October 2006 Revised Feb. 2013
Okay so you don’t see many curlers running around, peeling off their fleece tops and screaming “Goooooaaaaaaal!” at the top of their lungs after a scoring a deuce in the second end of a local club game (or come to think of it even at the Brier…). Maybe if we did popularity of the sport would increase, who knows? Yes, I did get the idea for this article from the World Cup coverage this summer (summer 2006!!). I can’t claim to have watched a single game but the howl of “Goooooaaaaaaal!” by foreign sportscasters was just too much to resist. Well, we all know you don’t score “goals” in curling, you score points, so what is this article about anyway? Aren’t Sean’s articles about curling? Well, yeah and this one is about curling goals.
In my first article from last season I briefly touched on this but here, I’m going to get into some serious detail. Strap in, because here we go. Any team that has even the smallest competitive aspirations needs to start the season by setting goals for themselves. Even teams who don’t see themselves as “competitive” should do this. Setting goals helps keep things in perspective and by that I mean goals serve to constantly remind you what is most important. They help you focus and get you what you really want. Goals have two main purposes. They give you direction and they give you a destination. Let’s compare a curling season to taking a trip. If you’re planning a trip what are the two most important things to know? Personally, I need to know where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. Little else about the trip matters until you’ve figured those things out. Setting goals for your season is the same except instead of “where are you going?” you need to know what you want to accomplish and instead of “how you’re going to get there?” you need to know what work you’re going to do to accomplish your plans.
Without goals, teams and individuals can work very hard but never achieve anything. Check that, you might achieve lots but it will likely be by accident and it may not be something you wanted. Likely you’ll have some vague desire for some form of success but you’ll continually be let down because you don’t achieve that fuzzy dream. After all, if you don’t know what you’re aiming for, how do you know when you’ve hit it?
Goals come in a couple of flavours. When people think of setting goals, they typically think of what are known as output or performance goals. Performance goals are just what they sound like. They are goals set around how you perform. Winning a bonspiel is an example of a performance goal but so is learning to accurately throw a 6 second peel shot. In our travel comparison performance goals are like our destination. It’s where we want to go.
The other lesser recognized type of goal is known as a process goal. Process goals are no less important than performance goals but they aren’t something most people are used to. Process goals look like “how you’re going to get there” and if you think of them that way they can be very powerful indeed. Process goals need to be related to your performance goals. Again, back to our travel example, if you plan to go from Toronto to Vancouver you also have to plan how to get there, be it by plane, car, bus or unicycle (not recommended). Choosing the right process goals makes your odds of accomplishing your performance goals much better. You have a much better chance of getting to Vancouver on a plane than on a unicycle.
Think about how much harder it would be to accomplish your curling goal for the year, “Making it to the Brier / Scotties Tournament of Hearts” without knowing how to go about doing it! In fact, what do you think the odds are of accomplishing that goal if you have no plan or goals around HOW to do it? Process goals help you with the means to get where you want to go. These look like, “We’ll have two on ice team practices per week from October to May”. Process goals aren’t as flashy as performance goals. What I mean by that is a performance goal usually looks like a win. A process goal is more like how much work you’re going to do. On the other hand, because process goals are more like the amount of work you plan to do, they can be very personally rewarding. They’re very important but often overlooked.
Setting goals isn’t rocket science but there ways to maximize the value of your goals. If you don’t set goals properly then they can impede your progress rather than help. When you’re setting goals you have to make sure they are “SMART” goals. Well, duh, you’re saying, who wants dumb goals? I don’t mean they have to be intelligent (though if they’re SMART then they are intelligent…stay with me here…) I mean they should be SMART. SMART stands for:
S – Specific (or perhaps Shared)
M – Measurable
A – Achievable (or Attainable)
R – Realistic
T – Timely
Both process and performance goals should be formed with the SMART model in mind. What does each of these things mean? Well, dear reader…
Specific goals contain details. A possible specific performance goal might be, “Our Monday men’s team will win the Sinners Brier at the Richmond Hill CC in 2007 so we can qualify for the Sunshine Spiel” not “We’ll win something”. They should include all the salient details such as whom, what and why. In my example above, “whom” is our Monday men’s team, “what” is winning the Sinners Brier and “why” is to qualify for the Sunshine Spiel. Dropping details leads down a slippery slope of dropping the goal entirely. Take out a few of the details above and what do you get? Let’s change it to “We’ll win a bonspiel in 2007”. This version is still better than not having any goals but it’s not as specific as it could be. It doesn’t really say who’s going to win this bonspiel or which bonspiel. Why do you want to win it? A completely valid answer to why may be “for the fame and glory of being the most sober team at the Sinners Brier” but it should be in your goal statement. Stating why you want to accomplish your goals makes you think about how important it is to you. Before the big creation of the World Curling Tour winning the Brier was the prize all top mens teams strived for. These days those elite teams are sitting down every year and trying to decide whether the lure of money on the cash circuit means more to them then winning the Brier. They have to think about WHY they want one over the other. In general, the more details that you include in your goal, the clearer your destination will be. Are you going Vancouver? Or are you going to Gastown, in Vancouver?
Measurable (the M in SMART) goals set criteria for success. It’s the part that tells you when you’ve done what you set out to do. It’s up to you to define what level of achievement you want to get to. I believe this is one reason many people and teams don’t address process goals. It seems more difficult to make process goals measurable. A process goal might be, “Our Tuesday mixed team will have 1 on-ice team practice every week from October to December to prepare for mixed playdowns”. Remember this process goal will tie into a performance goal you will have for the mixed playdowns. The measurement part of this goal is, “…1 on-ice team practice every week…” You can measure that! Other process goals may seem more difficult to measure but all it takes is some practice. For example, let’s say you know your team needs to work on peel weight so you set a process goal of “working on peel weight”. How do you make it measurable? Well, you might say you’ll individually throw 25 peel practice shots every week or you may say you’ll spend 1 hour a week only throwing peel shots. If you don’t make your goals measurable you will never know when you’ve accomplished them. And, yes, simply doing the work you say you’re going to do is an accomplishment and you should recognize it as one.
Achievable goals are goals that you can actually see yourself accomplishing. If you set goals that you know can’t be achieved then they are useless. Actually, they’re worse than useless, they’re harmful. Setting the bar impossibly high all the time is going to lead you to repeated disappointments. Achievable doesn’t mean easy. It should be challenging, but not impossible. If, for example, you have a goal of learning to throw a six second peel shot in the next 20 minutes then that simply isn’t achievable. Maybe you should give yourself a year or two. Suddenly, that becomes a height you can attain. Give yourself a chance to accomplish your goal. Don’t make it hard for the wrong reasons.
Realistic and achievable are very similar. Realistic refers to goals that are possible within the physical universe we live in. Realistic doesn’t mean things that don’t require work and they don’t mean things that you’re SURE you can do. They should just be possible with enough desire / work / attempts… If, for instance, your goal is to learn how to fly by growing wings from the top of your head then maybe you need to see a doctor and forget about setting goals for now. Seriously, goals need to be things that are possible. The wing thing? Not realistic. Another example may be a goal of practicing 40 hours per week. That one is realistic because it’s possible. But is it achievable? Not likely if you’re in school or working like most of us
All you have to keep in mind is that you should set goals that are possible and that you want to accomplish. They should take some work. Challenge yourself but don’t set your sights so high that you’re doomed to fail before you begin. The main reason for setting goals is so that we can recognize our accomplishments and feel good about them. Not so that we can beat ourselves up for what we can’t do. Think of it as setting yourself up for success. You’re not going to feel very good about anything if you don’t achieve any of your goals. On the other hand, you’re not going to feel much pride if you accomplish all your goals without trying very hard. I like seeing a team achieve about 80% – 90 % of their goals. More than that and maybe their aim was a little low, less than that and maybe they weren’t being honest with themselves. Even when you get to the highest levels of curling, if you aren’t continually challenging yourself with your goals then you’ve likely lost the passion you need to be competitive or you soon will.
Timely goals include a schedule of some kind. This can seem fairly easy to do but setting a realistic timeframe can be challenging. Do you aim to win the Scotties Tournament of Hearts this year or is it more realistic to make run at it next year? I’m sure you would like to win this year but is that realistic? Without some sort of timing reference in your goals they are open ended. “We plan to win the Sinners Brier”. Okay, if you lose this year, that’s alright because you can always win next year and still achieve your goal right? Well, yes, but after 7 years of losing and saying “next year” the goal doesn’t do much to motivate you. The goal stopped being something to work toward and it allowed you to fail without making you recognize it and that’s really the key. Goals should be meaningful so there should be some disappointment in not accomplishing them. If you don’t care, then what was the point?
There aren’t any rules about what sort of schedule to set for goals but you should have some short term and long term goals set for yourselves. If you have the Olympics in your sights then you must have a longer out look than just the next season. On the other hand, if you have a little wobble in your delivery then it’s reasonable to set a goal around correcting it in the next month. Having short term goals mixed in with longer term goals allow you to have continual successes to celebrate over the entire length of a season. Banking on that one big goal of winning the zone can stretch out so long that you lose perspective on it. Goals should motivate you over and over.
It’s also important to have both team goals and individual goals. Everyone has things they personally want to accomplish but the team unit should have things they are working towards together. For this reason, team goals should be mutually agreed upon by the entire team (part of the Shared!). Team goals help drive members in a common direction and bring teams closer because they will all have this shared mission. The key is for each member to commit to these goals and believe in them. Just the exercise of setting team goals together can help uncover issues that members may not have been aware of. Perhaps your vice just isn’t prepared to put in 2 hours of practice a day and maybe he doesn’t care about winning the Sinner’s Brier. That’s a good thing to know if the rest of the team is passionate about it. Individual goals should not be at odds with the team goals. They should match up as much as possible. For instance, if a team goal is to improve their sweeping abilities and your second doesn’t have sweeping practice built into his individual goals then there’s an issue there. Clearly teams need to talk this out in the pre-season or very early in the season.
Once you know what you want to accomplish and have that in the form of goals, write them down. You’ll be surprised what a difference that simple act makes. Putting goals down on paper makes them more real. You can’t hide from that piece of paper. It’s like a contract you’re making with yourself and your team. In fact, some teams go so far as to sign their goals and they treat it like a legal agreement. It’s something physical a team or person can hold on to and review as a strong reminder of what you really want. You have to keep re-assessing goals to keep yourself on track and to make sure what you thought you wanted to achieve is something you still want to achieve.
Goals are meant to challenge you. You should have to work towards accomplishing them. Setting the bar too low isn’t satisfying and these low goals won’t keep you motivated. Think about the goal, “I’ll play in at least half of my league games this season”. Hmm, you’re likely going to nail that one but does it make you feel good? What accomplishment can you claim? Well you showed up… That being said, just because it’s something you’ve done before doesn’t mean it’s no longer a challenge. Top mens teams keep “Winning the Brier” on their goals list year to year even though they may have done it before. Winning a Brier doesn’t mean you’ll ever even get there again.
Setting goals is just the beginning, it’s a great beginning but it is still just the beginning. Once more going back to our trip comparison, you’ve decided on where you’re going and how to get there. What’s next? Now you get to actually take your trip! The framework is set for you to have a rewarding and positive experience. You’re not simply wandering about in the desert. As you travel through your season you should regularly review your goals so you know that you’re still going in the right direction. A coach can be a valuable resource for this sort of thing. At the very least, your coach (if you have one that is…) should be your scribe. Get him or her to refresh your memories with these goals. If your coach is certified he / she will know all about this and will have structured your season plan from the goals you set. Season planning is an entirely different topic but it most certainly starts with setting goals.
And you thought goals were all about firing a hockey puck into a net or soccer balls into a bigger net! Setting goals isn’t intended to be an added burden for you and your team. It will in fact simplify practices and it will enrich your season by helping you focus on the things that matter most to you. It will also help you recognize your accomplishments. Don’t let it intimidate you, start slow. Remember, goals are like having a direction. Some direction, any direction is better than none at all.