Sports Psychology
Setting Goals and Following Through

NOW we're getting down to the real nitty-gritty!
   Goals are standards that we establish for ourselves that demonstrate what we have decided is important to us.  By setting goals, we give ourself something to strive for.  In setting them, we imagine what our capability might actually be.  This allows us to develop the possible extent of our performance.  If we imagine ourselves doing great things, we may improve our chances of actually accomplishing them.
    It is logical that in order to set a valid goal and achieve it, we will likely be required to change something that we have been doing up to this point.  If some part of our technique (physical or mental) has prevented us from reaching our level of peak performance, then that part must be changed in order for us to go on.  The following "rules" apply:
    If you want to make a change:
        (1)     Make change a priority in your life, it must be an important thing to you.
        (2)     Be willing to take risks to accomplish that change.
        (3)     Make a personal commitment to change - "I will do this!"
        (4)     Take action!  Think about the change when you play and practice.  Write it out and review your progress!

(2)    Before we begin setting goals, we want to be convinced that goalsetting is important to successful performance.  Obviously, the full measure of a goal's significance is its relative importance to us.  If we have no intention of aiming for anything, then no amount of goalsetting will be relevant.  As the old saying goes, "If you're not going any place in particular, then any road will get you there."  In athletics, we are going someplace particular - we are going toward success.  Exactly how that success is measured is truly, completely up to us, so it is important that we establish relevant, sincere measurement standards.

    The best results of psychological studies show that goals probably have a positive affect on performance.  It is difficult to put absolutes on such studies, because goals are such an intrinsic thing that external studies may not be able to measure them at all.  Still, certain basic aspects seem to hold true consistently, so it is important that our goals contain these characteristics:
    (A)   Our goal should be moderate, but in the upper region of our ability to achieve it.  (For example, we should not set a goal of averaging 60 yards per carry or having every serve be an ace.  We might set our goal for 6 yards per carry, or 6 aces per match, if those would "stretch" our performance a bit.)
    (B)    Our goals should be fairly specific so we can easily measure our success.  (Setting goals that contain numbers are obviously easier to measure than those that don't.  Still, we should be careful what numbers we set.  Also, if we feel more comfortable with the Humanistic theory than with the others, we will have little problem writing our feelings about our performance in a post-game journal, and will be satisfied if our personal judgement of success is high.)
    (C)    Performance & process goals should be keyed to our personal needs and situations.  (It is vitally important that our goals reflect our desires and needs, and not that of our parents, coaches, teammates, etc.  Those folks may help us set our goals or the appropriate level of difficulty for them, but it is we who must be committed to achieving the result.  Performance goals are those that relate to a particular thing we want to be able to do.  These usually focus on specific tasks that will make us happy in our chosen sport - score a touchdown, make a percentage of our foul shots, hit for a certain average, etc.  Process goals help us work out the method for doing something.  We might make goals that will help us be more efficient, focused, or competent at a skill we find important.)
    (D)    Our goals should be an appropriate mix of long & short term goals.  (When we are setting goals, it is very important that we have some that will show change rapidly, so we will have positive reinforcement early in the process.  Other goals may take all season to be realized, but we should be checking on their progress regularly).
    (E)     Our goals should be somewhat public.  (If we enlist a few close friends (in addition to our teacher) who can help us stay on track and pursue our goals when things get difficult, then we are much more likley to complete our task.  This is teamwork in a very different way than we are used to.)

(3)    It is vital to note, that the wording of goals is very important to the liklihood that we will achieve them.  There are several important keys to structuring this process too:
    (A)  We must be positive in what we expect to do.  Our goal must be stated in positive terms, as though there is no alternative.  (We must avoid terms like "don't", "can't", and "won't" in our goals, because our mind does not register them.)
    (B)  We must be active in our statements.  Stay in the present tense.  Write what you are doing, not what you have done, or will do.  ("I am hitting the ball solidly every time.")  [btw - a process goal, that one.]
    (C)  We must break down our goal into their simplest form.  ("Scoring 12 points per game" is a performance goal that has too many variables to make sense.  What simple tasks will lead to accomplishing the big one?)
    (D)  We must keep our goals controllable.  Some of our goals are so complex (see the one above) that a great number of people have some control over whether we succeed or not.  We need to word our goals in such a way that we are the ones in control of the goal, not others.
    (E)  We must make our goals objectively measureable.  Any person, knowing your goal, should be able to observe your performance, and determine whether you have accomplished what you set out to.

(4)   Now we are ready to write some goals.  To begin, you should go back to the lists you made for the Problems page.  Using your prioritized list, look at the first 10 or so on that list.  (It is important that we keep the list manageable, so we'll have to decrease the number somewhat.)  Make sure you are still satisfied with the order of importance.  Beginning with your highest-rated problem, ask yourself honestly and objectively how many of these items you can reasonably work on during your season (you will probably already have some input from me on this subject).
    Use the outlines in items #2 & #3 above to write each goal in final form.  Make sure they are written in a way you can remember easily, and that they follow the guidelines above.  Write the final form of these goals on a page in your notebook, and also on a 3x5 notecard that you can carry with you.
    Bring these items to show me before you move on.

Go on to the Strategy page.

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