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Goal Setting Helps Athletes to Stay in the Moment

Goal setting is the most proven technique in sport psychology. It helps to motivate athletes and improve performance by enhancing confidence. Without goals, how can athletes know what to focus on? It’s like a road trip; if you don’t know where you are going how are you going to get there? Goals are the stepping-stones to dreams; they are the action plans; they are what you can do right now. Goals bring the future into the present.

In sport psychology there are three types of goals: process goals, performance goals and outcome goals. Process goals are those that focus on “how”; the process of how to execute a skill. For instance, keeping your head down on a ground ball or having a good follow through on a free throw.

Performance goals are those that focus on an individual’s performance. For instance, hitting the ball solidly on a line at every at bat, or hitting 90% of your spots as a pitcher.

Outcome goals, are the goals that all of us commonly set; I want to come in first place at the tournament. I want to get 4 hits today. They rely on other factors in order to achieve them.

Every type of goal is important. They motivate and focus us in various ways.

It’s important for athletes to set process goals; these are goals that keep athletes focused in the moment. In order to set motivating process goals, have your athletes focus on making their goals action based rather than outcome based. Their process goals should be things that they are 100% in control of, that way, when they do succeed they can take 100% of the credit. Athletes can strive for having four quality at bats rather than getting four hits. Meaning, athletes should focus on swinging at the correct pitches and putting good swings on those pitches. Focusing on the process will allow the outcome to take care of itself. Setting smaller goals, like this one, gives the athlete more feedback so they can see their results and let their confidence grow.

Outcome goals are what we all play for. They keep you motivated during the mundane practices. Those memorable championship moments keep people motivated in sport, so these goals are important too, as long as you have the steps to get there. For instant a good outcome goal could be to win the championship, but in order to get there athletes need to set and achieve process goals, like putting in 100% effort at every practice.

Goal setting reminds me of a quote by John Lennon; “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”. If athletes focus too much on outcome goals, and how successful they are in reaching those, they miss the process of getting there. In my experiences, most of my peers in college were so ready to graduate college and couldn’t wait to enter the real world. They forgot to realize how amazing the experience was along the way.

By focusing on process goals you can celebrate the little victories all game or all season long. After all life IS the little moments. It’s about compiling millions of happy moments to create a happy life. It’s not about the 3 or 4 major successes you have in your life; it’s about the life that happened on the pursuit to those major successes.

In life and in sport, enjoy the process of attaining the big goals, by setting some process and performance goals along the way. Sport psychology states that goals work by increasing, attention, persistence, effort and strategy. I’m pretty sure it has the same effect in everyday life.

Quote of the day: “Success is how you collect your minutes. You spend millions of minutes to reach one triumph, one moment, then you spend maybe a thousand minutes enjoying it. If you were unhappy through those millions of minutes, what good is the thousand minutes of triumph? It doesn’t equate… Life is made of small pleasures. Good eye contact over the breakfast table with your wife. A moment of touching a friend. Happiness is made of those tiny successes. The big ones come too infrequently. If you don’t have all those zillions of tiny successes, the big ones don’t mean anything.” — Norman Lear

Self Confidence

Just a little information I learned in class that I passed onto my players over the summer.

Self confidence is the belief that you can successfully perform a desired behavior. When you don’t have confidence, you are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. A self fulfilling prophecy is the phenomenon that happens when you expect something to happen, and it actually helps cause it to happen. If you have negative self-fulfilling prophecies, like expecting to swing and miss, you are creating psychological barriers that lead to a vicious cycle: the expectation of failure leads to actual failure, which lowers self-image and increases expectations of future failure.

Benefits of self confidence

Arouses positive emotions– when you are confident you are more likely to stay calm and relaxed under pressure, it allows you to be aggressive and assertive.

Facilitates concentrations– when confident your mind is free to focus on the task at hand, not distracted by self doubt, and worry that you aren’t playing your best.

Affects goals– confident people set challenging goals and pursue them actively.

Increases effort– when ability is equal, the winners of competitions are usually the athletes who believe in themselves and their abilities.

Games strategies– athletes who “play to win”, compared to athletes who play “not to lose”, take control of the competition to their advantage.

Psychological momentum– confident people view situations where momentum is against them as challenging and it motives them to work harder.

Affects performance– the confidence you have about your talents, affect how you showcase your talent on the field.

Although self confidence is important, there is a happy medium between over confident and under confident. We all know that players who are too confident tend to fail, and players who are under confident tend to doubt themselves, and also fail. The hard part is finding that perfect middle ground, “optimal confidence”. Optimal confidence means being so convinced that you can achieve goals that you will strive hard to accomplish them. It does not mean that you will always perform well, but it is essential to reaching your potential. A strong belief in yourself will help you deal with errors and mistakes effectively, and keep you striving toward success. Everyone’s optimal confidence levels are different.

Your expectations of others affect not only your own behaviors, but also the feelings and behaviors of others around you.  Look at it this way, for example; Kira is on a volleyball team, she spikes the ball despite a bad setup, the ball goes straight into the net. Her coach says, “Good try Kira, just try to get more elevation on your jump so you can contact the ball about the level of the net”. Janet on the other hand, spikes the ball on a bad setup and the ball goes straight into the net. The coach this time responds with, “don’t try and spike the spike the ball when you’re not in a good position. Janet you’ll never make a point like that.” See how this could affect a player? This goes the same for your team mates; you guys know that you can feel when someone doesn’t like you, or who thinks you aren’t very talented. Weather you think so or not, this affects how you play. So take notice and watch how you react to your teammates, and how you act towards them in general.

Never fear! Self-confidence can be built!

You can build confidence by:

Accomplishing a good performance- successful behavior increases confidence and leads to further successful behavior. (Beating an opponent or fully extending a knee in recovery) So, what if you haven’t been performing well? That’s why practice is so important, you can work on your skills and build confidence!  Create situations for yourself where you know you can succeed to build confidence.

Acting confidently– fake your confidence! Even if you aren’t feeling confident, pretend you are! Be an actress! Keep your head up after an error even if you want to throw your fist through a wall, just smile. It can actually affect the way you feel and play!!! It can also affect how your opponents play against you; it is harder to beat a confident team.

Thinking confidently- thoughts and self-talk should be instructional and motivational, not judgmental. While pitching, instead of saying don’t miss your spots, say keep this pitch off the plate. Instead of saying don’t swing and miss, say hit the middle of the ball. There should  be no “don’t” in your self-talk.

Using imagery– imagine yourself playing well! Use imagery create successful scenarios in your mind. Imagine yourself fielding a ground ball cleanly or hitting a line drive that falls into the gap.

Using goal mapping- a goal map is a personalized plan for an athlete that contains various types of goals and goal strategies as well as a systematic evaluation procedure to assess progress toward goals. Keep your goals performance and task oriented rather than outcome oriented; focus on hitting the middle of the ball rather than getting a hit every time you’re up to the plate.

Optimizing physical conditioning and training– staying in shape can help you feel more confident. That doesn’t mean killing yourself with tough workouts when you’re not playing, it means going for a little jog one once in a while, or lifting a few weights just so you can feel good about yourself.

Preparing– have a plan for the game. If you have a plan and are prepared you’re more likely to have success. Make sure, along with a plan, you have a backup plan if something doesn’t go as planned.

Fostering social climate– Be supportive of your team mates! Help to build their self-confidence too!

Quote of the day 

“Self-confidence is like a placebo, you can give people a sugar pill for extreme pain, tell them it’s morphine and it can produce as much relief as an actual pain killer. Give someone confidence in their skills, and they will perform better” -Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology

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