Coaching Science by Dan Gordon

By Dan Gordon

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This is a tough one because I want them to be ambitious and set their sights high, but at the same time I am conscious that if they don’t achieve those unrealistic goals it will knock their confidence. Again it’s a process of negotiation. ’. That way you set a realistic target, but you don’t make the athlete feel like you don’t believe in them. So far, I have focused on time-based (performance) goals, but my goal-setting with athletes goes far beyond that. Obviously we set outcome goals as well, for example many of my athletes have goals to medal in specific championships.

The model that has perhaps had the greatest influence on the study of skill acquisition is the Closed Loop theory of Adams (1971), which proposed that in order to learn a skill, two memory domains must exist. The memory domains were separated by the distinction that one was associated with the initiation and implementation of the skill, while the other acted as the template or benchmark against which the actioned skill is compared. The former memory domain was termed the ‘memory trace’ and the size of this trace or file grew in proportion to the amount of time spent practicing the skill.

I think goal-setting is a two-way process; therefore I set goals with my athletes and not for my athletes. I believe this gives them more ownership of their goals, which in turn increases their commitment to achieving them. This twoway process sometimes involves a bit of negotiation. For example, one of my athletes always underestimates her abilities and so tends to set herself targets that are too low. At the beginning of last season when we sat down together to identify her goals, she said that she wanted to run 60 seconds for the 400m.

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