When asking the majority of people before a contest, whether it be a rugby match or a spelling bee, what they want, they will inevitably say, "I want to WIN."
I have yet to meet anyone who competes that says they don't care if they win as long as they have fun. That was fine when we were six but it isn't going to cut it now. So, how do we do it, how do we win?
The answer that you are looking for may be found in goal setting. Too many teams overlook this factor, which may be considered the most important training tool available to any team. It doesn't cost anything but time and may be the difference between an 8-8 record and a 14-2 record. The reason most teams overlook goal setting is because they assume that everyone on the team wants the same thing; to win, and the responsibility to win is placed squarely on the shoulders of the coach and so is goal setting. What most coaches need to understand is that every individual on the team has different goals for themselves as a part of the team. I stress individual because everyone on the team is different and they have different attributes and attitudes, which is very evident in a sport like rugby, and can be seen in every training session and game. It is the coach's responsibility to bring these individuals together as a team and the easiest way to do that is by setting team goals.
Let's be clear: winning is not a goal, it is the outcome or result of achieving the goal(s) we set as a team.
In order to get the maximum results from the goals that we have set we must follow a few basic principles; the S.M.A.R.T. principles which stand for: S -- specific, M -- measurable, A -- attainable, R -- realistic, T -- time.
S -- specific. In order to achieve a goal it has to be specific. For example; or goal is to win 50% more of our games then we did last year. Let's use the example above with last year's record of 8-8, in order to achieve our goal of 50% more victories; we now have a goal to achieve a 12-4 record. Please keep in mind that this must be a goal that is agreed upon by every team member. Also know that further goal setting is required to reach this record; how are we going to get to that record has to be answered, what do we have to do as a team to get there, what attitude is needed, what training requirements are needed, and so on.
M -- measurable. Can our goal be measured? If we are using the goal of winning 50% more games, then the answer is yes it can be measured by the number of wins and losses we achieve. If we said that we want to play better as a team, even though we can feel if we played better, it isn't something that we can measure. I'm sure we have all been a part of games when we didn't play well, but still came away with the win and vice versa, we played great, but lost. Playing better isn't measurable, but winning 50% more of our games is.
A -- attainable. Can we win 50% more of our games this year compared to last? Can this be achieved? If your team has a record of 16-0 then it is impossible and can't be attained, but our 8-8 record turning into 12-4 record can be achieved. We have to remember that everyone on the team has to believe that it is attainable, not just the coach or a select few. Without the collective agreement of the team the goal may not be achieved.
R -- realistic. The biggest problem most coaches are faced with is the reality of the goals they are striving to achieve. For examples; our record last year was 2-14, to come out and say that our goal is to have a record this year of 12-4 isn't very realistic. The team must believe that the goal can be achieved or they will not buy into it. We have to make sure that we set a goal that everyone thinks we can reach. If we set a goal that is too high, the majority of our players will recognize this and not put the effort needed because it's too unrealistic. The mentality will possibly be, "why kill myself for something that isn't going to happen?" On the other hand if we set our goal too low we will get the same effect, "I don't need to put in much effort to achieve that goal." As a coach, we hope we never see this mindset in our rugby players, because it is a direct reflection on us and our ability to help the team set realistic goals. When we set a goal that everyone on the team thinks we can achieve, they will all put in the effort necessary to achieve that goal.
T -- time. A big problem that arises when goal setting is that we don't set a specific date to achieve the goals we have set out. Using the example of winning 50% more games and having a 12-4 record seems like the time is already set out for us; by the end of the season. However, to ensure that we achieve our goals we must break them down into smaller goals. For example; after our first four (4) games we need our record to be at the minimum 3-1 in order to have a realistic shot at attaining 12-4. After eight (8) games we need to be 6-2 and so on.
We only used one example to show team goal setting, but we can't stop here. In order for us to achieve this goal we must devise the proper strategy and action plan. It isn't enough to say we want to win 50% more of our games, anyone can say that. As a coach, it is our responsibility to set goals with all of our players in order for them to achieve their individual goals and to attain the desired team goals.
These principles apply both on and off the rugby field. We must set a goal and mini goals for everything we wish to accomplish; nothing will be accomplished just because we set a goal, we have to continuously work towards reaching that goal.