Because of individual differences, athletes will probably develop different goal-setting strategies. What is important is that they develop and use a system that works for them; it needs to be a system to which they will adhere that also incorporates the basic principles of effective goal setting. Through adherence to systematic goal setting, athletes can tolerate setbacks or barriers because they have a clear focus on long-term goals and confidence in their ability to reach these goals. Obviously athlete goals will be individualized, but they should also fit within established team goals. Setting goals implies that the swimmers should progress from their present state or ability to a targeted state or ability. The goals the coach and swimmers set should correspond to the seasonal plan the coach develops for the team or training group.
Facilitating Individual Goal Setting
Here is a brief and simple process for facilitating goal setting for swimmers who have the cognitive ability to set goals, usually starting at about age 12 or 13. Younger swimmers generally do not have the cognitive ability to do meaningful goal setting.
- Meet with the swimmer individually to listen to his or her hopes and dreams
- Ask the swimmer to identify one to three events to set specific goals
- Review current best times
- Negotiate a specific goal time and target date for each chosen event
- Write down these times
- Figure out and write the specific splits needed to meet each goal time
- List several process goals needed to achieve each goal time. These might be times to hold on practice sets or skills that must be maintained during practice.
- Ask the swimmer to list what he or she needs from the coach to accomplish the goals
- Ask the swimmer to write his or her process and outcome goals and post them where the swimmer will see them often
- Look for and recognize workout performances that can be related to process and outcome goals
- Review process goals regularly with the swimmer
Facilitating Team Goal Setting
Team goals are vitally important to the growth of a program. Goals can be set for competition, team size, workout performance and even social activities. In setting competition team goals it is best to involve the team thereby making the goals “team goals” and not just the coach’s goals for the team. Here is a brief process for setting team goals for a high school aged team.
- The coach:
- Reviews past results
- Looks at current roster
- Looks at strengths and weaknesses
- Predicts improvements
- Sets a goal, for example: Top 3 at Sectionals.
- The coach then considers what it will take to achieve that goal. For example: What does it take to be top 3?
- How many points?
- How many scoring relays?
- How many finalists?
- What events are strongest for the team?
- What events need the most work to improve? (This is also a great basis for creating a season training plan.)
- Next, the coach holds a team meeting and asks, “What should our team goal for this season be?”
- By asking the right questions and giving enough information, the coach can get the team to come up with team goals that very closely match his or her goals except that now they are TEAM goals.
- The coach can then put some swimmers in charge of recording both the process (workout) goals and the outcome goals, making copies, and distributing to the entire team.