Setting Goals

Good performance starts with good goals.  Lou Holtz, one the of nation’s most successful college football coaches, once said that “Of all my experiences in managing people, the power of goal setting is the most incredible.”  He carried with him a book identifying personal, player and team goals and used these to motivate himself and his team.

In Dr. Kenneth Blanchard’s book, the One Minute Manager, he identifies three steps toward getting the most out of a group of people.  While written for a business audience, its lessons also apply to sports teams.  The book’s three recommendations are:

  1. One Minute Goals – Goals are agreements between the coach and the individual players or the coach and the team on the desired accomplishments.  Three to five goals should be the limit with a good understanding of current and expected performance.
  2. One Minute Praisings – Immediate and specific positive feedback helps players know when they are doing something right and encourages them to keep doing it.
  3. One Minute Reprimands – If goals aren’t being met, then players need quick corrections followed by a reaffirmation of the player’s value and potential.

Goal setting works at any age level although the goals and the methods of communication may be very different.  Clear goals keep everyone focused and reviewing their progress.  If players can know they are improving, then they will continue working to accomplish their goals.

Managing Your Child’s Development

Just like children bring home homework that is beyond what a parent can help with, young athletes often progress beyond the abilities of a parent. If the problem is not addressed, young players’ frustration at their own lack of progress may increase until the solution is to quit sports altogether. Fortunately, like in school, there are a variety of experts to help with almost every aspect of physical, skill and strategy development.

Though parents may not be able to help directly, parents still have a large role to play in selecting and overseeing these experts. Whether a player is 5 or even 15 years old, parents should:

  1. Ask if their child wants help. Kids will apply themselves only if they are motivated to learn. Forcing instruction on a child with limited interest will have little benefit.
  2. Locate instructors who like instructing. Not all instructors have the same passion for teaching the same subject over and over. Only instructors who enjoy seeing another’s progress can teach enthusiastically.
  3. Watch to determine if the instruction is organized. Spending time with a student is not the same as instructing. Parents should notice how the practice is organized and if the practice builds on previous lessons.
  4. Remain open to all areas of instruction. Sometimes, a problem is caused by a breakdown in a more fundamental area and won’t improve until the fundamental issue is resolved.
  5. Expect results over time. One lesson is not going to make a major impact on a child’s performance. If a child wants and enjoys the instruction and the instructor is enthusiastic and organized, then lessons will help over time though it may be weeks or months before results can be observed.

It is never too early or too late to consider expert help. Lessons, early on, can provide a level of confidence that lasts over a long period. In addition to helping the player, private instruction can also give parents valuable one-on-one feedback about their child’s progress and insights into drills and activities that would be helpful at home. Teaching, whether in school or in sports, works best when parents respect the role of the educator but stay involved with monitoring progress and results.