Goal Getting

With summer coming to an end, many athletes and coaches alike are beginning to rev up for the fall. You may be starting to think, 'What do I want out of this season?' and we're here to break down, not goal setting, but goal getting.


'Goal Getting' was a term first introduced to us by Sydney Masters during a workshop at the 2016 Association for Applied Sport Psychology Conference while she was pursuing her Master's of Exercise and Sport Science with a concentration in Sport Psychology from Ithaca College. Current day, Sydney is an esteemed Mental Skills Coach in the MLB with the Arizona Diamondbacks (you can follow her on Twitter here). There were many take away points, but we resonated with the premise of actually putting goal setting into action. Many people set goals but only a few get their goals. Research has found that only 8% of people reach their goals (Dizik, 2016). Although many factors go into it (i.e. maybe that person set an unrealistic goal in the first place or didn't plan ahead to minimize barriers...etc...) a lot of what we've seen in the past looks like:


Athletes or coaches, initially motivated, setting a goal at the beginning of the season... and then never revisiting it.


So then what was the point of all that goal setting in the beginning of season?


At Inside Rival, we've ditched SMART goals just for this reason. This isn't to say some athletes and coaches don't find success with them, it's certainly a way to go goal setting and, like most psychological aspects of sports, what might work for one person may not work for another. What we have found in our consulting is that SMART goals are often narrow, lack the multilayered approach that goal achievement requires, and tend to be superficial at best. For the purpose of this blog, we're going to break down then what goes into goal getting and how outcome, performance, and process goals will better benefit you or your athlete's performance for the fall.



When I work with teams, and specifically coaches, I hear goals such as,

  • We’re here to win

  • I want to go undefeated

  • Gold or bust

Arguably, the goal of sport is to win, and especially at the higher levels that’s where the pressure is too, but solely focusing on just that goal is somewhat misguided. Unfortunately, you cannot control every player on the team, how the other team is going to show up to play, what game conditions may impact performance (e.g. weather), or other variables such as favorable refereeing. Going undefeated is not completely within your control making it an outcome goal (defined as the result). Another example of an outcome goal may be, ‘Being fastest on the team’. What makes this type of goal difficult is that there are rarely levels of improvement or success to achieve, making them all or nothing (Learn about Cognitive Distortions in our Self-Talk guide). Either you had a perfect season or you didn’t. Either you are the fastest or you aren’t. Furthermore, just focusing on outcome goals often increases anxiety in athletes because of the pressure and the uncertainty due to the uncontrollable factors (Weinberg & Gould, 2019).


On the other hand, outcome goals are great to set as an overarching goal to work backward from instead, as they can then inform the path you take in order to get there (Weinberg & Gould, 2019). Without the outcome goal, it may be difficult to identify the performance and process goals, which are our bread and butter of goal getting (Weinberg & Gould, 2019). Just keep in mind, outcome goals are not solely up to you if you reach them or not and good goal getting doesn’t stop here (if it did then it'd be no different than a SMART goal).


Stage One: Let your Outcome Goal Inspire you and continue to break it down in order to move forward.


Let’s roll with the hypothetical that a coach’s goal is to go undefeated. Say our hypothetical coach realizes pretty quick that “Going Undefeated”, while inspiring, isn’t quite working for their team. Players are feeling intense pressure and beginning to fear failure, which we know has negative impacts on performance (Tsaousides, 2017). So now our Coach starts to set standards they want their athletes to hit at practice or in training that will inch them closer to the outcome goal to focus on instead. That coach might recognize speed as a crucial factor to this season when evaluating the teams they’re up against. An intention of practice now includes addressing speed work around increasing 40-yard dash times so that everyone on the team is at 5 seconds or less (reasonable for non-track athletes age 17 and up). By setting a goal of going undefeated, the coach is now asking, ‘what do we need to reach for in order to achieve that?’ to create a performance goal. This performance goal acts as an approach goal to give the athletes something to work towards achieving that’s less ambiguous and more in their control. Performance goals are objectives based on individual performance vs. external comparison and give athletes a tangible target. In this hypothetical, the athletes are looking to decrease their individual 40-yard times and can use their past times to determine their progress and make adjustments that encourages a self-improvement focus.


Stage Two: What standards or metrics would move you towards your outcome goal that encourage self-improvement among your athletes?


Now that our coach has identified one skill (speed) to focus on improving, they still have to answer just how they’re going to do that. This brings us to our final type of goal that must follow so you're not just goal setting, but goal getting: the process goal. To increase the 40-yard dash times, the coach begins to look at the elements of the skill being executed and realizes a component that can make or break the time is the first three steps. The coach believes similarly training quick first steps will translate well into the first steps taken on breakaways or in reaction to plays shifting quickly. The athletes are now training their downforce, or ability to push under their hips in the first three steps, through a series of progressive drills aimed at speed development as part of the warm-up in every practice and again at the end. They may even pair this physical cue with a mental cue so when they're in a game situation they have a phrasing going through their head to reinforce the proper technique to achieve the desired result. These process goals are a great example of how you break down the actions you can take to get better or hit your performance goal (Weinberg & Gould, 2019).


Stage Three: Shift into goal getting by giving your athletes tangible tasks to help with the execution of that performance goal. These actionable steps are what fuel the process forward.


To Recap:

When setting goals, it can be helpful to visualize an outcome but you need to take steps to realize that vision. When getting goals, it's important to focus on the process and performance goals that will help you achieve that outcome.


References:

1. Dizik, A. (2016, December 25). Why your New Year’s resolutions often fail. BBC: Psychology. Retrieved December 28, 2020 from, https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20161220-why-your-new-years-resolutions-often-fail

2. Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D. (2019). Motivation. In, Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology (7th ed.) (pp. 53-76). Human Kinetics.

3. Tsaousides, T. (2017, December 27). Why Fear of Failure Can Keep You Stuck. Psychology Today. Retrieved December 28, 2020 from, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/smashing-the-brainblocks/201712/why-fear-failure-can-keep-you-stuck

 

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