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How can we help coaches to set better goals?

Coach and athlete standing togther
How can we help coaches to set better goals?

Everyone has heard about setting goals. Everyone has heard that goal setting helps with our motivation. Though we know how important it is to set goals, it’s not so easy to set them. And even when we set goals, they can challenge us to be the right goals at the right time for the right purpose. In sport, goals help athletes and coaches to direct their attention, to focus on the task at hand, to increase the level of difficulty so that athletes keep progressing, but what if there are sound principles that help us and we do not know them? Robert Weinberg wrote a most helpful article to help coaches with their goal setting. We shall outline here some sensible and easy-to-follow principles for every coach.

            Just because we set goals, it does not mean those goals will help us achieve our aim. We need goals to fulfil specific criteria and then we can enjoy the windfall. Let’s begin with the goals we can set. We normally set outcome, performance, or process goals. An outcome goal focuses on the result. You might set a goal to win a competition, but you are only partly in control of the outcome because another person or team might perform better on the day of the competition and win. A performance goal is a performance element independent of the other competitors or team members. In rugby, the kicker might wish to improve her conversions from 70% to 80%. The rugby kicker is in control of achieving this performance goal because it does not depend upon, or other players or competitors do not influence, the goal. A process goal captures an athlete performing a skill. Coaches and athletes use process goals in practice to improve performance goals. For example, a golfer might focus on the top back portion of the ball to maintain an external focus on attention to stroke the putt well.

            We can write our outcome, performance and process goals for practice and help athletes to begin a more purposeful way of practising to improve. According to Robert Weinberg, we should be follow some healthy guidelines for goal setting. Let’s keep a few in mind as we work on our goal setting.

            First, we need goals to realistic and moderately difficult. We need to feel like we are just out of our comfort zone. Second, when we set goals, we help ourselves focus our attention on the task at hand. Third, by choosing our goals, we feel more motivated and committed to those goals. Fourth, because goals have targets, we get feedback when we hit or miss our target. So goals with feedback become our best goals. Five, we should focus on process and performance goals for improvement. Six, we need to set time aside to plan our goals and to review them afterwards. 

            In a practical sense, what we recommend is that you do your goal setting on a Sunday, for example. You can write your goals for the week, especially your process and performance goals. You might train or practise on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. As a coach, you might have goals to set with your tennis player. You can do this goal setting together and use the goal-setting programme as your Personal Improvement Plan for the week. The more you practise setting goals with your athletes, the better you become at setting, refining, and achieving your goals. After the initial stages, all athletes incorporate this healthy habit into their athletic world. It’s time to set your goals – let’s go!



Weinberg R. (2010). Making goals effective: A primer for coaches. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 1:2, 57-65, DOI: 10.1080/21520704.2010.513411

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