KPB Blog

High School Coaches Corner: 3 Steps to Setting Team Goals (2018)

In the past, we gave your players some ideas about how they should set effective personal goals. If you haven’t read the posts, you should read them before you continue (read part 1 and part 2). Personal goals are important for your players to improve their skills and to make your team better. But, in order to improve significantly on the field, you need your players to work together.  As a high school coach, one of your jobs is to set team goals. Did you know that there are ways to make those goals more effective?  In this post, we’ll describe a 3-step process that sports scientists suggest you should use to create effective team goals.  

 Step 1. Make a plan – meet with your coaches and talk about how your team stands and where you want to go. Make sure you answer the following questions.  

  • What skills does your team lack?  
  • What positions or players need new skills or improvement?  
  • Given the gaps, what SMART goals do you need for the team? Brainstorm a list. Remember to include a mix of process, performance, and outcome goals.  
  • What goals are achievable in your time frame (e.g. fall ball, preseason, academic year)?  
  • How will you present your team goals? Will you put a list in the dugout? Will you call a team meeting and talk about the goals?  
  • How will you monitor and report progress for individual players and the team as a whole? Who will do what?  

When you’ve thought through everything and talked about it with your coaches, it will be easier for you to answer any questions from players or parents.  

Step 2. Get everyone to buy into the goals – sports scientists report that players “internalizing” goals is key to getting team goals to work. If you’ve set realistic and reasonable goals, you can make this happen.  

  • Meet with your team captains. We’ve talked about building leadership skills in past posts. Involving your team captains early on can be important for finding any gaps or problems with your plan and to make it clear that you see your team leaders as capable allies. Think of this meeting as a dress rehearsal.  
  • Convene a team meeting.  Get everyone together and explain your plan. Unless it is absolutely necessary, skip over individual player’s shortfalls and talk about the team as a whole. Pay attention to the reaction from your players. While it isn’t essential that they are involved in making team goals (though that is a great option), they have to buy into them and believe the goals can be achieved. Listen to their feedback; answer their questions. They have to “internalize” your team goals, or you’ve wasted your time.  
  • Make sure you describe how progress will be monitored. Consider making simple signs, charts, or graphs that can be posted in the dugout so that players can see the team’s progress toward the goals.  
  • Set up individual or small group meetings with players to discuss how individual goals can contribute to the team’s progress.  

Step 3. Implement your plan and monitor progress 

  • When you start, you need to make sure that your plan is completely understood. You might have to remind players or answer repeated questions. After a while, this won’t be necessary.  
  • Set up a team progress board or some other visual aid so that players can see the progress on the team’s process and performance goals.  
  • Keep your captains up to date about how you think things are going and ask for their feedback. Schedule specific times to get feedback from your other players.  When possible, help your captains to work directly with players having challenges with meeting goals.  
  • Celebrate successes. Pick milestones or sub-goals that are meaningful to your team. Make sure you acknowledge your players’ efforts when those milestones or goals are achieved. No matter where you are at the end of the timeline, review the progress with your team and help your players see how far they’ve come or what you learned from the overall challenges that prevented you from getting where you wanted to be.