For this blog I thought it would be good to go back and look at goal setting for your athletes. I feel like the best way to start is to have the athlete go back over their previous season and have THEM set their goals. If you are working with an older more developed athlete i.e.) high school and older, having them set their goals can serve as a good motivational tool during certain stages of hard workouts or even when they are discouraged by a bad performance.
One idea to bring into goal setting is something I would call leveling your goals. You may notice that athletes come to you with goals like, “win conference” or “win states”. I call those “High level” Goals. The real excitement/improvement comes when you and your athletes talk and discover how to achieve those high level goals. I believe there should also be “Mid level” and “Low level” goals to use as markers on the way to the Highest goals.
Mid level goals would be goals for games/meets/competitions leading to the championship portion of the season. Do they want to hit 2 for 4 in games? Have a better start? Make 1 more tackle? Break up one more play each game? Have better numbers against a top ranked opponent? The list goes on!
Low level goals would be goals they can set for practice. Do they need a better “can do” attitude? Do they need to stay closer to the pace time? Focus on better footwork in their practice routes? These are all things that the athlete can come up with and you can go over them and refine them together everyday in practice!
I wouldn’t go overboard and have a ton of goals at each level. Try to keep it to around 3-5 goals at each level. As you achieve you can set new goals or just check them off. Many times there are only a few things athletes need to do to improve so the less things they have to think about the less overwhelmed they will feel on competition day.
INDIVIDUAL/TEAM FOCUS COMMUNICATION
I’ve seen many times where the parents or coaches of the athlete set individual goals that either don’t match up, or make the athlete feel as though there is pressure on them. Sometimes coaches may put too much pressure or focus on a team goal and athletes feel like the coach doesn’t feel like they care about individual goals. Yes as a coach the TEAM is important but let your athletes know you care about them at the INDIVIDUAL level too! You want to avoid this misunderstanding. Allowing the athlete to go set goals with you or other members of your staff and then review and refine them can go a long way for communication.
Make sure goals YOU set for your athletes are attainable. It is okay for an ATHLETE to set goals like “make it to nationals” or even “win nationals”. It’s only going to make them willing to work harder. Yes, it may not be completely realistic in some cases and you may have to let them know that BUT you want to encourage them and show them you are willing to help them get as close to those goals as possible, even winning a high level championship. An athlete needs a coach that believes in them!
The last thing that I would say about goal setting is it could reveal is who is actually serious about making improvements during their season. If they don’t give you goals or don’t ask you what you think they are capable they may not be all in, BUT this is where communication comes into play. They may simply just want to focus one taking one day at a time and let the results come. In That case let the goal to be to focus on something each day.
Goal setting helps to add excitement to the season and even preseason and can help you structure your athlete’s workouts/testing to ensure they are on their way to accomplishing them!
About the Author
Clayton Parros, USA Track
Clayton Parros was born in Los Angeles California, and raised in New Jersey. As a part of The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Track and field Program he was named ACC Champion 5 times, All-ACC 11 times, and was also an all American. Post Collegiately he achieved World Champion status as a part of the team USA 4x400m relay, Penn relays Champion, IAAF World Relay Champion, NACAC 4x400m Champion and USA Indoor 300m Runner up. Clayton is USATF Coaching Certified and has studied and trained under world-class coaches namely Derrick White (coach of Joanna Atkins and Quinera Hayes), Lance Brauman (coach of Tyson Gay, Marvin Bracy, Tori Bowie, Shaunae Miller and many others). He also studied strength and conditioning under Andre Woodert (former strength and conditioning coach of Allyson Felix). Currently he is in his first year of coaching at East Carolina University and is involved with the Sprints and Hurdles.