Goal Setting 3 – Younger swimmers in particular need help to set hard but achievable goals.

How Do We Go About Setting Our Goals?

Goals are about the future; some are set in the immediate future, some are in the distant future and some are in-between. Because of this goals need to be developed based on a timeline; that is to say, we need to attach a goal to a certain stage or time in our development.

Goals need to be established which are commensurate with our ability and set in accordance with our projected rate of improvement.

It is essential to consult with your coach and any other experts who your coach may feel would be of assistance. Principally it is a process performed in partnership between the swimmer and coach.

This article is Part 3 of a 5 part series on goal setting written by former Australian Head Coach Leigh Nugent.   Part 1 can be read at What is a Goal? and Part 2 can be found at Types of Goals

Step 1 – The Dream Goal
Step 2 – Design the career plan.
Step 3 – Determine the Milestone Goals according to a rough timeline.
Step 4 – Establish Stepping stone Goals for the immediate 2 years.
Step 5 – Develop a process which supports the season plan.
Step 6 – Identify process goals which reflect the desired progression through the process.
Step 7 – Evaluate
Step 8 – Confirm, modify, eliminate or re-establish goals

This is the process of goal setting but its success is determined by how effectively a balance is achieved between:

  • realistic optimism.
  • challenges which encourage us to strive to achieve.
  • exploring our limits
  • our ability to objectively measuring
  • alignment to an appropriate time-line
  • its effect on building our character

Achieving A Goal – Emotional Response

When a goal is achieved the level of the emotional response is determined by the significance of the goal to the achiever. Positive reinforcement (positive feedback) from the swimmers coach in response to the achieving of the goal will increase the swimmer’s self esteem and increase the swimmer’s self belief. This will result in the swimmers belief in them achieving the next goal. Resulting in an increase in motivation to accept the challenges which lay ahead.

The level of satisfaction and sense of achievement felt by the swimmer is directly related to the perceived degree of difficulty of the goal which was achieved.

 Not Achieving A Goal – Emotional Response

Not achieving a goal may elicit a response of disappointment. The level of disappointment will be determined by how difficult the goal was perceived to be. If the goal was considered to be of extreme difficulty then rationalisation may dissipate the disappointment.

Whenever there is failure to achieve a goal then a process of objective evaluation has to take place. Through this process it can be determined whether the set goal was too difficult when it was established or whether there were other reasons or factors inhibiting the performance. The recent experience and the benefit of hind-sight will be helpful in making the decision to reinforce or modify the goal.

 Effects Of The Degree Of Difficulty Of The Goal

The degree of difficulty is a critical factor in:

  • The achievability of the goal.
  • The level of satisfaction if achieved. The more difficult the goal is to achieve the greater the level of satisfaction.
  • Difficult goals pitched at the appropriate level have the effect of motivating us to strive or try harder.
  • There is a fine line between making the goal hard to achieve but achievable and too hard where it is unachievable.
  • It requires expertise and experience to set goals at the appropriate degree of difficulty.
  • Goals which are constantly set to difficult to achieve run the risk of creating a sense of failure, dishearten the athlete and eventually reduce the desire to keep striving.

Do We Need Help To Set Our Goals?

Yes we do need help to set our goals especially when we are younger and lack knowledge and experience in the sport and life. It is difficult to be totally objective with our-selves.

The swimmers coach is the number one reference when establishing our goals. The coach has sport specific knowledge, experience, an understanding of rates of progression and most importantly is empathetic with our potential athletic capabilities.

Other experts can also be helpful but are secondary to the swimmer coach combination. These experts might be – strength trainers, physiotherapists, dieticians, sports psychologists, etc

Parents can be of help but usually lack the specific expertise and sometimes have difficulty maintaining objectivity.

 Goals Are A Renewable Resource

Goals are not set in stone. They need to be referred to regularly and frequently because they are subject to change, which requires our goals to be flexible and renewable.

Process goals need to be referred to more frequently (often on a daily basis) than milestone or stepping stone goals, as these are the goals linked to the process of what we do from day to day and session to session. These goals are an integral part of change driven by the process.

Some goals which seemed necessary or appropriate in the past may not be so now, hence need to be eliminated or modified.

Goals are a resource to help us improve, just like the people who support you, the facility you train in and the equipment you use.