Goal Setting: Common Problems Seen in the Team Context

Setting Goals is possibly one of the truly underrated activities a team can ever look to take part in. Goal setting helps with a wide range of issues within an individual and a team’s development. Setting Goals however is a little more complicated than many of us give it credit for. To truly be effective and reach its full potential goal setting needs to be framed within a few parameters to help players and their teams achieve the most possible from the exercise.


A very common mistake when undertaking goal setting with a team from a coach’s perspective is conducting the activity too early within the group’s history together. Groups as they change into teams require information and guidance. It is this information and guidance that often helps players more clearly understand their role and what is needed from them. A common problem associated with goal setting is individuals are asked to establish clear and very specific goals before they have even be told or fully understand what is required of them. This understanding will need to be discussed and revisited with the coach before many players have a clear picture in their minds about their role in the team context.


The second issue commonly seen in goal setting situations is the assumption by coaches that their players have had experience with goal setting previously. The sad reality is that for many players goal setting is just a phrase and very little can be attached to its value past the stock stand responses many players have drilled into them. Because of this mindset, often players involved in a goal setting exercise will close off their best efforts in performing the activity. Coaches should be aware of this and work hard to establish the scope around good practice in goal setting. Provide plenty of examples of what good goals look, sound and feel like.


Goal Setting is your Road to Success (Source: Nicholas_T)
Goal Setting is your Road to Success (Source: Nicholas_T)

The physical structuring of a goal’s wording is also a very important aspect not to breeze through when undertaking a goal setting activity with a team. The simple acronym of setting SMART goals is always a useful strategy in helping define what elements a good goal should have. SMART stands for:






Time Bound/Time Line


Another aspect, which is usually very challenging for coaches, is the technique of allowing players to have meaningful input into their goals. Goal setting once mastered is a skill that can be refined and for the experienced individual can be undertaken very quickly with highly quality results as an outcome. Unfortunately, the development of the relationship between a coach and their players to the point where honesty and trust is developed takes much longer. Goal setting can however be one activity that allows for two way communication and dialogue between all parties involved. In goal setting for an individual the coach’s role should be one of a facilitator rather than a director. The individual must have just as much input into the goal as the coach or any other individual.


This input empowers players and makes them feel more directly tied to the goals because of the process. If they should fail, it is not that they have failed the team, but themselves which hopefully stimulates intrinsic motivation and drive. This aspect of the goal setting process is the hardest to ascertain and can be the one element most coaches will strive their entire careers refining and improving with each opportunity them have to practice the technique.


Finally, for a goal setting exercise to be worthwhile it needs to be specific to the individual within the team. No player responds as well to general goals. When the goal is specific to the individual it makes them responsible to the task listed within the goal and as a result they become accountable. When these individual goals are then framed within the team environment the player then feels they have a place, resolution, and role to play in helping the team achieve its purpose. Everyone from the team’s most valuable player to the player sitting deep on the bench want to have a purpose. It’s worth noting that if even one player feels they do not have a purpose then the team has failed to reach its full potential (regardless of wins or losses).


Individual goals are the small steps needing to be taken for the team to achieve its desired performance.


Goal setting is a fantastic exercise and one that can be performed with players of all ages in all levels of competition. For this reasons goal setting for every coach is one of the ‘tools of the trade’ and should be embraced. The skill however is in selling the idea to everyone on how the goal setting process needs to work to get the best outcomes for the individual as well as the team.

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Coach Riches has been working within the sport, business and education industries for many years. During this time he has built an extensive number of formal and informal qualifications. A firm believer in training and development designed to help people reach their full potential, relevant o their needs and functional to their industry environment.

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