the drills from the season. In it each drill has an X factor which signifies it’s value to the success of the player (and team) as determined by the coach. Each player’s rank in each drill is multiplied by the X factor to get a point value. All of the point values are then added up and the players are ranked overall on their total number of points (less points are better).
This final matrix, after much tweaking over the years, has finally come to very accurately depict the value of each player to the team that season from 1 to 28 (or whatever the number of players is).
We compile the drills done each day and try to get the results up by the next day’s practice so the players get immediate feedback. We post them on a board off to the side at the practice field. We don’t draw attention to it or force the players to check it. Some do and some don’t. It is there as a reference for those who can handle it and those who really want an honest assessment of their abilities.
At the end of each season the coach will review with the players their results in each of the drills and the final matrix. The coach will then “team up” with the player against the results and suggest that she could do better in certain areas and guide her in a direction toward improvement. This is the only time the results are mentioned by the coach.
Adding / Modifying:
Our competitive cauldron has evolved a lot since its inception. We’ve added some drills and dropped others as the needs of our collegiate game have changed. Some years we need more shooting drills, some years it’s more serving or heading drills. But there are always the “core” drills that are always included: Speed, 1v1s, WLT record in small games, and combative heading to name a few.
We’ve also refined scoring for some drills as the overall quality of players’ have improved in order to keep the drill relevant. For example, instead of just recording “goal” or “no goal” for shooting drills, we now include whether or not the shot was on the frame and factor that into her score.
The Final Matrix has also evolved. X factors have changed as our ideas of which strengths a player should possess have evolved. We’ve tweaked little things like allowing central midfield players to get by with less speed (giving them a lower X factor in speed drills). But as time has gone on, it changes less and less because in refining it we’ve gotten so close to where we want it to be.
How we Use
The genesis of this concept occurred in the early 1980’s at the University of North Carolina. The renowned women’s soccer team had a collection of six to seven drills that were recorded by head coach Anson Dorrance on a legal pad, tabulated with a calculator, and posted each day for the players to see. This was done less for the coach’s knowledge than to motivate the players to achieve higher and higher levels of performance by publicly ranking everything that they did. The cut-throat environment created by this record keeping was dubbed the Competitive Cauldron and was used to win seven of the first eight NCAA Championships, produce 20 All-Americans, 5 National Players of the Year, and 24 National Team players in the 1980s. Dorrance then used it to great effect with the U.S. Women’s National Team as it’s head coach in preparing to win the 1991 World Championship in China.
In 1992 I joined the soccer program and worked with Anson to expand and improve the record keeping. As time went on, many more drills were added, computers were used to make the recording and tabulation more efficient, and the various formulas used to make the numbers reflect the players’ actual efforts were tweaked.
In the mid 1990’s we began sharing this cauldron with the youth coaches attending our team camp in Chapel Hill, NC each summer. Many adopted and adapted the cauldron for their own use and benefit to great success.
With the subsequent publication of two books by Dorrance on the UNC program which included detailed descriptions of the team’s competitive cauldron, other collegiate programs began to take note. XXX women’s volleyball and USC’s football coach Pete Carroll both made use of the cauldron within their programs. In 2005 in preparation for the 2006 World Cup, German coach Jurgen Klinsmann used elements of the cauldron with his National Team.
In 2009, John Sis, one of the coaches who has attended our team camp since the beginning decided to bring his cauldron into the internet age so his players and parents could access the data online. After seeing a need from other coaches to be able to efficiently design and tabulate their data, we decided to bring John’s vision of the online competitive cauldron to the entire coaching community.
At North Carolina we pride ourselves on player development. As of 2010 our competitive cauldron has produced 71 All-Americans, 50 National Team Players, and 17 National Players of the Year, all of whom have contributed to our 22 National Championships. Now with the input of contributors and users from all over, we will continue to evolve the Competitive Cauldron to help produce your future stars.