Smaller Goals, Bigger Payoff
Goal setting is one of the most important aspects of our women’s soccer program. We set goals as a team, in small groups, and on an individual...
Goal setting is one of the most important aspects of our women’s soccer program. We set goals as a team, in small groups, and on an individual level. We set goals in many different areas – both on and off the field – and we aim for each of those goals to be challenging, attainable, measurable, current, and accompanied by a detailed action plan.
One thing that has worked very well for us with our goal setting is creating phase goals. In other words, we take the entire fall soccer season and break it down into smaller phases that typically last 3-4 weeks. The six phases of our season are:
- Preseason (2 weeks)
- First half of non-conference (3 weeks)
- Second half of non-conference (3 weeks)
- Conference play (4 weeks)
- First four rounds of NCAA tournament (3 weeks)
- The Final Four (1 week)
We started phasing our goals about 20 years ago. Prior to that, we had goals for the season. One of our best teams set a goal of having an undefeated season. We finished with 19 wins, two losses and two ties. It was definitely a great year, yet because we lost our first match, we knew we couldn’t finish the season undefeated. It was very deflating.
Phasing our goals allows us the flexibility to evaluate our goals and readjust them as needed. Here is why you should consider breaking down long-term goals in to smaller bite-sized pieces:
- It drives an increased focus and attention to detail over a manageable time period. In our preseason, rather than focusing on winning the championship, we focus our energy and attention on what we can control, which is building a solid foundation of teamwork and communication.
- It allows you to shelf a goal altogether if it is clearly no longer attainable. If, for example, having a Top 10 ranking is no longer possible, we can eliminate it entirely or update the goal to something that is more realistic and still achievable.
- It challenges you to set a more demanding goal if you’ve accomplished a goal more quickly or easily than expected. One of our original long-term goals for this 2015 season was to make the NCAA Tournament. At the halfway mark of the season, we had already done enough to solidify an invite to the NCAA Tournament. As a result, we decided drop the old goal and set a new one. Now, we seek to be seeded as one of the top 16 teams in the 64-team tournament.
- It enables you to evaluate your current goals to ensure you’re staying on track over a long period of time. At the beginning of the season, we typically ask our team to commit to five hours of film review per week. Both the coaches and players recognize the importance of reviewing film, but it is important for us to reassess the time commitment with each new phase in our season. As the school year begins, the demands on our players change. This evaluative process helps us stay on track while also allowing us to either continue as planned, or adjust as needed.
- It creates a more positive, energized environment and gives you a greater sense of control. College, work, and life can be pretty overwhelming. This type of goal setting allows each person or group to set and adjust their priorities with increased flexibility, to stay focused and motivated for only a short period of time, and to have the sense of accomplishment more often, which reinforces these good habits.
This goal setting process has worked extremely well for our soccer players and program. By breaking up long-term goals into smaller phases, we find that we set ourselves up for success more often.