Goal Setting

I am excited to welcome everyone to my new website. The idea for this project was the result of my periodization social media venture in July 2013. I received and continue to receive many requests to provide additional coaching tips from many of my followers. This website became a “goal” when I sat down with Merry Neitlich at the Glacier Falls summer competition.

How appropriate and ironic that my first official blog addresses the topic of goal setting. During this kick-off month I will feature information on goal setting and more importantly, goal achievement. Recent studies by Harvard Business School and Forbes reveal that even though the goal setting buzz words have become popular in every aspect of society, the actual achievement of the goals set is what becomes the deal breaker. Meaning many people set goals but few actually follow through and achieve them.

Long ago, Aristotle derived the idea of “final causality” in which he speculated that purpose can cause action. This led Edwin A. Locke to begin examining and testing goal setting theories in the mid-1960s for almost thirty years. The difference between setting goals and achieving them is where our job as a coach becomes important. While we cannot follow each of our skaters around and make sure they accomplish what they say they will. We CAN create a climate where working toward a goal is a priority and where the process of long-term effort toward a goal is valued.

For athletes, the process of achievement begins AFTER they set their own goals and SHARE them with their coach. While some coaches believe it is enough to suggest to their skaters to “do their best,” Locke and others have determined that people who are told to do their best–don’t. To change some type of behavior it has been clearly documented that a person must have a clear view of what is expected from him/her. So the goal achievement process continues with the writing of a periodized training plan based on the skater’s goals–by the coach. For anyone attending the PSA conference May 22-24 in Palm Springs, CA, come join me on Thursday May 22 for my periodization presentation “Guided Discovery: Applying Periodization Concepts for the Developing Figure Skater,” to learn more about this very detailed and important athlete-driven but coach-led process.

Typically, goal setting in sport is done after the last competition of the season. When you work with skaters of different levels this means the goal setting process can happen several times per year. For example, last year I began this process with my non-qualifying skaters in December after regionals was complete and my skaters had time to rest during the holidays. For all of my national competitors who finished in January we started this process in March after the Olympic Games. We waited a couple months to see what happened at the Sochi Games because 2014 is the end/beginning of a new quadrennium (4-year Olympic cycle) and we also began mapping out a quadrennial plan. Most recently, Max Aaron, who just finished competing at the World Championships in Saitama, Japan, began his goal setting process as part of TEAM USA. Athletes like Max and those on the international team must submit written goals “on line” in a secured computer system called Ex3. These goals are approved by the coach and various USFS officials. So as you can see if your skaters are not setting goals they are really out of the competitive loop.

I suggest advising your skaters to write goals daily and use their smart phones or I-pads if not good old-fashioned pencil and paper. I am planning to release a goal setting e-book very soon which will have lots of information about goal setting and all of my personally-developed goal setting planning sheets. Keep an eye out for this book of valuable information on my website.

One of my very dear friends from our Disney on Ice show days, Choeleen Loundagin, M.A., wrote a book several years ago titled, The Inner Champion. In one chapter on goal setting she uses the acronymn SMART goals. This means goals must be:






Although setting “smart” goals seems obvious I am surprised at how much help my skaters need with planning short-term, intermediate and daily goals which follow logical steps that will help them achieve their long-term goals. A very important task, yes, but yet not an easy one to complete when you consider all the things kids have to do in a day.

A basic principle of periodization is setting what are called “stretch goals” which means goals that allow the athlete to grow and “stretch” without ripping them apart. Push too much and the skater becomes frustrated. Push too little and the skater doesn’t develop at a pace which will allow them to be competitive and provide success and incentive for them to continue in the sport. It is a staggering fact that by the junior level most female skaters leave the sport because they have not or could not keep up with the level of progress necessary to insure success and thereby feed the development of their personal self-efficacy. Many times parents who are under severe financial pressure need valid reasons to justify spending thousands of dollars on our sport. The best way to keep a skater skating is to help them achieve their goals and do what the Japanese call “kaizen” or constant improvement by design or plan.

And so now that the Sochi Olympics are over and the 2013-2014 season has come to a close, it is time to set goals for the next year, the next four years and then begin the process of daily work that makes these goals a reality. In other words, turn the promise of today into a performance in the future. Those words sound motivating. Perhaps I should use them somewhere on my website. Oh yeah, I already did. In the logo:)