Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Player Goal Planning

Posted by admin February - 12 - 2010 - Friday

One of the most important activities that I did each year with our returning veterans occurred at this time of year.  I want to bring it to your attention so you can decide if it’s worthwhile for you to be doing with your team.

It is an activity that I describe in detail AND… have a copy of the actual sheets that I used…. in my book, 101 Little Things…  Coaches write all the time asking how we were able to win consistently over a 16 year span (6 and 4 only once; 7 and 3 twice and the other 13 years we were averaging about  9 or 10 wins a season.  It was because I was consistent.  I found things that worked and we kept doing them each and every year!  Too many coaches are not disciplined enough to continue doing something the same way over and over.  They get “bored” so they stop doing it.  Baaaaaaad move!  My daddy used to say (you’ve heard it!):  “Son, if it ain’t broke… don’t fix it!”  and it’s true.

One of those activities that I found produced consistently great results was something I started doing in late winter/early spring because, if you’re going to do it right, it takes some time.  In the book, it’s “Little Thing” #17:  Goal Planning/Self-evaluation Meetings.  It means making the time to actually meet with every returning veteran twice to accomplish what the activity is designed to do.  Once it’s done though, you will have a group of players who are focused and motivated as they look forward to the end of school and getting ready to move into the “Pre Season” phase of your year-long plan.

I created a goal planning sheet for each player to fill out.  Also stapled to the Goal Planning Sheet was a Self Evaluation Sheet.  The Goal Planning sheet consisted of questions that each player has to answer concerning what his goals are for the team for next season and what his goals are for himself next season.  Perhaps the best question I posed to the kids was:  Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?  Where do you see yourself 15 years from now?  You’d be amazed at some of the answers!

What I think was the key point, though, was that with each question about the goals, the players were also asked for a “plan of action.”  In other words, a step by step plan of how they plan to achieve those goals.  That always allowed for a “teachable moment” when I could explain to each player that a goal means nothing unless you know what it’s going to take to achieve it.  I used the parable that Jesus told about the man who started building a house but ran out of money to complete it.  So the unfinished house just sat there for anyone who passed by to see.  The point that the Lord was trying to make is:  “Count the cost” before you set out to accomplish something. 

The Self Evaluation Sheet consisted of 12 qualities that every coach would hope that his players possessed.  This is not only football skills but also character traits like “hustle”, “leadership” and “work ethic.”  Each player is asked to rate himself from 1 to 5 on each trait.

The initial meeting with each player is to review (and you need to go over both sheets in detail… because a lot of kids have never done something like this.  If you want valid results, they need to clearly understand what it is that you expect them to do!) both sheets and set up a time that the player will return so that you can review and discuss the player’s answers.  The first meeting will take about 10 minutes but the second “interview” will take 30-40… so plan accordingly so you are not getting the player, or you!, in trouble with a teacher because he’s missing class time to do “football.”

When you sit down with the player to review his sheets, I started with the Self Evaluation.  You will be surprised at some of the ratings that players give themselves.  For ratings on traits that I think are way out of line with reality (i.e., a 3rd string OT who’s 5’8 and 220 rating his “level of play” as D1 College potential!), it is a great opportunity to discuss this aspect of his performance.  It is also a natural lead-in to the goal planning review that’s coming up.

I would also ask some of them if they would like to know how I, as their HC, would “rate” them on the catagories.  Most will say “yes.”  You have to be honest but…. you also need to remember that you are dealing with the psyche of a 16 year old.  What you as their HC say to them carries a LOT of weight.  I always tried to present it as positively and encouragingly as possible.  You can discuss what they need to do to achieve the level to which they have rated themselves if you disagree.  Here again, moving towards the goal planning exercise.

The Goal Planning Sheet review always focused on the:  “What will it take to achieve this goal” part of the exercise.  I wanted them to know that goals aren’t just handed to you.  Hard work and persistence cease the day.  This whole exercise is designed to be that “teachable moment” that I already mentioned… your chance to discuss in detail what you see and think about certain goals and traits.  You have the boy in a one on one setting… do some “preaching” of your coaching philosophy. I’d ask them upon reading a goal: “Is this goal achievable… or just ‘pie in the sky’ what you think I want to hear?” You can then discuss what real goals are all about: a challenge but realistically achievable IF the player is willing to work hard for it!

Years later, I would run into players and many would bring up the “goal planning sessions” with me as one of the highlights of their HS football career.  The kids like the attention and the fact that you are “listening” to them and what they see as significant in their lives.  Building that rapport with your players is all part of establishing trust and respect as building blocks of success for your program.

Good luck and God bless you!

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