The Coaching Sherpa: Guiding Your Team Through The Goal Setting Process


Nobody becomes motivated by something he kinda, sorta believes in. –Put Your Dream To The Test

Having goals isn’t enough.  Really wanting something isn’t enough.  We have to get our athletes to believe in their goals, to clearly see them…and not only that, to work hard at them.  Once they’re at that point, it’s our job as their coach to sit down and figure out a plan to help them achieve their goals.  In this second in a three-part series (click here to read part one and here for part three), I’ll examine the first five questions from the book, Put Your Dream To The Test by John Maxwell, and how we can challenge our athletes to be their very best selves and accomplish their goals.

The Ownership Question:  Is My Dream Really My Dream?
“You cannot achieve a dream that you do not own.”   Every now and then, I’ll be on the phone with a recruit and she’ll blame her current coach for not playing her enough or say that the coach plays favorites, or some other excuse as to why she’s not seeing the playing time she feels she deserves.  The Ownership Question says that there are no excuses and it’s the same with our athletes.  If one of your players sits down in your office and says that they want to be an all-region player (and you believe that she could actually do it), she can’t then undercut that goal with lack of belief and excuses.  She’s got to believe that despite the obstacles, she can be successful.

The Clarity Question:  Do I Clearly See My Dream?
“If you’re going to dream, you might as well dream big.”  Put simply, clarity makes a general idea very specific.  Instead of saying, I really want to have a great season this year, ask your player to elaborate.  That’s when “a great season” becomes “a season where she starts every game.”  Or if she wants to be a player that other teams fear, her goal can be “earn first team all conference honors.”  Whatever her goal is, clarity will bring with it a priority list.  If she wants to be the best triple jumper in conference, she probably shouldn’t put “working on long distance running” at the top of her priority list.

The Reality Question:  Am I Depending on Factors within My Control to Achieve My Dream?
“Believing in a dream isn’t enough.  Desperately wanting it isn’t enough.”  The fact is, our athlete’s goals and reality have to meet…and reality says that achieving the goal will not be easy.  Not only do they have to be talented but they have to be prepared to work hard.  Without hard work, all the dreaming and goal-setting in the world will fall flat.  John Wooden made industriousness (hard work) a cornerstone of his Pyramid of Success…meaning without it, success is shaky at best and unlikely at worst.

The Passion Question:  Does My Dream Compel Me to Follow It?
“Anytime you try to accomplish something of value, you will face adversity.  Passion can help you get through it.”  Whatever your athlete’s goal, it should keep them up at night, because they’re just so excited about it.  As a matter of fact, that’s how you should present it to them before you meet with them:  tell me the one goal you have that makes your heart start beating faster when you think about it… what do you see when you close your eyes and think about this season?  They should feel compelled to pursue their dream, that way when things go sideways (and they will!), your athlete will remain focused and motivated.

The Pathway Question:  Do I Have a Strategy to Reach My Dream?
“There is no magic power in having a dream.  You can’t just wait for it.  You have to work for it.  And you need to have a strategy that gives direction and focus to that work.”  When we sit down with our athletes and they tell us their goals, we have to formulate a plan together.  The first step is identifying the goal and after that, it’s being honest with them about where they are right now.  If they want to win the conference swim meet in their event, they need to know what times make finals and what times have won in the past…and where they fit into that mix.  Then the two of you need to come up with a plan to get them from where they are now to where they want to be in the future.  And they’ve got to be willing to work daily to reach that goal.

We’re halfway there!  I’ll finish up this goal setting series next time where I’ll tackle the last five questions that our athletes need to answer in order to achieve their goals.

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