Mental Skills: Set the Right Kind of Goals for Your Team

Goal Setting

Goals are more than dreams and wishes. Dreams are?important in sport and in life, but?they lack an essential ingredient inherent in effective goal setting, and that is the observable, measurable behaviors required for achieving the end result. For example, I might wish that I was an Olympic performer and I might dream about making an Olympic team, but when I set a goal, much more is required of me in order to?reach for?that dream.

Coaches and athletes can utilize goal setting in technical, tactical, psychological and physiological areas. To understand goal setting better, and how you can utilize its powerful effects to your competitive advantage, it's important to define what goals are.


Goals are a specific standard of proficiency achieved in a specific area of performance within a specified time. For example, an athlete could set a goal to improve their overhand serve by doing 30 extra serves every day immediately after practice. All of the criteria listed in that definition must be met in order for behavior to be considered a goal. To determine if goal setting is successfully being implemented, ask yourself the following two questions: Can I measure it? Can I see it?

Three Types of Goals

Do-Your-Best Goals: Do-your-best goals are obvious from the title itself. The focus is not on specific standards of proficiency, process or outcome other than asking the participants to "give it their best shot", try hard and "do your best".

Examples of this type of goal would be saying, "I'll try my best to play well in today's game," "We'll try our best to play good defense," or "I'll try to be a better coach this season."?

Outcome Goals: Outcome goals are goals in which participants focus on the end result or the outcome. These are the most often recited and typically utilized types of goals among coaches and athletes. While participants think they have control over outcome goals, the facts indicate that athletes and coaches have only partial control, or little to no control over the ultimate successful achievement of outcome goals.

Examples of outcome goals are: to become a starting member of the team this season, to win the league championship, or to achieve the school scoring record before graduating.

Performance Goals: Performance goals emphasize the PROCESS by which a given outcome is achieved. The Athlete has more control over a successful outcome when setting performance goals and should consider their own best performance capabilities.

Examples of process goals are increasing the number of serves taken in order to improve ones' overhand serve, committing to a consistent pattern of three strength training sessions per week in order to increase the amount of weight lifted for a one-rep max and engaging in first person imagery training two days per week for the next month of practice.

Do-your-best goals lack the specificity and detail that are apparent in the other two types of goals. And while it may be easier and more convenient to set outcome goals in sport, experts recommend that the most favorable results in performance occur when athletes and coaches set performance goals.


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