Goal setting is a vital, yet often overlooked part of optimizing training and sports performance. A training plan without specific goals that are well thought out and individualized to each athlete is essentially worthless.
So what is goal setting??
Goal setting for sports performance is the process of identifying optimum performance standards and developing a series of systematic steps to underpin the athletes training plan, allowing them to progress through a well defined periodized plan.
At Doolin Performance we base our Goals on the 3Ps
Physiological goals are “movement” goals usually based on the outcome of our functional assessment. Common physiological goals include improving hip mobility, rehabilitation of a muscle or ligament injury, improving shoulder stability, increasing core & glute control, refining movement patterns (speed and agility) and altering body composition (increasing muscle mass/decreasing body fat).
Psychological goals aim to improve concentration, focus and mental awareness for training. They can also involve the development of pre-performance routines to be used during competition. Improving sleep quality & duration, stress reduction and time management is also taken into consideration in this section.
Performance goals are generally viewed by the athlete as THE most important, HOWEVER optimizing performance is generally achieved through continuous physiological and psychological improvements. For example, in rugby, if a kicker wants a 20% increase in conversion rate, that’s a performance goal, but we achieve that through improving lower body strength, power, mobility and stability, developing and refining an effective neurological movement pattern for kicking and potentially introducing a pre-performance focus routine. So while it is extremely important to know the athletes performance aims, we must continuously link this back and develop a step-by-step approach that will take us to this level.
Screening athletes allows us to identify RED FLAGS such as muscle imbalances, restricted movement patterns, areas of weakness, poor mobility and injury risk. If done properly we can establish what specific muscles and joints are contributing to the problem. From there we develop our training plan around exercises that target these areas.
When choosing exercises we a must also take into account the end performance goal and make sure the exercises we choose are transferable and help our athlete progress towards improved performance.
Going back to our kicker, if we identify weak hamstrings during the assessment, instead of training with a concentric hamstring curl it might make more sense for us to opt for an eccentric exercise like a Nordic fall, as the main action of the hamstrings during kicking is to decelerate and control the movement of the hip and knee, which is an eccentric muscle action (keep in mind we don’t totally ignore concentric contractions but our main focus is on training the eccentric phase!!!).
A vital part of our job as coaches is that we continually build and develop a strong Coach-Athlete training relationship. While it’s easy for an experienced coach to pick up on functional red flags, so-called “personal” or “social” red flags that can have a strong impact on training and goal achievement can be more difficult to identify.
Outside of training and performance there are several other places in an athletes personal life that can be a source of stress and fatigue (i.e. family/college/work/relationships/financial etc). If we have a solid relationship with the athlete they are more likely to open up and talk to us when they are struggling with outside factors. This makes us aware of issues allowing us to alter training plans and timelines so we are not continually loading an athlete in an already heightened state of stress.
It’s not rocket science…. If you have built a good relationship, a simple chat at the start of training can tell you all you need to know about the athletes readiness to train for that session.
So now we have identified our functional and personal red flags and we know the areas we need to work on, we break each of the 3Ps down again into short, medium and long term goals.
The time frames we generally use are…
-Short Term Goals 6-8 weeks
-Medium Term Goals 6-9 months
-Long Term Goals 2- 4 years/competitive seasons
These durations can change depending on the individual athlete, their sport, competitive level and training background, among other things.
Once we set the timeline its up to the coach and athlete to communicate and work together to decide what physiological, psychological and performance goals are realistically achievable BUT CHALLENGING within each of the set time frames.
Last but by no means least, we look to schedule in reassessment and testing sessions. The best training programs in the world are only useful if we continually see that they are affording the athlete progress towards their set goals. By “continually” I don’t mean we need to test our athletes on a weekly or daily basis!!
However, we do need to have appropriately scheduled testing sessions at times that allow us to adjust the training plan so we aim to meet our goals in the defined time scale. Retesting and assessing at set intervals allows us to catch and correct any weak areas of our plan before its too late!!