Why is goal setting a key ingredient for enhancing sports performance?
The purpose of goals is to focus our attention. The body, together with the mind, will not reach towards achievement until they have clear objectives. All players will have their own goals in their lives and these will include goals for Australian Football. Having goals will assist in developing mental skills such as motivation and self-confidence, therefore enhancing sports performance. However, in order to achieve, it is important to set the right goals.
There are a number of different types of goals you can set as a player. These can be categorised into three types:
- Outcome Goal – typically focus on a competitive result in a situation, such as winning a game of football, scoring more goals than the opposition, winning the grand final, being selected in a representative team or getting drafted to an AFL football club.
- Performance Goal – focus on achieving standards or performance objectives based on one’s own previous performance or a team performance. E.g. get 30 possessions in a game of football, kicking three goals in a game or as a team, reducing inside 50 forward entries.
- Process Goal – focus on actions of an individual or team must engage in during a performance to perform well. E.g. punching from behind, manning up, correct disposal of the football.
Players need to set mental, physical and technical goals for both training and competition. These goals may be related to a number of factors including physical fitness, developing skill behaviour towards an opponent, attitude at training, nutritional goals and many more. The progression of goals helps a player see the steps required to achieve their goals. If you achieve your training goals, you will achieve your performance goals. If you achieve your performance goals, you give yourself the opportunity to achieve your outcome goals.
The Goal Setting Staircase is a good model to focus your goals in order to maximise your performance. It is based on the theory that goals progress up like a staircase, with each step forming the foundation for the achievement of the ultimate goal when you reach the top.
An example is as follows:
Step 1 – Next training goal – set a personal goal that you can achieve by the end of your next training session. Write it down in a diary.
Step 2 – Monthly training goal – what personal goal as a player or team you can achieve by a specific date?
Step 3 – Performance Goal – what is a performance goal that can be achieved based on your present skill level, on the potential for improvement, and on current motivation?
Step 4 – Dream Goal (short term) – what is the dream goal this year? What is possible if you train hard and stretch the limits? This could be an outcome goal.
Step 5 – Dream Goal (long term) – what is the long term goal? What is possible with training and hard work, and stretching the limits.
A few suggestions that will help in the process when deciding on whether to set outcome goals rather than performance goals include:
- A player during competition should be focused on their performance and specific team responsibilities. They should not be overly concerned about the outcome, as it will distract focus.
- A player has more control over their performance within a game than the actual outcome. Performance goals allow for success even if the team loses. A player can finish a match without achieving a win, but still be satisfied with their own performance.
- Outcome goals focus on winning or losing. However, the outcome of a game is not a good indication of a player’s ability or improvement, as the outcome can be determined by a number of factors. For example a player might achieve a goal of beating an opponent and contributing to the team. However, the team still lost the game.
- If players achieve their performance goals, there is every chance (though no guarantee) that they will achieve their outcome goals.
When goal setting it is useful to follow the SMART principle:
S Specific – Goals need to be specific avoiding generalisations. What is it that you want to achieve with your football and to what extent? An example of a specific goal is “I want to run 1km in 3.05min by 30th of March” compared with simply saying “I want to run 1km faster.”
M Measurable – If a goal is specific, it should also be measurable and/or observable. You should be able to track your progress when reaching your outcome. Numerical goals are easier to measure (e.g. distance or time) than subjective goals (e.g. improvement in attitude). When setting performance goals seek assistance for these to be measured e.g. effective disposals.
A Achievable – Goals should be difficult enough to challenge yet realistic to achieve by mapping out a plan in order to achieve your desired result.
R Relevant – Goals should be relevant based on current ability and future potential. Consider opportunities for practice and the level of commitment towards achieving a goal. If you set goals that are too difficult to achieve, then you are setting yourself up for failure. However, by setting goals that are too low, also sends the message that you aren’t capable.
T Timeline – Goals should have a timeframe or target date. Long term goals give a focus and short term goals increase motivation.