The Power of GOAL Setting

The Power of GOAL setting

by Jack Bottinger

While coaching at my first teaching job, we were fortunate to have gathered a group of excellent students who just happened to play football. It was the custom back in the late ’60s to take the football team to camp for the upcoming season. Well, we were settled in Stroudsburg, Pa., somewhere in the Pocono Mountains preparing for an exciting fall season. 

The first night of camp was thought to be tough because the players were all wound up and excited, so the coaches had to make sure the players used a lot of energy on the first day, insuring they would become played out and ready for uninterrupted sleep. However, an unfilled time slot was the hour and a half between the third practice and bedtime. I had just read a paper on goal setting and passion, and if the exercise failed, at least the team would tire after listening to me for an hour and a half.

The players filed into the mess hall with their helmets. The talk for my part went well, and remember, the motivation was to tire the team and ready them for sleep.

At the conclusion of the talk, the players were asked to write 3 personal goals for the upcoming season on a 3×5 index card. Finally, they were asked to fold the card small enough to be placed into the lining of their football helmet so they would have their goals focused in front of their mind’s eye.

Well, it worked! They went to sleep and not a peep out of anyone! They slept like babies!

After a good camp, we returned home and enjoyed a very successful season. In fact, it was the best football season in the short history of the newly opened high school!

Just before the Thanksgiving game, a reporter from the local paper called to inform me our QB Bill Deery was named the All Area QB and Offensive Player of the Year. The reporter asked if I would tell Bill and have him over to the paper for a picture session.

Happily, I called Bill and told him of the awards. Needless to say, Bill was thrilled. After he told his family, and we both settled down, Bill asked if I had a minute. I said, “Sure,  what’s on your mind?”

This is the exciting part. For some reason, Bill had his football helmet at home. He asked me if I remembered the goals we wrote on the 3×5 index cards at camp. To be honest, I did not recall the session off-hand. We never mentioned the goals again during the season. Again, our motivation was to tire the team and prepare them for bed.

Fortunately, Bill did not forget his goals. He pulled the soiled ink and sweat-stained card from the lining of his helmet and read his goals to me over the phone.

First goal – to become the All Area 1st Team QB
Second- to become the Offensive Player Of The Year
Third – to be part of the best football team to play at his high school.

WOW! He had nailed all three! I saw the card later with ink lines faded from the sweat in the helmet. Bill was a gifted athlete and went on to play college football at William and Mary, and at that time, he set a NCAA record for yards gained on the ground over a career by a QB. 

Twenty-five years later

While speaking to the baseball team at another high school, I told the team about Bill Deery and later found out that a player from that team did the same thing Bill Deery did for his senior year in high school. Chris Canaan included his soccer season as well. Both seasons included All State 1st Team for Soccer and Baseball. He was the first ever in the school’s sports history to achieve this.

There’s more–While speaking to a basketball team, a coach from the floor said his coach asked his team to do the same as Deery and Canaan. He said that his soccer team and he had a bad junior year, and he decided to write his goals down. He concluded the season as a 1st Team All America, Conference Champs and Player of the Year.

More–While I was speaking at a football clinic in Toledo, Ohio, and after telling these stories, a coach and former QB said his coach asked him to do the same,  and this fellow became the Player of the Year and a college All America.

I asked the young man, “What if you didn’t receive all of the honors? What would you think about goal setting?” He replied very openly, “Coach, it was the best season of my life. We played our best, I played my best and the goal setting made a huge difference.”

Go Goal Setting!

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