Monday, April 26, 2010

Goal Setting and Motivation

A sense of accomplishment increases motivation.  Success and accomplishment are relative to past performance and current goals.  Therefore, choosing appropriate goals plays a key role in consistent motivation.  I use a simple flow-chart I call the Progressive Motivation Cycle to remind myself and my staff of the relationship between setting goals and motivation.

The Blue Cycle is the preffered cycle.  When our athletes are rolling along in the blue cycle, life is great.  Accomplishing one goal is followed by training for the next goal, completing that goal successfully and repeating the process over and over. 

I don't want to delve too deeply into the nuts and bolts of goal setting except to say that goals should be:

*Written, so all involved understand them clearly.

*Measurable.  "I want to be a better free throw shooter" is not a measurable goal.  "I want to make 65% of my free throws this week in practice" is measurable and objective.

*Goals should not be too hard or too easy. 

*Goals should be progressive.

*Long term and medium range goals should be set by the athlete.

Choosing appropriate goals will keep our athletes in the blue cycle more often than not.  It is critical that the athletes set their own medium and long term goals.  I see it like this.  With good information, the athletes decide where they want to go in the sport and the coaches guide them to that point.  The athlete's decide where to go, the coaches decide how to get there.  The athletes get input from coaches and other sources to help them set their medium and long term goals and the coaches get input from the athletes to help them set the day to day, hour to hour, minute by minute goals for training.  As an athlete grows and matures, the overlap of these roles increases. 

Young athletes will easily set long term goals.  "I want to go to the Olympics."  "I want to compete in college."  "I want to qualify for the state meet."  Coaches should fill in goals between where the athlete is in their current development and the athletes nearest goal (qualifying for the state meet).  Coaches should also be developing goal setting skills in their athletes.  As these skills improve, there will be less and less "in between goals" for the coach to write.

Coaches can use these "in between goals" as a tool to keep their athletes operating in the blue cycle.  Write small progressive goals that will create a string of successful accomplishments.  Beware of goals that are too easy, but use as many small challenging goals as it takes to reach the big goals. 

Goal discrepancy simply means the outcome of the performance didn't meet the standards set in the goal.  This is the black level of the Progressive Motivation Cycle.  Since none of us, athletes or coaches, are perfect, all of us will venture into the black level.  What's important is how we react to our goal discrepancies and how we teach our athletes to react when goals aren't met.  The black level creates opportunities for education.  Look at the difference between the actual results and the goal.  Decide why there's a discrepancy.  Set a new goal and make plans for how to accomplish that goal.  Maybe the goal attempted could have been broken into 2 or 3 goals to make the learning process move along more smoothly and with more focus.  Maybe a particular training technique wasn't as effective as you'd hoped.  The old saying "learn from your mistakes" applies to this level. 

An innapropriate response to goal discrepancy will take an athlete (or coach) into the red level of the Progressive Motivation Cycle.  Frustration is usually the kick-off point for the red level.  Good coaches and mature athletes will learn to recognize frustration or dissapointment early.  This skill will help coaches pull athletes back from the red level before they decide to drop out, or begin misbehaving.  Athletes will usually follow the coaches lead in this process.  So, coaches remember, the behavior you model when a goal is not met will very likely be accepted as the most appropriate behavior by your athletes.  You may be frustrated or dissapointed, but you must get to WHY the goal wasn't met, WHAT the next goal will be and HOW you and your athlete will accomplish that goal.  As soon as those things are done, you are back in the blue cycle.


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