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Focusing on the Goal

Goal-setting is one of those things that coaches are  just expected to know. But there a lot more clinic presentations on X's & O's than there are on the best way to set goals.

In a post, retired college football coach Tony DeMeo explains the process he used during his career. His ideas are in no way limited to football and would work well for both individual and team sports—and areas outside of sports as well.

He explains how he met with players for 30 to 45 minutes during the offseason to discuss their goals. The conversation was centered on six questions he would ask the player, which are detailed below.

1. What? He would start by asking the player what his goal was. What did this player want accomplish? The key is making sure it’s something specific and measurable. Saying you want to be stronger is one thing, saying you want to increase your bench press by 25 pounds is another.

2. Who? Whose goal is this? Far too many athlete set goals for other people. It could be the goal they think the coach wants to hear or one they think will please their parents. Unless a goal comes from the player themselves, though, it’s hard for them to own it and thus achieve it.

3. Why? He then asked why this goal is important to the player. Knowing the propelling force behind a goal can help an athlete reach it.

4. How? What’s the plan to achieve this goal? Simply saying you want to be a better player isn’t really a goal—it’s an aspiration. But by putting a plan behind that aspiration, whether it’s by lowering their shuttle time by two-tenths of a second, studying two more hours of film a week or learning a new skill, that aspiration becomes a goal. This is also an example of breaking big ideas into smaller, more manageable ones.

5. When? In DeMeo’s words, “Deadlines force you into action. Action separates goal setting from goal getting.  Anyone can put a plan together, but plans are worthless without action.” Often the obvious deadline is by the beginning or end of the next season depending on the nature of goal. But another idea is to take some time to determine if there are some interim steps to help guide the way. Instead of simply setting a goal to increase their bench press by 50 pounds before the start of the season, have them work on increasing it by 10 pounds a month. This gives them an opportunity to enjoy smaller successes en route to the goal and time to adjust their goal or plan, if need be.

6. Price? This is the reality check. Lofty goals are terrific, but only if the player knows what it will take to reach it and is willing to do it. If they’re not willing to pay the price necessary to reach that goal, start over with another goal that they can then approach with action and confidence.

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