Setting performance goals is an essential piece of sports psychology, and something that almost all top professional footballers do on a regular basis. We introduce goal-setting in our Position-Specific Programs to help players understand what it takes to improve and become the best they possibly can be.
Setting yourself goals has a number of benefits:
Providing direction – understanding how you will improve
Helping you focus on what’s important
Tracking success in key areas
Clarity of focus
Here’s Matt Pilkington, Head Coach for the MLS’ New York City FC U23 team talking about setting goals with his players.
Matt Pilkington - Individual Targets
And Lucy Rushton – Head of Analysis at Atlanta United
Lucy Rushton - Individual Targets
Now imagine becoming a great footballer is like a long car journey (it actually is!) with many stops and different routes along the way. You need to plan this journey, make sure you’re going in the right direction, and maybe you need to stay overnight somewhere, so you’ll need to research cities and hotels along the route.
Your football career is no different. You can’t go from being ‘pretty good’ to amazing overnight. If you could, then everybody would just do it! You’re going to need a plan.
Your plan also needs to have all the characteristics of good goal setting (SMART)
Your goal can’t just be to ‘get better’. How would you measure progress? Are you getting any better than you would without your plan? How much better do you want to be?
You must be able to measure this goal as we mentioned above. Maybe it’s playing 3 league’s higher, or scoring 5 more goals next season. You need something you can measure your progress towards.
Something that you can achieve and is attainable. Don’t set yourself a target that’s impossible to reach.
If you don’t put a time on your goals, it becomes easier to relax and make excuses. Want to score more goals but not seeing results? That’s fine – I’ll do it next season! This attitude isn’t okay. You need to have an end date, so you can set a new goal.
Matt Pilkington - Individual Targets 2
Unfortunately, many of us don’t have a professional academy coach who will work with us on our goals! But that doesn’t mean we can’t help ourselves.
Once we have our ‘big goal’, we can start to set some smaller goals to get there. Here’s an example:
After scoring 10 goals in a season, you want to score 20 goals the next one. This target is SMART.
To score 20 goals, you need to score once every 2 games on average, understanding that some games they may score multiple goals, and sometimes they might go a few games without scoring.
This target can be broken down into ‘mini-seasons’ of 5-7 games, with targets of 3-4 goals in each. This will help to maintain focus and motivation.
What’s even better is through PlayerTech’s Program for Strikers, we know how goals are scored, where from, what type of finish, and how many shots it usually takes to score a goal.
Here’s some images from the Programs taken from one of the scions, where you’ll learn how the Premier League’s best players score.
Using this information, we can set a target for each game and even design training drills our own to practice certain types of shots and finishes that we know the worlds best players do more than average players.
Here’s how the little things build into the big picture, how professional players set targets, and how PlayerTech programs help you get better.
I want to score 20 goals next season
To score 20 goals I need to score once every two games
If I take 6 shots from here every two games, I will give myself the best chance to score the goals I need
I can design self-practice drills and watch video of myself in games to make sure I’m progressing correctly
By educating ourselves off the field we can make sure we achieve our dreams on the field.
For a lot of players, it’s not a lack of desire or motivation that holds them back, it’s a lack of understanding and knowledge. PlayerTech’s Programs have been designed by player development analysts and coaches working at professional clubs to help bring this knowledge to players who aren’t lucky enough to have it provided for them.