Coaches Corner: What’s in a Goal?

Written by Coach Emily

I really like asking my players what their goals are at the start of a season.  Goals help set the stage for a season, and lets me know where I should be focusing as a coach.  Understanding what my players want helps provide focus, which is especially important in the early part of the season before I know my team well.  

When asked, their responses are usually fairly vague (“I want to improve”), or specific but with no clear path forward (“I want to win the tournament”).  Helping players break things into manageable steps will help bring about more success both short term and long term.  This is also a really important time to focus on empowering student athletes-- what the focus happens to be is up to them, and our role as coaches is to provide them with support.  

I like the SMART goal setting model.  SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound.  While no goal setting model is perfect, I find it to be extremely helpful in encouraging students to be introspective in their goal setting.  Below is an example of how I usually help my players break down their goals.  

Starting Goal: I want to get better at Overwatch

  • At this point, I ask students what “better” looks like to them.  What about their play could be improved?  Especially in the beginning of the season, they know their play a lot better than I do.  Encouraging them to look at their own play with a critical lens is important, and through that, they can identify what they think could use improvement.  

Specific Goal: I want to die less in game.

  • Usually I ask them to get even more specific here, and ask them to choose a hero they play often, but in this example I’ll leave it general.  If a player is stumped for specifics, ask them to take a look at their statistics.  These are usually a quick go to, and provide insights that are easily measurable.  

Specific, Measurable Goal: I want to lower my average number of deaths per ten minutes to 8 (currently 9.2).  

  • This goal is a measurable improvement.  Increasing a quantifiable aspect of gameplay that a player can find in the statistics tab is the easiest way to measure a goal, but there are other ways to measure growth and progress.  If there’s something specific that one of my players wants to work on, like communication, then it’s something I can pay particular attention to when I’m watching them practice.  

Specific, Measurable, Attainable Goal: I want to improve my average number of deaths per ten minutes to 8 (currently 8.7) for the current competitive season. 

  • I leave what “attainable” really looks like up to my players-- they know themselves better than I do.  I do encourage them to look at their stats for this season, not their overall stats because it’s easier to see growth in the smaller sample size.  Ultimately, I put the attainability of the goal in the hands of my players.

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant Goal: I want to improve my average number of deaths per ten minutes to 8 (currently 8.7) for the current competitive season.  I also want to get a consistent eight hours of sleep a night. 

  • I ask my players to create two relevant goals for the season-- one for their gameplay, and one for their lives outside of the game.  Bringing the human element into coaching and goal setting is important to the well-being of players.  When I check in with my players at the start of practice, I also ask about these goals.  

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound Goal:  I want to improve my average number of deaths per ten minutes to 8 (currently 8.7) for the current competitive season.  I also want to get a consistent eight hours of sleep a night for the duration of the NASEF season. 

  •  Because we have our students for the duration of the NASEF season, that’s the marker that I tend to use.  Goals can also be shorter term, so I encourage the students to put some thought into how much time they need.  Smaller goals can always build into bigger goals as the season progresses.  

Student goals help me develop my coaching plan early in the season, and give a good starting point for intentional practice.  I think helping my players meet their goals is one of the most impactful parts of coaching.  Encouraging students to reach both their goals as a player and their goals as an individual is an important part of our position as a coach. 

About Coach Emily

Hi, I’m Emily.  I’ve been coaching with Connected Camps and NASEF for the last three seasons.  My background is in work with young people, and esports is my first love.  Through coaching in the NASEF tournament, I’m excited to get to combine those things.  I came up through the 4H program, and am now a club leader.  Coming up through a leadership program had a huge impact on me, and I work hard to bring that element to the teams that I coach as well.  

In the past, I’ve also worked extensively in creating adaptive programming for youth with advanced needs of all kinds.  These programs were based in adventure and animal science, with social emotional and experiential learning at their heart.  Creating engaging and inclusive coaching plans has become one of my favorite aspects of coaching, and I’m excited to share that with you all.