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Kids First Soccer
Setting Goals
by Daniel Frankl, Ph.D.

Information presented here is based on the discussion by Gould, D. (1998). Goal setting for peak performance. In J.M. Williams (Ed.) Applied sport psychology: Personal growth to peak performance (3rd ed.) (pp. 182-196). Mountain View, CA: Mayfield.

ELEMENTS THAT MAKE EFFECTIVE GOALS
  • a pre-determined level of proficiency on a specific motor skill or fitness component(s)
  • specific time frame or deadline to reach goal
  • plan of action to achieve goal
  • baseline and deadline performance measurement procedures
McClements (1982) provides the following specific distinction between types of goals:

SUBJECTIVE GOALS : perform better or improve, try very hard, create and run interesting practices (goal for coach), be liked and appreciated, be happy...have fun...(note that the subjective goals listed here are very hard if not impossible to quantify and thus measure)

GENERAL OBJECTIVE GOALS: making friends, becoming popular among peers, making the team, improving win/loss record, making it to the finals, winning a tournament...etc. (note that the general objective goals listed here are very hard to control since its main concerns are outcomes rather than processes)

SPECIFIC OBJECTIVE GOALS:
increasing the percentage of first possessions, decrease the number of throw-in foot errors (this is the negative version of "increase the percentage on correct throw-ins"), increase the number of times a player simply makes contact with the ball in soccer... (note that specific objective goals are simpler to evaluate and allow better control by the individual)

Similarly, Martens, Christina, Harvey and Sharkey (1981) contrasted outcome and performance goals.

OUTCOME GOALS: highlight the final result as it is contrasted with another person's achievement

PERFORMANCE GOALS: The focus is on the process by which a result was achieved. Each most recent performance is contrasted with earlier efforts by same individual.

The distinction between the different types of goals is very crucial since the available empirical evidence has consistently demonstrated that specific objective goals, combined with performance goals, are the most efficient facilitators of behavior modification and/or change.


GOAL-SETTING GUIDELINES
The use of goals clearly outperforms a "play as you go" no goals approach. Still, bare in mind that not all goal-setting approaches are equally effective. Following is a summary of successful goal-setting procedures:
  • identify and record team and personal goals; outline a strategy for reaching the agreed upon set of goals
  • state goals using easy to measure motor skills or fitness components (i.e., state your goals in performance rather than outcome terms)
  • maintain the delicate balance between challenging yet attainable goals; be prepared to modify team and/or individual athlete goals to keep the balance
  • break long-term goals into several short-and intermediate term goals and apply a corresponding time frame and target dates to each goal
  • have specific goals for soccer practices, practice games, and regular season games (the goal in pre-season games may be to experiment with a variety of offensive and defensive formations, during a regular game the goal may shift to implementation and proper execution of a specific game plan...
  • use positive language when stating your goals (emphasis is on "what to do" as opposed to "what not to do." For example, "Listen to and follow the referee's instructions" versus "Do not argue with the referee."
  • set special times for the development and evaluation of your goals
  • provide continuous performance feedback and positive reinforcement
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Based on Botterill's (1983) discussion, Gould (1986) proposed the following three- phase goal-setting system: (The following would be a lot to ask or expect of the coach to be achieved in a typical 10 week little league soccer season. The child's parents can help by interviewing their child and submitting to the coach their and their child's goals for the season. The head coach may now have something to work with. He/she may "collapse" all similar goals by team members and assign specific areas of practice to her/his assistants or parent volunteers.).

THE PLANNING PHASE
  • Get in touch with your personal coaching philosophy (sincere goals are easier to stick to and thus you may avoid confusion on the team)
  • Identify individual and team needs (separate the kids that distract each other, allow the kids to be kids, allow for socialization time, provide "custom made" emotional support to team members, provide active fitness and on task skills opportunities, create environments in which team members would have a good chance to succeed [e.g., score goals during practice games,] in areas that otherwise would be an almost impossible task in a regular season match...)
  • Based on identified team and individual needs facilitate a goals discussion with players and parents (consider the feasibility of your planned goals)
  • Identify and implement strategies to achieve team and individual player goals
THE MEETING PHASE
  • Present your ideas to parents and kids in a team meeting (provide parents with a "work sheet" with some leading questions that they could hand back to you with their and their child's ideas and comments, e.g., "What do you like most about soccer practices? Games?
  • Plan a follow-up meeting in which parent and child are asked to reflect upon their personal and team expectations and goals (make sure you clarify with your parents and children their priorities, specific needs, and realistic expectations)
  • Discuss team and individual goals throughout the season with parents and individual players (You may consider developing goals of practice between official practice days. On our 9-10 year-old boys' soccer team we assign ball control (e.g., kicking against wall, throw-ins to wall, juggling, wall kicking, dribbling, etc...) drills to the kids. The less experienced and skilled child would greatly benefit from adult supervision and specific feedback since "Practice alone does not necessarily result in proper learning. Well planned and executed practice does."
THE FOLLOW-UP/EVALUATION PHASE
  • Collect an accurate "snap shot" of pre-and early season initial motor skills (Some of the available soccer skills tests include but are not limited to the Shuttle Run Test, the Dribbling Test, The Wall Kick Skills Test, the Punting Test the Passing/Trapping Test, the Target Shooting Test, the Juggling Test and more...). Diagrams and test procedures are now available at the above links. Send your results with a description of your team (gender, age, average number of years in league, etc..) to dfrankl@calstatela.edu or to danyf@adelphia.net so that I may create a criterion related data base.
  • Create methodical systems of providing feedback. Avoid using phrases such as "You missed..." or "Kick the ball to the corner of the goal..." or "When passing to a teammate send a ground ball..." and stop at that. Instead tell and demonstrate to the child how to more effectively place her/his balancing foot, where should the balancing foot's toe point to. Show the child how to properly drive the ball using the kicking foot by pointing out where to contact the ball...Most kids see better than adults, and they know the ball went out, over, or too much to the left. That was quite obvious. They need us to tell them why it happened and what can they do to correct their actions.
  • Create team and individual evaluation charts. You may assign a motivated team parent to chart their child's (or any child's) field movements and contacts with the ball (prepare several field charts with the child's name and the five minute observation interval (e.g., 00-5:00; 5:00-10:00; etc.). Chart movement without ball using a broken line, for contact with ball put down a number, e.g., #1, 2, 3, etc.,) where contact took place, draw uninterrupted line to describe passes and shots.
COMMON PROBLEMS IN SETTING GOALS
  • Setting too many goals too soon. You may jolt down as many goals as you wish. Just be sure to prioritize goals and work plans.
  • Stating most goals in general subjective terms. Be as specific and as precise as you can be when stating your goals.
  • Not appreciating individual differences. Some kids just can't apply themselves as others to the team's goals. What may seem as their 70% may in fact represent their 100% at this point in time. Kids grow and mature at a different pace. Some are where you'd like them to be at when you first meet them, and some will perform for the coach two seasons away. Kids may experience different learning curves, and may have a variety of preferences for lead-up games, drills, and feedback remarks. What may seem challenging to the coach and some kids on the team may appear as boring to others. So do not take it personally, for example, when a seven-year-old does not like your hard labored, wonderfully crafted practice plan...
  • Holding on too long to unrealistic goals. Let go and move on.
  • Omitting "performance Goals." (e.g., "Team will execute three [or as many as you think is appropriate given your current level of team play] sets of three or more consecutive passes during a match by the fifth regular season game."
  • Putting excessive emphasis on technique-related goals. (Behaviors that relate to sportsmanship, punctuality, hard work/effort, help with setting equipment, being supportive of teammates when they commit a mistake...etc...are just as important as proper trapping or passing to the child's overall learning experience.
  • Not appreciating the time commitment needed to implement a proper goal-setting program. (Take the time to measure and discuss baseline performance, and set time aside for reevaluation and charting of progress.)
  • Not fostering a supportive goal-setting environment. (Create charts with baseline and consecutive evaluation interval results)
SUMMARY

"GOALS ARE EFFECTIVE BECAUSE THEY INFLUENCE PSYCHOLOGICAL STATES SUCH AS SELF-CONFIDENCE, DIRECT ATTENTION TO IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF THE TASK, MOBILIZE EFFORT, INCREASE PERSISTENCE AND FOSTER THE DEVELOPMENT OF NEW LEARNING STRATEGIES (Gould, 1993, p. 168)."

"IN ESSENCE, GOAL SETTING INVOLVES COMMITMENT AND EFFORT ON THE PART OF THE COACHES AS WELL AS ATHLETES (Gould, 1993, p. 164)."

Copyright© 1996-2012, Daniel Frankl, Ph.D.

Questions and/or comments? Thank you! e-mail gif

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Cal State LA || Kids First Soccer || About Author || Coaching Philosophy
Player Development || Fundamentals || Setting Goals || Practice Ideas
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Safety Tips || Related Links || Computing Terms

Last Modified: January 22, 2012