Don’t Let Goals Become Unattainable

For Chris Doyle, MSCC, and the University of Iowa football program, achieving big goals is really a matter of breaking down those large goals into very small, bite-sized goals that coaches and student-athletes can internalize. In fact, when the goals begin to look too big, they can actually be counter-productive.

“The first step is to not look at the big picture,” says Doyle, who is the Hawkeyes director of strength and conditioning and a member of the CSCCa’s Board Of Directors. “There is no big picture.”

In the winter, student-athletes must focus on smaller goals, says Doyle. It’s the coach’s job to break down those goals and tell athletes the important parts.

“We say we need to improve our strength levels,” he says. “We need to improve our lean body mass. This is how we are going to do it. We are going to do strength training, we’re going to eat right, we are going to sleep right, and we are going to repeat that for a period of time.”

As the team progresses toward spring, he’ll begin explaining power-related movements to his student-athletes.

“At that time, we’ll emphasize plyometric training, speed training, acceleration training and change-of-direction training, for example,” says Doyle. “The goals change a little for the athlete and he has the opportunity to refocus. It’s a matter of breaking things down into smaller segments and motivating student-athletes for smaller segments of time.”

During the season, those smaller segments of time become quite literal.

“We put our game clock up and say, ‘OK, six days until Saturday,'” he says. “During winter training, we’re not setting our game clock for the first game in September. We set the game clock for the end of the off-season program or for spring football, then we reset the clock in the spring.”

The most important takeaway here is that coaches need to help student-athletes focus on the goals at hand. If those goals are to big or too far-reaching, they can become vague, even unattainable for athletes participating in the process. Coaches must guard against that.

“We tend to break it down into smaller segments and have very concentrated time periods for our specific goals,” says Doyle. “We recover, reevaluate and refocus on the next phase to help our student-athletes understand that achieving smaller goals allows them to achieve the big goals.”