A topic that undoubtedly comes up when training athletes is goal setting. This past week I was reading Bob Bowman’s book, “The Golden Rules” and he had a simple, yet powerful quote that struck me – “Short-term goals lead to long-term success”. Bob Bowman is the swimming coach that helped propel Michael Phelps to achieve all that he did in the swimming pool and continues to influence him now outside the pool.
While I completely agree that short-term goals lead to long term success, most athletes I have come across either don’t put much thought into goal setting or their process of goal setting is off. Meaning, most players set goals around things that are out of their control – win-loss records, strikeout totals, earned run average. Or, their goals are formed with a negative-voice – don’t get behind on hitters, don’t walk the lead-off hitters, or don’t waste pitches.
When I help players with the their goals and the overall goal setting process I start with the WHY and HOW of goal setting.
First, the WHY. Why is goal setting important for players? It’s pretty simple:
- It helps players to stop and think about what they want to achieve.
- It helps direct their attention to the achievement.
- It provokes players to think about the behavior or actions they need to reach their goal.
Sports Psychologist, H.A. Dorfman, once said, “Goals help players to sustain their efforts and enable them to evaluate themselves on a regular basis.”
Overall, goals provide the vision at the foundation of player development.
Second, we move into the HOW and this is where becomes more difficult. My first piece of advice for players is to make sure they write their goals down. By writing down their goals, it forces clarity because they have to organize their thoughts. What may be gray in their mind becomes black and white on paper.
Now maybe the most important part – what players are actually writing down.
I believe players should have 3 Types of Goals:
These are what I call “Stars, Clouds, and Dirt”
- Stars – These are your long-term goals, your dreams.
- Clouds – These are your short-term goals, typically looking out for a season or a year.
- Dirt – These are your immediate goals, your daily habits and behaviors.
By having those three types of goals it allows players to really think about what they want to accomplish – starting with the Star goals. Players need to know it’s ok to dream. By starting with long-term goals players then simply work backwards and add in the Cloud and the Dirt to paint their picture. Remember, though, to focus on behaviors or actions using a positive voice.
Here’s what I mean… an example of some immediate or Dirt goals are:
- Throw inside more often.
- Be aggressive early in the count.
- When ahead in the count, put hitters away.
All three of these examples focus on behavior in a positive way.
Overall, the process needs to work for the player. There isn’t a magic formula or a certain number of goals they must have. The most important thing is that they are focusing on behaviors, actions and what they want to achieve through them.