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.

Trust The Players And The Process

I found myself frustrated at the end of a training session last week. The session didn’t go the way I had planned it. The players were struggling to learn new movements.The energy level was low and their focus was a little off. I couldn’t fault the effort but the results weren’t what I was expecting.

The group came back at the next session and it was completely different. Technique and mechanics started to come together. Energy was high, and the things we had worked on for a few sessions started to seem like second nature

IMG_0710Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience.- Emerson

The process of planning is essential… andpeople are always bigger than the plans we make for them.  An athlete’s development is a natural process not a mechanical one. It’s about unfolding and growth, not construction. I was reminded again last week that when I find myself frustrated by the pace of things, or because they aren’t working according to my plan it’s good to pause, allow a little space and be patient. We create the environment, provide the stimulus and trust the process and the player. New growth happens when the time is right not because we put it in the schedule.


Inspired Coaching

This video has been making the rounds the last month. It’s  an example of coaching at its best.

Coach Belisle is focused on coaching people not baseball. I was standing with a parent last night at a junior varsity soccer game and she was talking about how easy it is for adults to be critical of kid’s efforts from the sidelines. We talked about how it’s never just a soccer player who steps onto the field, it’s a person, a whole person who shows up with whatever they happen to be carrying that day physically, mentally, emotionally; how easy it is to lose sight of the person inside the player and the game. That’s why good coaching comes back to people and relationships. That’s what this post game speech is all about: the people and the relationships. I’m inspired by this kind of coaching. Hope you are too.

It’s A Players Game … even for kids.

IMG_3016Coaching is an act of service. It may be about accomplishing results but it’s also about increasing an individual or team’s capacity to do even more. When it’s only about results it can quickly turn into managing or even intimidating people ( mainly young people) to get them to do what we want them to do and may even feel we “need” them to do. Empowerment goes out the window, growth stalls and capacity can actually diminish.

In a recent article for Psychology Today, sports psychologist Adam Naylor asks us to reconsider the coaching archetype. As Naylor says, ” So both championship coaches and science know that the demonstrative leader may have a lot of bark, but develops teams with little bite.” He suggests it’s time to appreciate the coach who brings less drama and more wisdom to the process. A coach like the San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich.

Popovich describes his style and philosophy in and article on ESPN.COM. He says, “It’s a players game and they’ve got to perform. If they’re holding the ball, they’re holding the ball. I certainly didn’t tell them to hold the ball. Just like if they make five in a row I didn’t do that.”

It’s easy to forget that it’s a “players game ” at every level. No coach, in any youth league game is going to dribble, pass, score or defend. When we try to manage the game or the training to, in effect, take the decisions out of theirimages-4 hands we diminish their capacity to think and develop a feel for the game.

Good instruction and feedback is important at every level and critical for the development of young people. But, instruction and feedback  aren’t the same as learning and the goal is to help them ” learn the game” .  What I want to remember is that it is how they apply that information to themselves and their situation to reach their potential that matters in the end. That process is what gets us results and builds capacity.

So, while it looks like a completely different world, those of us who work with developing athletes can learn something from the pros. I mean, when I think about it, of course it’s a players’ game. Who else’s could it be?

Training Journals And The Coaching Conversation

IMG_0650I’ve been using training journals on and off for the last 10 years . I’ve experimented with a variety of forms; everything from free form writing to formulated spreadsheets. Part of the challenge has been to understand the value of a journal and the ways it can actually help in training and in the long term development of a player. 

A journal can be a valuable source of information for me as a coach. The format I use to day has two sections a check-in and a check out. I ask a few simple questions to find out how players are doing mentally and physically as we start the session. It’s helpful in  adjusting things like volume or intensity and even just helping me adjust my focus and expectations. I’m more aware of the range of things they’re bringing into a session from the bruise or strain they picked up at practice to the pressure or success they’re experiencing at school.
Checking out helps me see things like how their level of percieved exertion is matching the intensity we were going for and where they’re feeling both successful and challengedin the training. It helps me work more and more with the whole person and the bigger picture over time.
 But, as helpful as it is in providing me with information I’ve learned it has another, even greater value. It’s a tool for self awareness and learning for the athlete. It asks althetes to pause before and again after a session and notice what’s standing out both physically and mentally.I can provide feedback and data about the training and what I’m seeing But, good coaches know good information or feedback isn’t enough. The player’s thinking about that information and their ability to apply it to them self matters more. The training journal gives them an opportunity to begin to IMG_2998pull that thinking together and make it their own. What they’re taking is much more likely to stick. 
Coaching is a conversation. To borrow Daniel Coyle’s phrase , it’s “ a long intimate conversation, a series of signals and responses that move toward a shared goal.” One in which the coach offers a piece of information or feedback and then engages the players thinking about it. A training journal is more than a source of information for either the coach or the athlete. It’s a starting point for that conversation and a tool to improve the qualilty of it by creating awareness for both and helping us think better together and individually.   
Do you have ways you engage your players and that promote self awareness and make for a better coaching conversation?