At the beginning of every season, practice, or other defining time period for the team, coaches usually set some kind of goal, though it is often abstract. This leads players astray, since they cannot always pinpoint what they are working toward. This mini lesson is designed to show the importance of creating clear, well-defined goals that each player, coach, and parent knows and understands, so that everyone can work together to achieve them.
Set Goals for Each Practice and Competition
Coaches know that if players understand what they are expected to do, they will more likely do it well and do it fast. Goals help create this situation of clear expectations by defining the point of the practice or game and helping players focus their strategies on achieving that goal.
For this reason, coaches should set a short set of goals for each practice and competition. These goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable, and timely.
Specific means that goals should be detailed, so that everyone knows exactly what to do. Measurable means that there is a way to determine whether or not the goal has been reached. Achievable means that the goal is not too hard or too easy for the team. Reasonable means that there is the distinct possibility that with work and effort, the goal can be achieved. Timely means that the goal has a time associated with it at which time it should be achieved.
During this time, players should be allowed to create modified personal goals. The team goals should be broad enough that all players can feel included, while the individual goals should be specific and unique to each player. For instance, a team goal might include: “Improve team pitching accuracy by 20% by March.” However, an individual goal might include: “Improve the drop of my curve ball to 75% accuracy by March.” This helps players see the big team goals and how their individual goals fit into them.
As the head coach, it is also your responsibility to set goals with the coaches. Your coaching staff should have goals for themselves and their teams, just as the teams have goals. Work with your staff to develop these goals, using the same guidelines and principles defined below for coaches to use with players. This holds the coaching staff accountable and shows you what is really happening each day at practice.
Review and Modify Goals throughout the Season
While a goal may seem like a good idea at the beginning of the season, it is not always a good idea to keep that goal around as things progress. Changes in team structure, assistant coaches, and practice styles all affect a team’s ability to achieve a goal.
Throughout the year, you should meet with coaches and players to discuss and modify goals as necessary. This goes for both individual and group goals.
For group goals, call everyone together and prominently display the current list of goals. Go through each one to discuss the following questions:
- Is this goal still relevant for our team? Why or why not?
- Are we on track to reach this goal? What have we done well? Where to do we need to improve?
- How challenging is this goal? Are we going to meet it too easily? If so, what can we do to continue to challenge ourselves? If not, what can we do to make the goal challenging but still achievable?
- Does this goal motivate our team to improve? If not, what can we do to rephrase it or make it more specific?
Allow everyone a chance to speak during this time and share opinions about specific goals or the goal process in general. Players may feel singled out during this time if they feel that they are not meeting a goal, so be prepared to moderate discussions about players’ individual abilities. For some, goal-setting is easy, because they are talented and likely to reach their goals without much difficulty. For others, goal-setting is a difficult time because it requires constant work and the fear of not meeting a team goal.