Goal Setting for Student Athletes
As a captain of a club sports team at Syracuse University this year, I am uniquely qualified to talk about goal setting and season planning from the perspective of a student athlete. We are an ultimate Frisbee team that competes in the Western New York Section of the USA Ultimate collegiate circuit, and we are a team run completely by students. We have a leadership structure that involves three captains including myself, a President who takes on the majority of our financial responsibilities, our Vice-President who is in charge of social events, along with a handful of other elected positions. While the captains play a large role in almost every consequential decision-making conversation, we like to include our President and our coach when we set goals before each semester. We call this group of five people our leadership core.
Some of the most important parts of goal setting are minor details that are easy to overlook. We make sure to always write down a goal after we decided on it, and we also brainstorm a list of steps to get the ball rolling for said goal. We also try to vary the kinds of goals we set. It’s counterproductive to have too many goals just based on results, or growth, or attendance. We usually aim to have at least one of each per semester. For the coming Spring semester, we had a core meeting to plan out our goals as a group and present them to the rest of the team. Once we generated our list, we put them in our end of Fall recap slideshow, right after where we put a slide asking the team to produce goals of their own. We felt it was important that the players who elected and support us to have an opportunity to tell us what their goals were for themselves and their teammates. Luckily, when we flipped to the next slide, much of what we had written had already been said in the discussion the team organically had.
This idea of choosing goals that fit the team is very important for designing practices, picking tournaments, and decided the level of commit is going to be expected of each player on the roster. I believe that one of the issues captains have when they feel their team isn’t putting in adequate effort is because that captain is operating off of the assumption that their team wants to be as competitive as possible when that might not be the reality. We solved this issue directly after tryouts this year when we sent out a survey that asked each player, among other things, how they wanted our team’s season to finish. Around 53% of our players said that they wanted to be a team that competed to qualify for Nationals come May. The next largest cohort was about a quarter of the team that indicated they wanted to be regionally competitive. So right away, we know that about 75% of our team has aspirations to be a top team in our region and make a run at Nationals. As a leadership, we’ve used this as justification to increase the number of practices, enforce attendance at them, and incorporate a large amount of conditioning into each practice, something we have not done nearly enough of in the past.
As a result of increased intently in our training, we’ve seen our results this Fall skyrocket. We’ve gone 15-3 across three tournaments, winning two of them. Syracuse Ultimate hasn’t won a tournament since 2008, let alone two of them. This all comes back to goal setting, and the steps we’ve written down with the goals to make them a reality. We’re unsure what the Spring will hold in terms of practice times given to us by the school, which tournaments we’ll get invited to, and in what shape our players will come back from Winter Break in. But one thing I do know, is that this team will continue to want to work hard, because that’s how we’re going to achieve the goals we set as a team.
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