The Power And Benefits Of A Goal

IMG_0650Are you helping the athletes you work with set goals? If not you might be missing an important opportunity. A paper from Robert Weinberg at Miami University of Ohio looks at the research surrounding goal setting in sports and some practical ways to do it. It’s worth the read. You can check it out here.

What caught my attention were the benefits he listed.

Players who focus on process or performance goals experience

1. Less anxiety

2. More confidence

3. Greater satisfaction and concentration

4. Improved performance

According to Weinberg the research shows that goals are effective because

1. They direct and focus our attention

2.They help us mobilize effort

3. They enhance our persistence – help us stick to it

4. We develop new learning strategies – we learn to adjust, adapt and make progress

Too often in youth sports we either assume the goals are apparent and that every kid wants the same thing or we just assign them to the players. We’re missing a great opportunity. A goal is really just the aim of an action. It’s easy to generate lots of activity. But without an aim it’s unlikely I’ll hit the target. Helping players set goals empowers them by teaching them how to chose their target, set their sights, take their best shot, and then learn, adjust and stick to it. I think we call those life lessons.

I’ve started taking a deeper dive into the goal setting process with our 15 – 20 year old athletes and here is what I’m finding. What’s good for the players is good for me as a coach.  I experience the same benefits: less anxiety, more confidence, greater satisfaction and focus and I do a better job of helping them meet their goals.  In addition, clear goals are helping me zero in, increase my energy,  be patient with the process and be more creative in adapting to new challenges. That seems good because one of my goals is always to become a better coach.

As the Masters is upon us here is a glimpse into the power of a goal.

Growing Confidence

DSCF1217Most of the time we think of training as mainly a physical process. It’s something  we do to develop a skill or quality like speed or strength or passing and shooting. There’s another aspect we often overlook or undervalue. Preparation and training contribute mentally as well because they give us confidence.

A source of great anxiety for a lot of high school players going on to college is the fitness test that they get in their packet from their new school.   While we don’t “train to the test” we will run it with players regularly to help them see how their work is paying off. It may not be an ideal part of our training program but by the time they head to their teams they have already demonstrated repeatedly they can meet the standard. That allows them to show up with confidence and focus on their game rather than the test.

GIRLS SOCCERWe work on deceleration and stopping as well as speed and acceleration because when a player has confidence in their brakes, they can play faster, go harder and put more pressure on their opponent. Without that confidence they may pull up too quickly, afraid to over run, leaving their opponent with more time and space.

 

IMG_0650A Bigger Kind Of Confidence – Part of the value in assessments and training logs lies in helping a player track their own growth and development.  With time to reflect, they come to have confidence in their ability to accomplish results over time, to make changes and develop what Stanford Psychologist and Professor Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset.  That mindset is more important in the long run than any physical quality. When they hit a plateau or struggle with something new they can draw on the confidence they’ve developed in themselves and in the process of training.  Focus, intentional work and consistency have helped them thus far and will help them with new challenges as well.

Slowly, in little ways, over time, good training and the right atmosphere can help us develop not only the physical qualities we need to compete but the confidence in our capacity to grow that will serve us whenever we need it.

In his Wheel of Excellence model, sports psychologist Terry Orlicki says, “Belief in yourself and confidence in your capacity allows you to extend your limits, create your own opportunities and push through performance barriers. Where there is unwavering belief in your capacity to carry out a mission and absolute connection with your performance, doors are opened to excellence.”

This week as we wrap up our fall training with assessments we will ask our young players to notice their progress, look back at the effort they have put in and begin to see that those doors can open little by little, for all of us.

Only one opportunity to success concept