Taking charge of your coach development – Part 3

Part 3 – Goal setting

Jeff Mitchell – Community Coach Advisor – Sport Auckland / GACU

This is the third article in a series of 13 on developing your coaching skills. For the full list of articles in the series see the articles page.

In Issue 2 of Taking charge of your coach development we looked at how you can profile yourself as a coach. From this profile you identify areas that you wish to develop. Your Coach Development Plan then describes how you will develop these areas. In this third issue we will look at how goal setting fits into your Coach Development Plan and how to set effective goals.

Goal setting and your Coach Development Plan

Your Coach Development Plan is all about goal setting. It provides a framework for you to track your progress and maps out how you will improve your coaching effectiveness. You may have a lot of experience in helping your players to set goals; in this article we will take a similar approach to setting your own coach development goals.

Goal setting process

To set your coach development goals you need to look at two areas: where you are currently (your profile) and where you want to get to (your end goal). Your short-term goals will then provide the stepping stones that bridge the gap between the two. A simple process for identifying short-term goals for your Coach Development Plan would include the following stages:

Step 1: Identify the areas requiring development to achieve your end goal (profiling).

Step 2: Identify the areas you wish to set goals for (from your profile).

Step 3: Identify the level you need to reach for each area to achieve the end goal.

Step 4: Set specific goals for improvement in the desired areas.

Step 5: Set a deadline for achieving each goal.

Step 6: Identify how you will achieve each goal (action plan).

Step 7: Track your progress and review your achievements.

The first three steps we discussed in Issue 2 (Profiling). We will now look at the next steps, so you can see how to incorporate goal setting into your development plan.

Setting goals

To set a short-term goal for an area you wish to develop, identify what you would like to be able to do. While part of this goal could be an increase in your rating for that area in your profile, it is best to also have an objective way of measuring your achievement. Your goal could be something that you wish to be able to do (such as ask 15 open questions during a session); something you wish to do regularly (such as prepare a written plan for each session); or something that you wish to be able to do better (such as providing clear instructions that do not require clarification).

When setting goals it is important to ensure that the goals are effective. An effective goal is one that will lead to you improving your coaching ability and that takes you closer to your end goal. One way to ensure that your goals are effective is to check that they are SMART.

SMART goals

When you have written a goal an easy way to check if it is effective is to run it through the SMART test. If your goal contains each element of SMART then it will generally be an effective goal. Run your goal through SMART before committing to it.

Specific: the goal should clearly state what it is you are trying to achieve. It should allow you to easily identify if the goal has been achieved, and make it obvious what you are working towards.

Unspecific goal: I want to be better at asking questions.

Specific goal: I will ask a minimum of 15 open questions during a session.

Measureable: it needs to be possible to measure the goal, so that you can know if you have achieved it. If it is measureable then you can also determine how close you are to achieving it. This could involve attaching a number, time or percentage to the goal.

Immeasurable goal: I want to be a better coach.

Measurable goal: My athletes will be actively engaged in activity for a minimum of 80% of each session.

Adaptable: the goal should allow for some flexibility in case circumstances change and it needs to be modified. If circumstances do change you need to modify the goal so that it is still realistic.

Inflexible goal: I will never talk to the whole team for more than 1 minute at a time.

Adaptable goal: I will ensure at least 80% of my talks to the whole team last for less than one minute.

Realistic: while the goal should be challenging it also needs to be achievable. It should be a target that with some dedicated effort you are capable of reaching.

Unrealistic goal: Every session will follow my session plan exactly.

Realistic goal: I will spend at least seven minutes on each activity within my session plan.

Timed: to be effective you need to place a deadline on the goal. At this point you should measure the goal. Without a clear timeframe the goal is likely to remain drifting out of reach. The goal may have the time line stated within it (e.g. “I will reflect on three of my first seven training sessions”) or may have a deadline attached to it (e.g. “I will reflect on five sessions. Due date: 25 October 2012”).

A deadline is important as it gives you something to work towards (a definite point in time) and also provides a timeline within which the goal needs to be achieved. The deadline you set should be challenging and realistic.

Action plan

Once you have set your SMART goals you need to have a clear plan for how you will achieve them. For each goal identify the steps that you will take in order to achieve the goal. These steps should be written into your Coach Development Plan, and should state specifically what you are going to do to achieve your goals. The action plan will give you clarity as to how your goals will be achieved.

Reviewing progress

Having identified your goals and what you will do to achieve them you now need to track how you are progressing. You will want to check your progress regularly, rather than waiting until the deadline. It is important to check that you are on track for achieving your goal, and if you are not then to take action to get back on track. This might mean changing some of the actions that you are taking, or modifying your goal to make it more realistic. Likewise if you have already achieved the goal then your time is better spent working towards other goals.

Below is a sample section from Coach Gary’s Coach Development Plan that shows how he has taken an area from his profile and set a short-term goal for it. This goal is designed to help him achieve his end goal. Coach Gary has identified how the short-term goal will help him reach his end goal, and the specific actions he will take to achieve the short-term goal.

Incorporating goal setting into your practice

Where many people fall down is that they set goals but then don’t follow through with them. Every session that you deliver is an opportunity for you to develop and work towards your goals. The best way to achieve your goals is to work at them every day. By incorporating goal setting into your daily coaching practice you are much more likely to see your goals achieved.

In Issue 4 of Taking charge of your coach development we will look at how you can work on your short-term goals during your coaching sessions, and how to make sure that you continue to develop your coaching skills while your athletes develop their playing skills.

Issue 4: Goal setting within session plans

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