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  • Writer's pictureCord Thomas

Off-season Goal Setting

Updated: Feb 8, 2023

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Off-season planning

We're at that point when school is starting and a lot of my athletes are returning from their summer vacation, or already have, and are back in the gym preparing for the season. A perfect time to deep dive into setting internal goals and expectations for the upcoming season. Teams that lack a sports psychologist, and good communicators usually whiff or miss hugely on this point and it is part of the large reason why they don't end up having success. If we're talking about winning, or success, then I would offer my equation:

Success is the convergence of preparation, growth, determination, confidence, leadership, and communication.

The topic of off-season planning theoretically covers all six of these determining factors.

1. What is off-season planning? Goal setting and expectation setting for myself before the season starts.

2. Why? In my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes an athlete can make at any age is not taking an active role in their development. What does that mean? Not taking ownership. This activity makes the athlete the sole owner of their development and their goals. It's not the coach's responsibility, mommy's or daddy's responsibility, and not the manager's responsibility. If we take the time to plan and set goals before the season starts, then we take responsibility for achieving those goals.

3. Which areas? I challenge my athletes, to off-season plan in a multitude of areas. Let's start with growth: Let's set a technical growth goal, a physical growth goal, and a social/emotional growth goal. A technical or skills goal might be improving my handling or dribbling skills, developing an adult shot, or refining or adding certain techniques I've been averse to in the past. Physical goals can be speed, strength, or weight. And social or emotional goals can be considered any change or work with communication meaning talking or listening more, and emotions meaning work with anger, stress, fear, etc.

Something to remember, a goal has to be measurable!

Next, we can move over to confidence or an internal feeling. What is a goal for a value or personality trait we want to represent throughout the season? Some examples might be drive, motivation, internal feelings I want to have, and/or representing my values. (If you want to know more about values, don't forget to check out my blog post on values)! Again, we want this to be measurable, and the athlete can measure each practice and competition if they've shown up in the way that they expect from themselves. Lastly, I would look at a goal in terms of leadership. This may have been covered in the social/emotional growth, but it may not have.

"Okay Cord, so, goals are great and all, and I can tell you what I want from the season, of course, I want to win and get better generally."

First of all, if you're not a professional, then winning probably shouldn't be your main focus. Your growth and development should. That, and enjoying the process of growth. Secondly, it's vague. The more laser-focused we are on certain areas of growth, the better we'll get and the more growth we'll see. If I go into a season saying "I just want to get better at everything, " I might, but only 1%. Whereas if I say this season I want to become the top one-on-one, on-the-ball defender on my team, then I have clarity, motivation, and a definition of success.

Let me add a great tip here, just thinking about it, or telling someone your goals isn't good enough. If you want them to hold value, get out your pen and paper, write them down, and then come back to them at the different checkpoints in your season. Then, you'll have something truly powerful.

"Listen, I'm happy with my YMCA runs, how do I apply this to my life?"

It's amazing that you enjoy your runs and are happy with where you are now, and it's okay not to be interested in growth if it's not a career. Your career though, your relationships with your colleagues, your relationship with your life partner, or lack thereof, or your relationship with your parents, your family, and your children, could definitely use some off-season planning! Everyone's returning from vacation, kids are going back to school, and the work season is setting in where it's all hands on deck. Do yourself a favor and think about those areas we talked about for the athletes. Physical and technical goals, social/emotional goals, a goal in confidence, and a goal in leadership. For each larger area of life that isn't being fulfilled the way that you'd like it to be in an ideal world. We don't live in an ideal world, but if we aren't setting goals at certain times of the year, we aren't going to get close either.

One of the biggest reasons we want to do off-season or pre-season planning is so that we're as focused and productive with our time and training sessions as possible. For most of us, we don't have an unlimited capacity to train, develop, and grow. Our brains and bodies are limited to what they can take, and our time is limited both in terms of how many hours we can be at a gym, but in that, there are other priorities in life than just training. We need to watch film, go to school or work, spend time with family, eat, sleep, relax, etc.

Therefore, with this logic, the more focused and productive I am with the limited time I have, the better I will be at my craft or sport. The better I am, the sooner I achieve my long-term vision. And that path towards being focused and productive starts with planning. Starts with goal setting. Starts by not only knowing where we have issues but saying what the solutions are. The time invested in planning and goal setting always returns in multiples after a person starts acting on them, because of the major boost in effectiveness.

"Okay, okay, but I just want to have fun."

I don't want to ask anyone, professional or amateur 10-year-old athlete to remove the fun from the game. But I would ask this: Is it more fun to dominate? Is it more fun to see growth in yourself, is it more fun to feel strong and fast, and like nothing can stop you? Or, is it more fun to be at the same level as everyone else? This applies to both teams and individuals. I would hope, if you're here with me still to this point you're pounding the dominate button. It's more fun to dominate. It's more fun to know I'm strong, that my body will not only do what I tell it to but even more. It's more fun to have the absolute confidence that I'm better today than yesterday, and tomorrow I will be even better again. If you can agree with me on that, then you can also agree that you want your training and effort to be effective and work. That means putting in the time to think, brainstorm, and plan how that success looks for you.

So how do we go about setting these goals? Give yourself 30 minutes to an hour, get out your pen and paper, and at the top of the page write 2022-23 season goals. Write out the different headers, physical goals, skills goals, emotional goals, social goals, and leadership goals. For each area, do your best to write out one or two, sometimes three sentences such as this season I want to put on 5 lbs of muscle, or this season I want to get faster.

Then go back and ask yourself if each one is measurable. For the 5 lbs of muscle, it's measurable, but only if I measure where I am now. The same thing goes for getting faster. First, we need to know our current speed and then set a realistic goal. That may mean going to the gym and doing some sprints to see what your average speed is. Then saying that by the end of the season you want to be a half second faster. You're going to set goals that are emotional or communicative, that you're going to measure by if you go into each practice or each game with that goal and approach or not.

At the end of the season, you can check off if you hit 50%, 80% (which is a great goal), or even higher. I hope this makes sense and gives you a clear idea of how to approach this activity.

If you want to get your questions into a mailbag or give me your thoughts, give me a comment below on the blog post, or reach out on Instagram: @athlete.m1ndset, Twitter: @athletem1ndset, or email at Do yourself a favor, and subscribe to the blog so that you receive all of the great new content coming out. And remember, Success is the convergence of preparation, growth, determination, confidence, leadership, and communication.


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