As we turn the calendar on 2022, the new year is a great opportunity for youth coaches to take stock of their team and make some resolutions for the second-half of the season.
Hopefully, coaches created goals at the beginning of the year and the midseason mark is the time to reflect on whether or not your team is pointing towards those targets. But, if coaches didn’t, that’s okay, too. USA Hockey Pacific District Coach-in-Chief Flint Doungchak helps discuss goal-setting and how to assess them.
For Doungchak, using the SMART goal-setting framework is a great way for coaches who might not know where to start and experienced ones who want to get more out of their objectives. SMART is an acronym for: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.
“If you set SMART goals, then it’s easier to make changes,” Doungchak said. “So, you’ll know, I planned on something really specific, there is a way to measure it, I picked a goal that was attainable and realistic and there is a timeline. Now I can look back and say what adjustments should I make based on those goals that I set at the beginning of the season.”
If you didn’t set goals at the start of the year, coaches now have some context about what is realistic with their team. Often, coaches are not coaching the same players or teams from year-to-year, so a new season can bring a few surprises. But Doungchak believes that now is not just a good time to make team goals, but also for individual players.
“If you haven’t done it before, I would encourage coaches to sit down with their players and ask them how they think each individual is doing and how the team is doing,” Doungchak said. “Based on those conversations, they can set some goals for themselves, and also for the entire team.”
“And you can revisit those goals at least twice, once at the three-quarter mark and definitely at the end of the season.
During the season, it’s easy to focus on wins and losses. But Doungchak said teams that suffer a lot of losses can be improving, while teams who win a lot might not be getting any better. He says that winning is a metric, but it is only a small piece in the overall goal of player development.
“A lot of times, what happens is during the course of the season we get caught up in, ‘What’s our record? Have we lost a lot of games or won a lot of games?’ And that might derail us in what our player development goals are,” Doungchak said. “Winning is a component, no doubt, but just to remind coaches that winning or losing is just a component of the player development process and that we should refer back to.”
When assessing your team at the midway point, ask yourself ‘What are we supposed to be doing?’ developmentally. If there are gaps in your team’s development, you can set goals to improve them in the second half of the year. Setting goals can also galvanize players and coaches and keep things fresh.
“It helps keep coaches and players motivated, to know that we have defined something and we have something we want to achieve and we’re going to continue to work on,” Doungchak said. “Versus saying we want to be good at everything.”
For those teams that are struggling, setting goals for the second half of the season is a good way to keep players interested and working in games and practices. It allows players and coaches to have goals to win throughout the rest of the season. Setting something as simple as shots on net or scoring chances can invigorate kids. Maybe set the goal playing small-area games in practice where shots on net count for points and see it translate into games.
“Even if you lose 6-1, we as a team can say this is what we are trying to do. And they become these mini games that keeps kids fresh and motivated to go to games even when the macro issue is, man, we’re losing a lot of games,” Doungchak said.
And when you start to achieve these goals, don’t be surprised if other positive outcomes follow.
“The funny thing is, if you are achieving these mini goals along the way, these mini games, you might find yourself winning some big games you might not have thought you’d win,” Doungchak said.
In both setting goals and assessing them, Doungchak believes coaches should not limit them to the players and the team. Coaches should be creating goals for themselves.
“A lot of coaches will reflect on how their players are doing, which is great. But also spend some time on ‘how am I doing as a coach? What did I do well, what did I not do well?’” Doungchak said.
He said that coaching staffs should sit down for honest conversations and evaluations of the season. Goals don’t necessarily have to be lofty. They can be as simple as finding and introducing a new small-area game every month for the remainder of the season [SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely].
“Part of coaching is to improve themselves and reflect on themselves and how they are doing,” Doungchak said. “And a lot of times, we as coaches say, I’m going to do that next season. Well, don’t wait. Let’s not wait until next season. Let’s see if we can apply those lessons right now.”