Goal Setting – Achievement through having a focused mindset, setting and achieving smaller measurable goals.
Every athlete has a goal, making a particular team, winning a championship, a world cup or even attaining Olympic glory and athletes are constantly told of the importance of goals for achieving long term success.
It is true that the importance of having a long term goal cannot be underestimated, however to ensure that any shortfall in performance isn’t instantly perceived as a failure it is important to set smaller short and medium term goals and not just competition goals but in training, and technique development. The key to long term goal attainment is to focus on the process of achieving your goal large or small. This is called goal getting.
Keeping focused on the process – Below is a list of well-known strategies for goal setting that have been proven to improve performance, however if you are considering using these tools as a coach it is vital that first you consider the personality type of the individual athlete, differing personality characteristics can determine the effectiveness of goal setting. If an athlete is ego oriented and as such measures their performance against others or is task oriented, measuring themselves against their own previous performance, could determine the extent to which they will be able to internalise goals. When athletes define success as beating others, they have little control over the outcome. Ego oriented athletes also have a tendency to set unrealistically high or low goals so they can have an excuse if their goals are not attained. Task oriented athletes set goals about doing their best and making some improvement experience success more frequently, persist at tasks longer and are more confident.
Make goals specific and measurable – A measurable goal is one you can quantify, in the sense that you know exactly how close you are to achieving that goal. Setting general goals such as improving your shooting accuracy in basketball is easy but it is important to set out specific criteria and technique directives.
Make goals achievable but not easy – Tailor the goals so they are realistically achievable but not too easy or extremely difficult, this pushes athletes to work hard and extend themselves in order to meet the goals and make them more satisfying when attained without setting them up to fail.
Get the athlete to keep a record of progress. Training results are ineffective if forgotten. Either keep accurate records yourself or get each player to keep their own, depending on the personality type(s) or sporting situation, keep a public goal monitoring chart so that all team members and coaching staff can see the results.
Set timings for the goals – Goal setting is ineffective if there are no time limits. A goal such as improving shooting accuracy can be broken down into … by the end of practice today… by the end of the week… by the week before championships etc…
Create training goals and competition goals – It is critical that all members of a team and coaching staff understand the importance of effective practices in preparation for competition. Goals related to work ethic and attitude during training are essential. Showing up on time ready to practice, entering warm-up with enthusiasm and paying attention to the coach and team captain are all examples of this. Additionally, complimenting one another on good effort and empathising if there is an error will promote team cohesion create a supportive environment and could elevate some performance anxiety.
Help athletes set their own goals – If athletes set their own goals, they will most likely internalise them and take them more seriously. It is important that athletes feel in control (self-determined) of their goals. Ensuring that athletes accept and internalise goals is one of the most important features of goal setting. Talk through personal goals privately and ensure that they are achievable and measurable.
Use positive terms when referring to goals – An example of a positive term goal is – Increase your scoring percentage by 10% this week, rather than reduce the time you miss by 10%. Whenever possible, focus on behaviors that should be present rather than those that should be absent. This can help athletes focus on success rather than failure.
Ensure outside knowledge and support of goals – An athlete is more likely to achieve a goal if important figures in their lives are supportive of them. Effort should be made to make family, friends, partners or teachers aware of the types of goals that have been set, the importance of these goals to achieving a long term plan and the importance of their support in encouraging progress.
Goals for the team by the team – It is healthy for the team dynamic to have goals that they achieve together; For example, get the team to analyse their own performance and identify weak areas or techniques that need improvement and then get them to decide on a goal that can be achieved over the course of a practice.
Every competition or training session provides some feedback that is beneficial in the pursuit of your long term goal. Focusing on the process of goal setting and goal getting allows the individual (or team) to make adjustments in training, technique and your mental approach to competition while sustaining your motivation and a healthy and positive mindset. Long term achievement is a lot like climbing a mountain, the long term plan cannot be achieved without a strategy of short term goals.