The best way to go about improving a skill is to set goals and monitor these goals. Goals provide you with a ‘map’ to reach your final destination (long term goal) with pit stops (short term goals) along the way. That is, you have your ultimate (or dream) goal but to reach it you must break it down into smaller steps. This serves several purposes. Firstly, it allows you to monitor your progress and thus tell you whether you need to increase your effort or training. Secondly, achieving these short term goals provides you with a reward for your effort and hard work, which in turn increases your confidence that you can achieve the next short term goal and retain your motivation.
People can set different types of goals; these can be based upon pure outcome such as “I want to win a particular race” or “beat a particular opponent” etc. However, outcome goals are usually not under your full control and can be a major source of pressure. Consequently it is usually better to set process and performance goals. Process goals are about mastering specific skills such as passing in rugby, turns in swimming or shooting in netball. If you succeed in doing these skills well you will more than likely increase the probability of achieving your desired outcome: winning. Examining the process required to achieve your goals allows you to break your goals down into components or actions and this should form part of your tactical and technical skill development. Combining process goals with performance goals allows you to monitor your progress against yourself, and allows you to honestly evaluate your progress. For example, there may be some technical process goals you set yourself to improve a particular skill (such as tackling in rugby). Combining this with a performance goal (to make 80% successful tackles in a game or training drill) allows you to monitor your progress.
Generally, process goals focus on how to do something while performance goals focus on objective success or failure at the task.
Being SMART about goal setting reminds you that your goals should be:
Set difficult but realistic positive performance and/or process goals that are clearly stated
Set numeric goals so your progress can be easily measured
Goals (and goal schedules) may need to be changed due to such things as injury or sickness. Or you may have set goals that were in hindsight to easy or too hard. Also you should review your training methods to see if they are effective and adjust your goals if needed.
Know your limitations, but set goals that are challenging. Setting goals that are too hard sets you up for failure, but they also need to stretch your abilities.
Set target dates for achieving your goals. Again these should be challenging but realistic.
Another key consideration to good goal setting is that the goals are determined and accepted by both the coach and the athlete. The most effective goals are those that the athlete feels they have ownership for. If you find that your athletes do not seem to be motivated towards achieving the goals that have been set, it may be a sign that they feel that the goals have been forced on them by somebody else, for example, parents, coaches, or team mates.
Write them down:
Write down your long term and short term goals and your strategy for achieving them. This should include target dates for added incentive.
Remind yourself of your goals
Use a training log book to monitor your progress. Alternatively, use a wall planner as a visual reminder of your goals, target dates and training plan.
Ask yourself periodically, “what have I done to make myself better?” Monitoring your performance is best done by you, as self-evaluation is a critical component of success in all walks of life.