Category Archives: Goal setting

Goal Setting According To Pat Summitt

benefits of setting goals on blackboardsource

She’s got over a thousand wins.  Over a hundred NCAA tournament wins.  Thirty Sweet 16 appearances. 18 Final Fours.  And eight national championship.  In her entire career (which started in 1974), she didn’t have a double digit losing season!  I think it’s fair to say Pat Summitt was an amazing coach.

When I found this article from when she was coaching, I was immediately drawn to it, because goal setting is something I know is very important…but an area I think I can improve in.  Perhaps you’ll find some motivation from Summitt’s words as I did.

Be realistic              
Setting goals is incredibly important to success. But if you set a goal that seems impossible to achieve—if you go into a year saying your goal is to win the national championship—then you risk losing morale, self-discipline and chemistry if you falter early.

But aim high
Set a goal that stretches you, requires exceptional effort, but one that you can reach.

Let’s keep our egos in check, coaches
Summitt says the best way to motivate individuals to achieve team goals is to bring individual goals in line. She hasn’t achieved her goals by herself. Her players have achieved them, and she’ll be the first to tell you it was their hard work that led to all of her program’s accomplishments.

Ensure your team stays on course
Setting up a system that rewards you for meeting your goals and has penalties for failing to hit your target is just as important as putting your goals down on paper.

Appropriate goals ensure accountability
The only way to ensure you become a winner is to set goals every day, and hold yourself and your teammates accountable for reaching those goals.

Daily goal setting is something we should all add to our coaching repertoire, I think having small goals and successes each day can help our teams achieve their larger goals.


Posted by on April 4, 2014 in Goal setting

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The Pressure Of Winning


Never mention winning. My idea is that you can lose when you outscore somebody in a game. And you can win when you’re outscored. I used to say that when a game is over, and you see somebody that didn’t know the outcome, I hope they couldn’t tell by your actions whether you outscored an opponent or the opponent outscored you.—John Wooden

I understand this philosophy and I even hold it to a certain extent.  But I’m going to deviate (!) from my man Wooden here and say that I disagree.

Where I agree with his philosophy:

  • You can beat a team that you’re just better than and still play poorly.
  • You can play to the absolute best of your ability and still get beat by a team who is more talented than yours.

Where I disagree:

I used to not talk about winning very much, but rather the process of getting there (hard work, commitment, consistency, good mental mindset) and would always say the rest will take care of itself.  And that works for some teams, especially those that are internally driven to succeed.  But you will have teams, with good skill sets, who are not internally motivated and you will then need to provide the motivation or the pressure.  Whether it’s through punishments for not correctly completing drills or, and this is where I disagree with Wooden, through talking about winning.

There is inherent pressure in talking about winning.  It’s like talking about a diet that you’re on.  Once you start telling people you’re on a diet, then you don’t want them seeing you munching on cookies and sipping pop.  The whole point of talking about it is so that others can hold you accountable…right?  It’s the same with talking about winning.  There’s a pressure associated with talk of winning, with getting picked to win conference, or whatever accolade your team is “supposed” to accomplish.

My question is: what’s wrong with having that level of expectation?  What’s wrong with seeing the pressure, recognizing the pressure, and acknowledging the pressure?  The pressure doesn’t go away if you don’t talk about it!

And what if your team has low expectations?  What if, like in the example I used before, your team is an externally driven team?  What if they need you to raise their expectation level?  It will be uncomfortable, sure, but I believe it’s necessary.  For teams that don’t know how to win or haven’t had a history of success, the coach has to provide that incentive to take the next step.

To me, talking about winning is about holding your team accountable for their goals.  Writing down that you want to win on a poster, but never talking about it doesn’t seem like a good way to accomplish much.  For externally motivated teams, they may not even know what steps to take in order to go down a winning path.

It’s our job to tell them.


John Wooden’s TEDtalk:  The difference between winning and succeeding

The John Wooden series:

John Wooden TEDtalk
Leading With Integrity
Wooden’s Three Team Rules
When Will You Feel Successful As A Coach?


Posted by on March 19, 2014 in Goal setting, Pyramid of success, TEDtalk

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9 Tips To Help Your Team Achieve Their Goals


“Decades of research on achievement suggests that successful people reach their goals not simply because of who they are, but more often because of what they do.”

That’s a quotation from Harvard Business Review’s article, Nine Things Successful People Do Differently.

Let’s dive right in, here are the 9 things:

  1. Get specific.
  2. Seize the moment to act on your goals.
  3. Know exactly how far you have to go.
  4. Be a realistic optimist.
  5. Focus on getting better, rather than being good.
  6. Have grit.
  7. Build your willpower muscle.
  8. Don’t tempt fate.
  9. Focus on what you will do, not what you won’t do.

How can we use this within our programs?

  • In evaluating our coaching staff, to keep us on the right track.
  • To empower our players to achieve their goals.  This list gives an intangible activity a bit of tangibility.
  • Monthly check-ins within the program.  Each month within the season, we should revisit goals and training strategies to make sure we’re getting the desired results.



Posted by on January 10, 2014 in Goal setting

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Is Your Team Passionately Pursuing Their Goals?


I had a parent in my office the other day ask me for an example of an athlete of whom I was proud.  Every example that came to mind were players who worked hard, who ground it out, who left it all on the gym floor when their careers were over.  The athletes who got better every year, who found success—not because they were gifted by God with extraordinary athleticism or skill—but because they worked their butts off.

And why did they work so hard?  Because they were in passionate pursuit of success.   They wanted to be good more than working hard hurt.  In a TEDtalk titled, Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career, economics professor Larry Smith speaks to college students about why they won’t pursue their passions.

5 reasons our athletes may be sabotaging their success

  1. They don’t pursue their passion.  Let’s say you coach a basketball team and have got three point guards.  You’re a good coach, so you’re honest with them in terms of playing time.  The athlete who’s third on your depth chart has a decision to make:  is being the best point guard on your team worth her time and effort?  Is she passionate about the position and her ability to lead a team?  Will she fight, tooth and nail, to earn playing time and show the coaching staff that she’s worth their trust?  Or will she give up?  The passionate player won’t give up.
  2. Hard work won’t make them great.  We tell our athletes that they’ve got to work hard in order to get good.  So it makes sense that if they work really, really, really hard, they’ll become great, right?  Smith says no.  Without combining hard work with passion, greatness will always allude our players.
  3. Passion isn’t the same as interest.  I think we sometimes make the mistake of assuming that all of our athletes are passionate about our sport, our program, and our team.  I don’t think that’s always the case.  When I was in college, I played with women who were naturally gifted to play volleyball:  they were tall, athletic, and full of fast-twitch muscles.  So they were interested in volleyball because they were good at volleyball…not because they were passionate about volleyball.  That’s a big difference.
  4. Even noble excuses are just excuses.  When a player isn’t truly passionate about their sport, they think up reasons that they aren’t able to continue playing.  I’ve heard them all.  They want to dedicate more time to their studies, they want to perform more community service, they want to participate in a particular internship, they’re transferring to be closer to their boyfriend (the worst!), yada, yada, yada.  Those excuses sound great, and perhaps help them to sleep better at night, but I know the truth.  They just didn’t have the passion and desire required to excel, so they gave up.
  5. They’re afraid to pursue their passions.  Pursuing our passions means that we may fail and that’s scary.

We want those players who face their fears and shamelessly pursue success.  We want a team full of folks who answer, “we want to win it all!” when asked what their goals are for the season.  But saying it and doing it are two different things.  For those who are committed to the hard work of making their passions a reality, success is surely on the horizon.


Posted by on October 12, 2012 in Goal setting, Mental game

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On The Myth Of Instant Success


“Remarkable careers take a remarkably large amount of training.”

When I saw the title of this article over at Study Hacks, I thought it could stand on its own as significant:  On the Remarkably Long Road to the Remarkable.  Isn’t that true?  We want our athletes and our teams to experience success at a high level, yet it never happens when we think it should.

A few years ago, I had a team that was tremendously talented and they dominated our conference all season only to fall in the championship game to a team they were better than.  It wasn’t their time.  On paper, this team was better than the team which went on to capture the championship the next year.  It was their time…though I don’t know if they’d ever won it all without experiencing the disappointment of losing the year before.  Being remarkable takes time and we’ve got to teach our players to embrace the struggle.

3 ways to teach patience in our players

  1. Set realistic and attainable goals.  If our players’ only goal is to win a national championship, they will experience a lot of disappointment.  They should set some stair step goals that will get them closer to their mission.
  2. Set “reach” goals.  Though every goal they set can’t be easily reached…that wouldn’t be much of a goal.  Their reach goals should require a good bit of time to reach, maybe even more than one season.
  3. Revisit and reassess goals.  Oftentimes, teams will set goals at the beginning of the season and never look at them again.  If their goals don’t drive them to achieve each and every day, they aren’t effective goals.  Players should look at their goals once a week and see where they are and what they need to change about their effort to achieve them.
  4. Constantly evaluate performance.  This one goes along with number three.  Questions they should ask themselves: Am I working hard in every drill?  Am I trying to get better every day?  Am I challenging myself to improve weaknesses?  Do I work to improve my strengths?  Am I a valuable member of this team?  Why?
  5. Celebrate successes along the way.  Like I said at the beginning, if our teams only have one big, huge, gigantic goal…their success is going to be limited.  If we are to believe that becoming a remarkable player and team takes time, we should celebrate when we take a step forward, right?  I know we’re all super-focused grinders, but a little pat on the back should be allowed.

For those of us who have ever fallen short and been disappointed, I truly believe it’s that very disappointment which fuels our desire to continually strive for that elusive goal.  It’s hard for us as coaches, because we want success so badly for our players.  It comes in its own time, though, and when the team is ready and has prepared for it.


Posted by on September 17, 2012 in Coaching philosophy, Goal setting

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How To Stay Motivated


When I first started coaching, I would go and chat with one of the veteran coaches in the office…just to soak up whatever knowledge he was willing to share with me.  He’d been coaching for over thirty years and I was in year two.  Quite honestly, I wondered how he stayed so fired up about the profession.  But he was…there was a glint in his eye that I’m sure hadn’t lost its luster in the entire thirty years he’d been on the sideline.

Of course, whenever I asked that very question, he would brush me off with a (not altogether untrue) joke.  “If you’re not scared to death of losing”, he’d say with a smirk, “then you’re in the wrong profession.”

While I’m sure some measure of his motivation came from fear of failure, I’d guess the bulk of it came from tried and true ways to stay motivated. had a great article about this, 14 Easy Ways to Get Insanely Motivated, it’s a quick read…check it out.

14 ways to stay motivated

Condition your mind.  Staying positive is huge.  We’ve got plenty of opponents who are trying to defeat us…let’s not defeat ourselves too!

Condition your body.  Staying healthy, eating right, working out…those are hard to do when we’re in season.  But we’ve got to try our best to take care of ourselves so that we can be available and energetic for our teams.

Avoid negative people.  If our heart sinks a little when we see someone coming, perhaps they’re negative.  Or if during lunch, we spend the entire time trying to pick someone else up (and they’re still grumpy), we might have to cut our losses and limit our time with those Negative Nellies.

Seek out the similarly motivated.  These are the people we can bounce ideas off of and they keep us fired up about what we do.

Have plans, but remain flexible.  We may think we know how we’re going to accomplish our goals, but staying flexible will keep us from getting down when things don’t work out how we thought they would.

Act with a higher purpose.  What’s your coaching philosophy?  If we do things that go against our philosophy, it will be pretty hard to be motivated.

Take responsibility for your own results.  How can we stay motivated if our success (or failure) is outside of our control?  When things are within our control, we feel that we have power over the situation.  And when we feel we have power, we can stay motivated.

Stretch past your limits on a daily basis.  For me, it’s been committing to reading and writing about my profession every day.  What will it be for you?

Don’t wait for perfection, do it now!  Perfection is unattainable, so if that’s what we’re waiting for…we’re going to be waiting for a long time.

Celebrate your failures.  When we see failure as a necessary step to success, we’re more willing to own our failures…and hopefully learn from them.

Don’t take success too seriously.  Sport is fickle.  We can beat the best team in conference one night and be feeling on top of the world…only to lose to a bottom dweller the next time out.

Avoid weak goals.  Weak goals start with “I’ll try to” or “I hope to”.  Strong goals begin with “I will”.  They are specific and have a deadline to them.

Treat inaction as the only real failure.  My motto: less talk, more do.

Think before you speak.  Don’t become the Negative Nelson that everyone else is avoiding in the office.  Stay positive, stay upbeat, stay motivated.

Not many professions have to live out their successes and failures in the public eye like athletics, which can make it hard to stay motivated sometimes.  Use these tips to get and stay motivated to guide your team to success.


Posted by on March 12, 2012 in Coaching career, Goal setting

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4 Lessons Our Athletes Need In Order To Measure Their Success


“Bloom where you’re planted” and lots of other clichés (“when life hands you lemons, make lemonade”) are created to help people deal with the fact they’re not where they want to be in life.

Now I’m not naïve enough to think that every student-athlete that I coach has dreamed of attending my institution since they were little tykes.  I know that most, if not all, of them would love to play at Big Time State University if they could.  They’d get all sorts of gear, they’d be on television every weekend, they’d be big-timers.

You might be in another situation.  Maybe a player thought they’d make Varsity and only made JV, or they thought they’d make the “1” team and ended up on the “2”…whatever it is, we’ve got to get them fired up about moving forward rather than looking back.

4 tips we can give our athletes to refocus their goals and have measurable success

  1. Don’t make general plans.  Saying, “I want to start” or “I want our team to win conference” isn’t a specific goal.  Instead of vague, “I just want to help the team” type goals, let’s focus them on figuring out how they can get better every day.  I know of some coaches who have their athletes fill out a goal sheet at the end of each practice.  They set a mini goal and then write down whether or not they accomplished that goal.
  2. Award incremental positives.  Goals are hard enough to accomplish without waiting until you’re standing on the championship podium!  If the player has been able to string a bunch of great games together, be sure to give her a pat on the back.  If she wins a smaller award, like all-tournament team, be sure to make it a big deal.  Being good is hard, being good over a long period of time is a lot harder…celebrate small victories.
  3. Read.  So many times, our athletes are only focused on reading for classwork…it’s rare for them to read for fun during the school year.  That’s why I read a book with my team each year.  Reading it as a team helps each person to carry the load of the book, because they sign up for chapters and are then responsible for teaching their teammates the content.  Picking books that will make them better leaders, players, or help them overcome a mental barrier has been critical to helping my athletes be successful.
  4. Don’t wait for something to happen to you.  A few years ago, there was a book that made the “Law of Attraction” popular.  The Law said that if you thought about something enough and had enough positive thoughts about it…whatever the thing was that you really wanted would come to fruition.  Those of us who live in the real world understand that good things don’t just happen, we’ve got to hustle for them.  It’s a great lesson to teach our athletes.  If they want amazing things to happen in their lives, hard work and success have a reciprocal relationship.

The idea for this post came to me after reading A Checklist for Measuring Your Success on Huffington Post.  As the clichés have a fun way of telling us, we have the ability to take life’s disappointments and turn them into opportunities.

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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Goal setting, Mental game

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Goal Setting: 7 Things Successful Coaches Do Differently


Goals are usually things we talk about in relation to our players, but they’re also powerful for our own careers.  As usual, the wonderful Harvard Business Review has a great article on their blog, this one’s called Nine Things Successful People Do Differently.  That piqued my interest because I sure would like to be successful!

7 things we can do to make sure we accomplish our goals

  1. Seize the moment to act on your goals.  Let’s say your goal is to workout everyday of a particular month.  It’s a personal challenge that you’ve set up for yourself, because you understand that working out is good for you…it’s just that time always gets away from you.  If you’re going to complete your challenge, you can’t sleep in everyday and go home to watch television every night.  Carpe diem and get it in!
  2. Know exactly how far you have to go.  Here’s another scenario: you’ve got a player who you think should be an all-conference player.  She’s not there yet, in fact, she’s totally under the radar with the other coaches in your conference.  Figure out what your player needs in order to be the best in your conference…and then convince her to put the work in.  Understanding where she is and where she needs to go will be a great life lesson for her!
  3. Be a realistic optimist.  Wanting something isn’t enough.  Wanting to be successful isn’t enough.  Having positive self-talk isn’t enough.  Those are all good things, but they won’t make things happen.  While we want to stay focused on our goal and believe that we will accomplish it…successful coaches always assess where they are in terms of being able to check that goal off of the list.
  4. Focus on getting better, rather than being good.  A lot of times, people ask me how I have time to write this blog.  I always say the same thing: I’m trying to get better.  Writing this blog and speaking at different places forces me to learn more about working with people, different coaching techniques, and how to communicate effectively…all things that I believe will make me a better coach.
  5. Have grit.  According to the article, “grit is a willingness to commit to long-term goals”.  Even when we’ve totally crashed and burned.  Even when it looks like success isn’t in the cards.  Toddlers are gritty when they’re learning to walk.  They don’t fall down once and say, “oh well, guess I’ll just crawl everywhere.”  Nope.  They get up…again and again until they master walking.
  6. Build your willpower muscle.  Willpower is something we can practice, it isn’t just something we have.  Going back to our first example of the month-long challenge to workout every day for a month, that is a good test of our willpower.  You’ll probably feel great the first week or two, maybe even a little proud of yourself.  But those last couple of weeks might be a grind where you’re dragging yourself to the gym.  That’s building willpower.
  7. Focus on what you will do, not what you won’t do.  We’ve all heard people say that if you tell someone, “don’t think about a pink elephant in a tutu”, then the first thing that’s going to pop into their mind is a pink elephant in a tutu.  It’s the same thing with us.  If we say, “whatever you do, don’t yell at that player”, it’s going to be all you can think about.  You may not yell, but you won’t be focused on the task at hand.  Instead, let’s say what we will do.

These seven steps may take a bit of time to accomplish, but we’ve got time and we’ve got the drive to put the work in.  If our goals are important enough, we’ll do what it takes to accomplish them.


Posted by on February 6, 2012 in Goal setting

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Goals: Hard Work, Faith, And Patience Required


As I was putting my different review posts together, I realized that I haven’t written about goal setting all that much.  I think part of the reason is because goals are in that weird zone between tangible and intangible.  They’re certainly concrete and the thing that keeps the engines of our teams chugging along…thus the tangible.  But they’re not something you can grab hold of…we can’t teach goal achievement.  Thus the intangible.  Goals are in the no man’s land of my blog, but I have written a bit about goals…hope you like what you see!

5 posts to guide you and your team through the goal setting process

Teams are all about goals.  We have personal goals, short-term goals, and long-term goals.  But before we get into how to actually accomplish your goals, let’s go back to the beginning and check out what you need to accomplish your goals.  I’m not talking about follow-through and desire and motivation…much more basic than that.  I’m talking about the day after your season is over and you’re already looking forward to the following season…what will you need?  Here’s A Quick Way Your Team Can Accomplish Goals

As a manager of people (and that’s what we are, right?), do you know how to lead your team through the goal setting process?  Every team has an interesting mix of individual and corporate goals…and managing those is an interesting process in itself!  We’ve got to come up with, define, and try to accomplish goals that are months away from fruition…that’s no easy task.  12 Step Program: Follow These Steps To Accomplish Your Goals

I’ve watched parts of the movie Hoosiers with my teams before and the results are always good.  I haven’t used it as a “fire up to beat the big team”, because I worry that I’ll get them too riled up for one game.  But it’s great for an “us against the world” kind of thing.  And that mantra works whether your team isn’t very good and no one expects much from you or you’re expected to win it all.  The beauty in the movie is that it truly is a team that makes it happen.  Hickory’s new coach has a shady past, one of the player’s dad is a drunk, and their best player quits in the middle of the season.  Not exactly how you’d write up a successful season…but they are.  Together.  Effective Use Of Films For Goal Setting

At the beginning of the season, the sky’s the limit.  But after a few weeks and some competition, the team starts to see where they stand…and that’s when it’s time to take a step back and give your team a hard look.  I don’t care whether or not your team is undefeated or hasn’t recorded its first win yet, every coach must give their team a once over.  We have an obligation to look at our teams with a mix of optimistic realism.  Let’s look at three areas where the discipline to confront reality is necessary.  3 Steps To Accomplish Your Goals…No Matter What

If you typed “goal setting” into an internet search engine, you’d get over sixty eight million results in less than a second.  Life is all about goals.  Whether it is to graduate from college within a certain time period, to get married by a particular benchmark, or even earn your first million dollars at a specific age…life truly is all about setting, achieving, and resetting goals.  I think can be a great gift that we give to our student-athletes which they’ll use in both their professional and personal lives for years to come.  G Is For Goals: Setting Attainable, Challenging, and Assessible Goals

As Charles C. Noble said, “you must have long term goals to keep you from being frustrated by short term failures.”  I think we all understand that we’ll fail a whole bunch on our way to whatever success we’re aiming for…goals will keep us focused on the big picture.


Posted by on January 30, 2012 in Goal setting

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The 5 I’s Of Greatness


Please join me for a fun series.  My mission, and I’ve chosen to accept it, is to write a post based on each letter of the alphabet.  The English major inside of me is very excited about this project…and my inner nerd is even more fired up!  Keep checking back as I tackle the intangibles of sport…from A to Z.

Is greatness a nurture or nature thing?  Meaning, can we teach greatness…or is it something that we’re born with?  According to Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code, we can teach it.  I’d highly recommend you read the book, it’s a little sciency, but a very good read…I wrote about it here.

Without further ado, here are five things which are essential to teams in order to be great.

  1. Initiative.  The first thing great teams conquer is fear of failure…because they know that failure is a step to success.  As John Wooden said, “If you’re afraid of failure, you will never do the things you are capable of doing.”   I often tell my team that they never would have learned to walk when they were toddlers without initiative.  Those little kids aren’t worried about falling over again and again, failure doesn’t bother them.  They don’t focus on the failure, but rather the goal in front of them.
  2. Intentness.  Great people don’t give up.  They set goals and pursue them relentlessly.  They are determined to pursue their goal…they understand that they may not reach the goal.  Yet they push on.  They are persistent in consistently practicing to the peak of their performance…they are tough.
  3. Identifiable.  Greatness can’t be disguised, it can’t be hidden, and it can’t be mistaken for something else.  It could be the player whose words can motivate and inspire her teammates to do what they didn’t think they could.  Or it could be the player who keeps working hard even though they are physically and mentally exhausted.  Or it could even be the player who has earned the respect of her teammates…even though she doesn’t get tons of playing time.
  4. Inspiration.  Great teams inspire one another to perform at their best level…they want to be the best, not for personal glory, but for the success of the team.  The coaching staff gets after it with recruiting, practice planning, and scouting their opponents.  Meanwhile, the players study video to make themselves better and learn their opponent’s tendencies…not to mention inspiring one another to push themselves just a little bit harder than the day before.
  5. Imaginative.  Great coaches, players, and teams can see success before it happens.  Success is not a surprise to great teams, but rather something they’ve played over and over again in the tape that runs in their heads.  Great teams visualize their success in vivid detail and then go about the work of making it happen.

There is something empowering about knowing that you are in control of your greatness and it should be exciting to your team as well.  Greatness isn’t something you’re born with…it’s something you can learn over time.


Posted by on November 21, 2011 in Coaching philosophy, Goal setting

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