It's true that much of the success or failure you will experience this year will have a lot to do with how hard you worked in the off-season. However, that's only part of the equation. There is something else that can have a huge impact on the success of your season and often times it is overlooked. What I'm talking about is goal setting. Players and coaches that take some quality time before each season starts to evaluate specific things they are going to try and accomplish are usually far more successful than those that just let the chips fall where they may.
When the subject of goal setting comes up, it usually doesn't generate much excitement because people are more interested in hearing about breathtaking statistics and seeing superstar highlights. Think about it though, it is very rare that you will ever become what you want to become unless you define exactly what it is that you need to achieve in order to get there. You'll go from game to game, season to season unsatisfied and pretty soon it will all be over and you'll be left with unpleasant feelings of regret. Isn't it about time you started making progress? Approach this season different. Sit down as soon as possible to specify what you are going to accomplish. If you do this every game and every season from here on out you'll become a force to be reckoned with on the court!
Here are some tips to keep in mind when setting your goals:
Don't set goals like "I'm going to improve my ball handling this year". This is a good overall objective but, it's not nearly specific enough to be a good goal. A more appropriate way to go about this is to say something like, "in an effort to improve my ball handling I am going to set the following goals" and then you would spell out specific things. You could make a goal of not getting more than a certain number of individual turnovers each game or define a certain number of hours you will dedicate in your personal time each week to working on dribbling with your off-hand. When you are too vague with your goals, it's easy to forget about them and you end up not accomplishing very much.
Make Your Goals Measurable
If you can't measure your goals you are completely wasting your time. The whole point of setting goals is to help you accomplish more and achieve results. Let's say you are a coach wanting to make your practices more effective. An example of a poor goal would be something like, "I'm going to make my practices more organized this year". It's a great thought, but because it's not measurable, that's all it is. A thought that doesn't turn into action. A more effective approach would be to list certain things you will do to make your practices more organized. Maybe you make it a goal to start every practice with a 2 minute speech that introduces a theme for that day. Maybe you specify that each practice will consist of a certain number of drills and each one will begin and end on time. Whatever it is, whether you are a coach or a player you have to be able to look at your goals and measure whether or not they are being met.
Be Aggressive But Also Practical
If last year you averaged 2 rebounds a game, it doesn't make sense for you to set a goal of averaging 12 this year. It's good to be ambitious, but if you overdo it, you'll set yourself up for failure. You'll end up not even coming close to your goal and then completely lose faith in the whole process. Instead, think about how hard you've worked in the off-season, what you plan to do differently this year and then set a goal that challenges you but but at the same time, is realistic.
Set Benchmarks & Milestones
One of the biggest mistakes people make when setting goals is, they fail to monitor their progress on a regular basis. The point isn't to set your goals and then forget about them until the end of the season when you sit down to look at your stats. It needs to be an ongoing process. For example, let's imagine a coach setting a goal to win 65% of his away games during the season. The first thing that coach needs to do is evaluate how many total road wins he will need to achieve a 65% winning record. Let's say that number is 8. The coach should then break up the season and write on his calendar how many road wins he needs to be at each month in order to achieve his goal. This way, if he is falling behind, he'll get an early warning and know that he needs to kick it into high gear before it's too late. The whole point is to break down your goal into chunks so you can work on things on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis. If you don't do this the odds of you achieving your goals will diminish greatly.
Have a Reward/Punishment System in Place
Holding yourself accountable is extremely important when it comes to goal setting. If the season ends and all you do is look at what you did or did not accomplish and then walk away, you're cheating yourself. If you achieved your goals there is cause for celebration and you should reward yourself. It could be as simple as you splurging on a night out with your friends at your favorite restaurant. It could be something bigger like a vacation to the Caribbean. The point is to understand that you have earned it and you need to treat yourself. The same is true if you fail to achieve your goals. Admit you fell short and try to come up with something that discourages you from being satisfied with not meeting your goals. I know a player that played division I college basketball who punished himself when he didn't meet his goals by running wind sprints and ladders. If he set a goal to shoot over 50% from the three point line during a game and didn't accomplish it, he'd be in the gym the next day working his tail off. The kid had character and it helped him accomplish many great things.
Make this year different by getting in the habit of setting goals. Think about specific things you want to accomplish and make it happen!