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.

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Train To Make Your Contribution

An important part of the training process is setting goals. A goal is simply the aim of an action. It answers the “so that” question.  I am doing this so that …. . I’m getting stronger so that I can hold my postion better. I’m developing my endurance so I can play harder longer.

We set goals to help with our personal development. Clear goals grounded in things that matter to us focus our attention, move us to action, help us stick to it, and challenge us to learn, adapt and grow as we meet challenges.  The process of setting individual goals provides both the ignition and fuel for our development.

In addition to our personal accomplishments there is a larger context for our effort that often gets lost or forgotten – CONTRIBUTION.  It’s another way to answer the “so that” question. I’m working to develop my potential so that … .  Personal accomplishment and mastery are important and necessary for our well being but if they are the only reasons we train or compete we are missing something vital.

Rather than asking only what we will get as a result of our hard work we can also ask what we will be able to give.   Imagine going to tryouts focused on making your biggest contribution to the process while you strive to give your best performance. There is a level of meaning that contribution provides that personal mastery and accomplishment don’t. We need a balance of all three.  So, another question to ask when we’re setting goals is, “What will developing your physical or technical abilities allow you to contribute?”  Every athlete knows that the fastest way to move the ball or the puck is with your teammates.

Soccer great Lionel Messi frames it this way: I prefer to win titles with the team ahead of individual awards or scoring more goals than anyone else. I’m more worried about being a good person than being the best football player in the world. When all this is over, what are you left with? When I retire, I hope I am remembered for being a decent guy.

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