Why it's important and the basics of how to do it.
~by Scott Bay, Coach/Swimmer, Dynoswim Aquatics
When I was a young athlete, I always had a ‘Goal Conference’ with the coach of whatever sport I was involved in at the time so the coach could explain to me what my goals were.
How crazy is that?
Goals for an athlete are not the expectations of the coach at all. They are a conversation between a coach and an athlete. Goals are important to athletes and coaches as it helps to guide things like workouts and decision making not only in the pool but in other parts of life as well. The athlete for his or her part brings dreams and ambition to the table. The coach for his or her part brings a knowledge of the steps necessary to achieve what athletes desire…Kind of.
A good coach has many things in the toolbox that have been put there by experience, education and failures as well as successes. Often times we refer to this collective wisdom as the voice of reason. Someone else may refer to it as a dream killing cynicism. Lets look at the right way for an athlete and a coach to set goals.
The athlete should spend some time reflecting on a few basic questions. What is it that I want? What steps are involved in achieving my goal? What am I willing to sacrifice to achieve my goal. Is my goal even achievable/realistic? What will I do if I do/do not achieve my goal.
The coach should spend a lot of time listening to the athlete and be ready to ask all of the questions that an athlete should be thinking about. Goals should be reasonable and attainable. Goals should be specific to the athlete NOT the athlete’s competition. Goals should be measurable. Goals should not be the end of the road.
Step one: Think about where you are and where you want to be. Your wants should be tempered by a cold hard look at reality. I would love to have a goal of being in the 50 free at the next Olympics. I am pushing 40 and 10+ seconds away from world-class speed in the 50 free. I have two kids and a full time job. I have the genetic gifts and grace of Fred Flintstone. Are my wants consistent with reality? Clearly not. I want to break one minute in the 100 free this year. That is more like it.
Step two. Tell someone your goals and ask them what they think. Make sure it is a person you trust to be honest with you. Need a test. Use my aforementioned example. If someone in my life said you should go for it, they probably like me but are not willing to tell me the truth for fear it would hurt my feelings.
Step three. Discuss goal with a coach. Ask what he or she thinks and get some real feedback.
Step four. Write down all of the little things that need to happen to make your goal easier to achieve. Eat better, sleep more, train more, and train differently.
Step five. Make the goal a part of the rest of your life. If it is truly important to you, you will skip things like that extra piece of cake. You will make that practice even when you are tired. You will find yourself looking at nutrition labels. You will find a way to do what you need to do to make it happen not just in the pool but also at work home and school. This DOES NOT mean you let anything outside of swimming slide. It means you manage your time and life better to take care of your responsibilities as well as reach for your goals.
Step six. Have a next goal in mind. Goals are not black and white. There is no failure here really so do not be afraid to scare yourself a little with a challenging goal. If you improve and come close to your goal that is still a success. Making it 100 percent next time around can be the new goal. If you achieve your goal make sure you have a next step ready but do not forget to celebrate your achievement.
Final thoughts. There are lots of sudden changes in life that alter the way we look at things. Be prepared to adjust your expectations and goals accordingly. Also, blind devotion to a goal is not healthy either. When I talked about sacrificing things to achieve your goals, I was speaking about chocolate chip cookies, not a marriage or career.
I really liked the point you made that when you achieve your goal(s)--"do not forget to celebrate your achievement." Sometimes we tend to jump into the next goal without "savoring the moment" and celebrating the success of the previous one. Great article!
Give up chocolate chip cookies?