Last year, we wrote about how captains can create goals and set expectations for spring semester.
We got a lot of great feedback on that post, so we decided to sextuple our efforts! We spoke with 6 more college captains at varying levels about how they set team goals. Read on to learn from their distilled wisdom.
It's clear that every team is different, so the final goals that are right for one team might not fit another. But we did find some pretty consistent themes and strategies emerge from these teams about what goal-setting techniques work for them and what advice they have for first-time captains.
Let's dig in.
know what kind of goal you're looking for
Step one is to understand what a good team goal is. Yes, we basically just told you to set a goal for a goal.
Here's what our captains said they aim for when identifying their team goals:
"Focus on setting SMART goals - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely - at both the team and individual levels." -John Mattes, Central Washington Ultimate
"Make them tangible enough to really believe in, but challenging enough that you'll be extremely proud of reaching it, or at least getting very, very close." -Shayla Harris, Stanford Superfly
"Set goals that focus your players on improvement over time rather than simple tournament results." -Bryce McLaughlin, Claremont Braineaters
talk to previous captains
Unsure where to even start? Four of our six captains agree that consulting captains from seasons past is perhaps the best first step towards setting good team goals.
"Talk with captains from the previous year about how their season goals played out with different people on the team. That way this year's leadership has intimate knowledge of past team successes and shortcomings, how it affected our game, and how to build upon the progress already achieved." -John Mattes, Central Washington Ultimate
"Asking past leaders and players questions like "Looking back at the season, what do you think worked well? What didn't? What would you change?" has worked really well in giving new leadership direction for the upcoming season." -Ella Hansen, Oregon Fugue
By understanding the successes and failures of the past, you can start to build well-crafted team goals for the upcoming season.
consider your teammates
There's a lot for a captain to think about when goal-setting, probably most importantly: the 25+ differing opinions of her teammates.
"A lot of season planning comes down to reconciliation and thinking of ways to bridge distinctly different goals. Some of our players prioritize getting a bid to Natties, while others care more about having fun." -Ella Hansen, Oregon Fugue
Spoiler alert: the secret is to find the common ground.
"We have captains and players that prioritize fun, and we have captains and players that prioritize winning. So coming to an agreement as a unit early on is imperative for our team's success." -John Mattes, Central Washington Ultimate
"Though they seem very different, we've found that we play our best when we are having fun, and we enjoy ourselves the most when we are successful - so fun and winning can actually go hand in hand." -Shayla Harris, Stanford Superfly
"The primary people whose goal it is to win Nationals aren't trying not to have fun, and those looking to just have fun are also trying their hardest to win, too. So trying to understand and work with all of those identities and trusting that your teammates are working hard - even if it's not how you picture it for yourself.
It's okay that not everyone has the same goals, it's just a matter of reconciling them such that both sides understand one another as to ensure that everyone has a positive experience." -Ella Hansen, Oregon Fugue
learn about different types of goals
We talked abotut a 3-step goal-setting framework in our previous goal-setting post known as the Outcome / Performance / Process framework. Turns out, a lot of our captains use elements from this framework as well!
The first type of goal is an outcome goal - a binary goal with a distinct measure, such as winning a tournament.
The second type of goal is a process goal - a more qualitative goal-setting approach used to move towards and overarching outcome goal, like improving an active sideline.
Some find focusing on a process goal works best for their crew:
"Over the years we've shifted from a results-oriented program to a process-oriented program. So instead of focusing on rankings, we turn our attention more towards improving as a team, developing our rookies, and perfecting our system so we can play our best ultimate." -Bryce McLauchlin, Claremont Braineaters
While others look to outcome goals for direction:
"More quantitative goals, such as having an 80% throwing success rate, helps our rookies better visualize their progress throughout the season." -Rachel Gittleman, UChicago Supersnatch
And still other teams do best when - you guessed it - they find a happy balance between outcome goals and process goals.
"Our outcome goal was to make it to Nationals. So our process goals were focused more on how we wanted to run practices - for example, encouraging our players to create a personal outcome goal for improvement at every practice." -Carla Marigmen, UW Element
Discuss season goals with your team
While the plan of attack may have been different among our interviewees, we repeatedly encountered one overarching theme: communication is key.
"We are very open to listening to our players about why they want to back a certain goal or idea." -Shayla Harris, Stanford Superfly
"Since we don't have a coach, we have a very horizontal leadership, so it's really important that we all talk and listen to each other." -Rachel Gittleman, UChicago Supersnatch
Look to your team culture to find the right communication technique. Our interviewees had a variety of communication strategies they created to fit the needs of their respective needs.
"We sit down with every player on the team individually to understand what they are looking to get out of the season. We ask them where they see themselves on the team and where they want to see themselves." -Bryce McLaughlin, Claremont Braineaters
"We have team meetings where we vote on each goal with a thumbs up, sideways, and down. If not all thumbs are up, we discuss the goal and how we as a team should proceed." -Carla Marigmen, UW Element
"We devise a constitution based on the input of our players at the beginning of the season for everyone to sign that tackles our team's goals for attitude, spirit, and sportsmanship." -John Mattes, Central Washington Ultimate
"We continuously encourage our rookies to be involved in the goal-making process and share what they see and want rather than just riding passenger to the opinions of returning members." -Ella Hansen, Oregon Fugue
keep the lines of Communication open
Not only does ongoing open communication play a vital role in setting setting goals, but it also builds bonds between captains and players that are essential to creating a cohesive and effective team.
"The stronger the bond is between players and captains, the more those teammates will listen and trust the captains, both as friends and as leaders, and the easier it is to align your team behind a specific goal." -Bryce McLaughlin, Claremont Braineaters
"It's important that we as captains make ourselves as available as possible to our players, to connect with them on a deeper level than just the game, and be a voice of reason for them throughout the season." -John Mattes, Central Washington Ultimate
It can feel a bit daunting and absolute to make the final call for your team's goals. It's important to remember that your goals can evolve over time.
"Goals at the beginning of the season are typically much broader than near the end. While we start with goals focused on rookies and fundamentals of the sport, our goals become more target specific and complex as the season progresses." -Carla Marigmen, UW Element
"Revisit your team goals frequently. The goals you set at the beginning of the season are often not the goals you'll have by the end of the season. As your team changes over time, your goals will change too." -Ella Hansen, Oregon Fugue
Over to you!
What are your winning strategies for setting goals for your team? Share with us below!