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Importance and process to individual goal setting

^^^ 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 Sessions" for younger players. At these sessions we look at current Aussies in the NBA or Euroleague. We then, with the players involved, to break up into small groups and map out the typical steps that these athletes took from grassroots through to this level. We then come together and I have a representative from each group present their findings ensuring a good discussion along the way.

Parents should be involved in this process but they need to be told that the players must own their goals and we, parents and coaches, are only there to guide and support.

Goals need to be SMART. Specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic and time based. I like the players to set a combination of process and outcome base goals. Outome based goals are often not entirely in your control, such as winning a premiership, making a state team. The process goals are normally in your control such as train 6-7 AM three times per week, add 10% to bench-press weight every 4 mths, improve 3 pt shooting in 7 minutes by 4 every session for next 4 sessions. We think it is healthy to share goals with those you trust because this does bring some level accountability. Good people involved in your process will monitor and motivate you to achieve your goals.

I always try to get the players to set a combination of personal and basketball goals. I like the personal goals because it provides areas I may be able to relate to them on. If a guy wants to gain his Masters Degree one day I can discuss that, if he wants to play State League basketball I can talk about that, based on my own experiences etc.

We set different levels of goals based on timeframe. Next session, 3 mths, 12 mths, 3 yrs, dream goals. Dream goals are important in my opinion. They provide the framework for the athlete to make decisions that can make them achieve their best. Sean Carlin would often speak about paying the price for success which I now live by. If you want to succeed in something to an elite level you need to be willing to make sacrifices, there will be an investment that has to be made if you want to get the rewards.

Coaches are able to work with the athletes to discuss and refine the athlete's goals. Remember the athlete owns their own goals but working together in this way I have found helps build a better working relationship which leads to great success, and this relationship gives the coach better ability to push the athlete harder to achieve their goals. These can be reviewed on a regular basis and help form the basis of many one on one discussions going forward between the player and the coach.

I strongly feel that after individual goals, team goals should also be set. A balance of individual goals and team goals are important. You should not do one set without the other. Players need to know that their team success will always lead to greater chance of individual goals being achieved. However, when we are players, like anyone, we will ultimately want to know "what is in it for me" if we are required to sacrifice for the team. The process around team goal setting is very different to individual goal setting and at some stage in the future I will be posting an article on team goal setting and vision.

Special offer

I have a template/proforma available for you to use for your goal setting that I have used and it has worked EXTREMELY well in developing high level, elite people, time and time again, from the ground up.

For anyone that registers I will include a link to the goal setting template/proforma in my next update to members.

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