Timeout Q&A: How Coaches Can Properly Help Athletes Set Goals

Purpose2Play: Setting team and individual goals are so important for success. Talk about the importance and process of setting goals.

Dr. Cheri Toledo: When we shoot at nothing, we will always hit it. It is important to understand that sometimes by not setting goals we never have to deal with our fears of not fulfilling them. If this avoidance is really happening, then before goals will be effective, we need to take a look at what the issue is all about. I’ll take an educated guess and say that this phenomenon is all about perfectionism and maintaining a good outward appearance – if I can’t do it perfectly, then I won’t do it at all and people won’t know my limitations. We have to help ourselves and our athletes make the mindset shift to focus on excellence rather than perfection.

We have to understand that successful people in sports, business, and life, are all very goals-driven. In fact, the major thing that sets them apart is that they have a vision of what they want to do or where they want to be and then they establish goals to see that vision become a reality. In fact, having a vision is going to keep us going when we fail to meet our goals.

To solidify your vision, ask yourself, where do you want to be? What do you want to be doing? What outcome do you want to achieve? Get all the specifics around what things will look like when your vision comes to fruition. Now that you have that ultimate vision, set your goals. When formulating goals, it’s helpful to use SMART goals. Each goal must be:
•    Specific: volleyball player hitting average of .275
•    Measurable: track the game stats
•    Action-oriented: create specific steps that will lead you to accomplishing each goal
•    Realistic: matches player’s potential and available resources
•    Time-bound: determine if the hitting average is for a specific game, for the season, etc.

Use the SMART goals to establish individual and team goals for the following:
•    Task-oriented goals: emphasize improvement and learning over time; e.g., basketball player learning to do lay-ups with his non-dominant hand
•    Performance-oriented goals: emphasizes the final product; e.g., the volleyball player with the .275 season hitting average

Coaches, help your players remember that it is the vision that will carry them through the small failures along the way. The only true failure is quitting!

Purpose2Play: Just as important as doing it at the beginning of the season, goals, particularly individual, should be set for the off-season. How might the off-season goals differ from preseason or in-season goals?

Dr. Cheri Toledo: The goal-setting process is the same for any time.  Since the off-season doesn’t include multiple competitions, this is a great time to set individual and team task-oriented goals.  Sit down with players and help them refocus on their vision and then develop goals that will move them toward achieving their potential and their vision.

Purpose2Play: Your team fails to reach a goal. How do you handle emotions, and move past it?

Dr. Cheri Toledo: One word … process. Two steps: first, process the loss … second, focus on the overall process rather than the end result. If the goal was to win the league or conference and your team came in second, spend some time in disappointment and then move on to “What can we learn from this whole experience that will make us stronger and more successful in the future?” The players and coaches who get stuck in disappointment and anger are focused only on the failure to meet the goal of winning the conference.  Help them get past that by unpacking all the accomplishments, the little and big victories, and the great performance surprises they saw during the season. When we have our eyes and energy focused on getting as much out of the process as possible, it keeps us from focusing on the end product to the point that our effort is nullified. Get back to the vision and the goals for reaching the vision.

Purpose2Play: What are some good strategies to keep goals from floating to the back of the brain? How do you keep them front and center?

Dr. Cheri Toledo: First of all, every practice should have a set of goals – some coaches write the goals on the white board above the practice schedule. Others put them on the walls of the gym, the locker room, and coaches’ offices. In other words, keep them out in the open all the time.  Have the players create posters with the team goals on them.

Next, set a time each week to go over individual goals and make any needed adjustments. Give each player a notebook with the team goals and worksheets for individual goals. Require them to bring their notebooks to practice once a week and spend five minutes going over individual goals.  By making it a weekly discipline, their goals will always be pushing their performance.

Last, every time you meet with players individually, go over their goals with them. Have them tell you what their vision is and then help them make any needed adjustments in their task and performance goals.

Kim Constantinesco

Kim Constantinesco

As the founder and editor-in-chief of Purpose2Play.com, Kim Constantinesco dives under the surface hype to illuminate heroes in the sports world. Whether talking with the first man with cerebral palsy to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro, or the first woman to mountain bike across Afghanistan, Kim has a keen interest in shining the spotlight on ordinary people doing extraordinary things. She believes it's time media starts placing a higher value on the people and communities who are actively doing something to make the world a little better. Previously, she covered the Denver Broncos and the NFL for seven seasons. Her work has been featured on NFL.com, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, The New York Times, and USA Today. She resides in Denver, CO. When not working, she can be found deep in the Rocky Mountains throwing backflips on her snowboard. Follow Kim on Twitter: @KimCon14
Kim Constantinesco

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