Aligning your players' expectations for the season may be the most important thing that you can do as captain in the spring semester. Clearly defined goals and player buy-in will help your team come together in the pursuit of one common objective.
The simple act of creating goals and expectations will force your players to talk about the goals they want to achieve this season, and why they play ultimate in the first place.
This discussion will help you all come to an agreement on what you want strive for as a team this year. That discussion builds unity and the feeling of togetherness that is vital for a successful team.
So how do you do set your goals and expectations?
1. Identify your team goals
Who's giving input into your goals will depend on your team culture. This discussion may be best left to the captains, the upperclassmen, or the entire team. If you aren't sure, then the best answer is probably to include the entire team. We are going for unity and togetherness here, after all!
Regardless of who must be present, you should use a goal framework to direct the goal setting process. I recommend using the Outcome / Performance / Process framework.
EXAMPLE: The UPS Postmen
I coach the open team at the University of Puget Sound. Here's a set of goals that they could have chosen to make explicit at the start of the semester:
Outcome: Be the best DIII open team in the Northwest Region.
Performance: Win NW DIII Conferences and qualify for DIII Nationals.
Process: Leadership/coaches will run two practices a week, plus mandatory organized throwing, lifting and track outside of regular practice.
I like this framework for two reasons:
- Each level is measurable. At the end of the season you'll be able to look at each goal level and tell definitively whether or not you succeeded there.
- It takes major team achievements, like being the best DIII team in the region and draws a direct connection from them to the small tasks that players can achieve every day.
One little tip: when you're working through this format, make sure that your process goals reinforce the performance goal that you wish to achieve. Process goals are meant to help you achieve your performance goal, so there's no sense in creating process goals that are unrelated.
2. Process Goals Lead to Player Expectations
Now that you've got your process goals laid out, consider what expectations they demand for individual players. These should be things that a single person can easily see, understand, and complete.
Here are some examples you can use to get started. Continuing with my Postmen example above:
- Practices and tournaments are mandatory.
- Players are expected to attend track workouts once a week and lifting sessions twice a week.
- Players may attend optional throwing practices put on by the captains once a week.
- If a player skips practice once without letting the captains know, then the whole team does 50 burpees at practice.
- If a player skips practice more than once, the team does burpees again, and the player loses play time at the next tournament.
Obviously, if your team goals center around having fun, and not winning games, your expectations might be completely different.
The important thing is to state the goals and their intended expectations. That way everyone will be on the same page, and the team will be a more cohesive, welcoming, successful group.
3. Present these ideas to your team, and ask for feedback.
Even if you're the only captain and you have a ton of power over your players, you don't want to make mandates at this stage. You're going to need your players to be on board.
If you chose to complete #1 and #2 without the entire team present, then you'll want to create a space for your players to read the goals and expectations, and offer feedback to you and the leadership.
Once you've garnered feedback, consider your players' points of view carefully, and update your draft as necessary.
Once you've got a final draft, it's time cement your goals and expectations in some way. Different teams may choose different tactics for how to approve and comply with these new ideas. You could:
- Create a short contract for each player to sign, or simply email the draft around.
- Get group tattoos of a little bunny wearing a crown of ferns and wild flowers.
- Write the goals on a sheet vellum and burn them in an occult ritual that forever binds the team to the expectations they created.
Whatever you choose, make sure that all of your players are clear on your expectations of them. That's what you need to be successful. No matter how you define success.
4. Create Callbacks to Your Goals
Now you're ready to orient your practices around achieving the team's season goals. This technique will make the drills and scrimmages feel more real and relevant to your players.
For example, if your performance goal is to win DIII Conferences and qualify for DIII Nationals, maybe one of your process goals is to practice your dump sets every single week.
I can tell you from experience that players freaking HATE practicing dump sets every week, but if you tell them that you're doing it because you think it'll help the team qualify for Nationals, players will be much more likely get behind your vision and drill till the cows come home.
over to you!
How does your team talk about goals and expectations? Let us know in the comments below!