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Importance and process to individual goal setting

June 7, 2016

^^^ Daniel Carlin, pictured above dunking at the first ever U17 World Championships, was a goal setter, achieving so much, and a great man to work with.  




In December 2009 I was appointed Director of Coaching at Central Districts Lions.  At the time it would be fair to say the club was ailing on and off the floor.  Virtually defunct, with roughly 25 girls and 60 boys playing in the club.  There were 2 boys teams and 1 girls team in div 1 and those teams were struggling.  Fortunately a great new Executive of switched on people were coming on board at that time too with a vision to the club into a powerhouse, we shared that vision.


Throughout the state those in basketball said there was no way Centrals could ever emerge from the doldrums, cultures were embedded and the cycle of losing would continue as talent at the club would continue to leak out to other clubs in order to play in competitive teams.  We needed to something different.  We came up with what we called "The Goal Setting and Evaluation Cycle".


Due to some great coaches and administrators, and this process, 3 years later the club had U14 boys AND girls teams making the National Championships, the club more than doubled in size and there were div 1 and 2 teams in just about every age group, competing strongly in many, especially in the younger age groups.  The club was also now able to attract the most talented prospects from across regional South Australia, families making a significant investment sometimes flying kids in on the Friday to play and train and flying back home on the Sunday, or driving across the state to play for us.  


How did we turn it around in such a short time?  How were we able to garner such commitment from athletes and their families in what was traditionally an environment well known for failure?


Sean Carlin, who is a phenomenal leader, educator and former Olympian had worked with me previously to develop a goal setting process for the kids we were coaching.  The team that we worked with over a period of 4 years improved dramatically over the period and saw kids making state sides and one, Sean's son Daniel, even making National teams.  When I took over the Centrals Director of Coaching role, Sean was also appointed President at Centrals, and we decided to roll the goal setting process across the whole program.


At my first year at Sturt Tony Casella, a great coach, one of the best in South Australia in my opinion, was coaching division 1.  He was incredibly committed to goal setting, evaluation and measurement of players and this gave me a chance to apply the process I had applied at Centrals to my team at Sturt.


The players that have undertaken the process have substantially developed at a rate far faster than their peers, infact ALL the super talented, goal driven athletes featured on the ATHLETES page have undertaken this process with me at some stage, most numerous times.


The purpose & process


I want to share this process here for all coaches and players to think about.


What is the purpose of goals?:

  • Goals help us focus on the process that is needed to achieve our best.  You can't let goals distract us, they must dictate our behaviors and that is the focus.  I love this Ted Talk by NFL player, Reggie Rivers on how not to focus on your goals.  It is certainly an idea I subscribe to.  I normally show this video to players when we start the goal setting process.

  • Provide a plan.  When you start with your "dream goals" you can work backwards to develop a plan to achieve your goals, by breaking down your dream goals into steps it is much more achievable.

  • To excite and motivate you when you need to.  To achieve high goals the workload will be significant.  Your goals and vision can help motivate you through the grind of hard work.


It is really important that players own their goals, not parents, not coaches.   They have to believe their goals are possible for them to achieve and also be willing to do the work to achieve their goals, no one else can dictate this to the player.  In order to provide this capability it is important players make an infomed decision on their goals.  I have always ran something called "High Performance Information Sessi