Goals, Commitment, and Choices

Goals, Commitment, and Choices by Jason Reindl, ChPC

Athletes are always focused on what is next. Points of time, results, awards, or achievements that are referred to as goals prior to their attainment. These goals motivate and invigorate the athlete and coach. They contribute to the passion and help guide the process of training for hundreds of hours for a few seconds of success. Success that when it is achieved makes it all seem worth it in contrast to when it is missed and makes us question all of our decisions leading up to it.  Goals are easy to write down goals. Goals that are SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time based are a regular part of the athlete development and coaching process. Coaches benefit from understanding the athlete’s goals and motivations behind them as it has a huge impact on the athlete development process.  A process that is governed by long-term athlete development, life balance with academics and other extracurricular pursuits, and other aspects of the individual’s athlete’s day to day life. All of these aspects are also commitments. Commitments to school and study. Commitments to family and friends. Commitments to jobs and other time-consuming activities. These commitments also represent choices. Choices that the individual makes in terms of where they are putting their energies, their time, and their focus. While a high school student might not inherently choose to go to school they do make a conscious choice every day on the quality of student that they choose to be, how much focus they put into pursuing academic excellence, and the amount and quality of extra study that they put in.

In my experience, this where the life of a young adult or student-athlete can get foggy in terms of understanding their ability to make choices and pursue excellence. In the sport of athletics, every athlete makes a choice to come be involved in the sport. They make a choice on whether they show up to practice or not. They continue to make choices throughout practice on their level of focus in practice, their choice to or not to ask clarifying questions, their choice to focus on every specific detail of warm up to be better or just go through the motions without thought. They are all choices. Some might seem small and inconsequential but it is a choice to view them that way. As a coach, I believe that these choices are one of, if not, the most important part of the athletic development process and goal achievement. So, the question then comes back to the athlete – how important are your goals? How strong is your commitment to achieving them? What choices are you going to make to support the attainment of them?

I believe in excellence in all areas of life. I love to see young adults choosing to be the best in everything in their lives but the reality is that there we only so much energy, so much focus, and most importantly so much time. Time that is becoming less readily available. Athletes across the country are writing goals for the 2018 outdoor season with dates and time in mind. I would guess that hundreds are writing goals that involve winning medals, breaking records, making teams, and to be regarded as the best in the nation, province, city, etc. The athletes will be led by coaches and plans that involved the same things. Some plans and coaches, are better than others with different routines, facilities, and equipment but nearly all will put in elements of running, jumping, throwing. They will share the importance of sleep and nutrition. They will educate the athlete and put plans together that they think will help them achieve their goals. This ultimately means that it all comes back to you. Seriously, the point of the matter is that the major and only real difference is you!  That’s right you. The individual athlete. You are the only thing that is different in nearly all of your competitors across the nation. You and the choices you make.  If you have written goals in relation to winning a national medal you need to understand that probably 100 or more other athletes did so also but only 3 will win them in your particular event. Are you making choices to pursue your goals, make and follow through on commitments that support them, and follow through with those choices that put you in a better position than someone else? Are you making a choice to pursue these goals that are important to you 100% or are you splitting it between three or four other time-consuming elements? If you are putting in 100% great, if you aren’t then remember that you are only putting in 33% or 25% of your available athlete development time into the attainment of that goal. Does that change the situation? Does the fact that your competitors are putting 100% of their athlete development time and choices into attaining the same goal while you are only putting in 25% change your perception of the situation?

These choices, commitments, and processes are difficult. It is not easy to pursue excellence in anything let alone many things but we have to be real and honest. We have to understand that there is only so much time in our lives. Our competitors are not going to take it easy on us. They are not going to take an extra day off because we are. They are not going to go from fifteen hours a week of track down to five because that is all that we are putting into it.  The clock or measuring tape isn’t going to take off extra time or add on extra cm because we made the choice to pursue excellence in five other areas. Our goals, commitments, and choices should be reflective of our lives. Embrace them and pursue whatever you do with the goal of being the best at it.  Put the dream goals out there but make sure you have realistic goals that are difficult to achieve but reflect your commitments and choices that you are making. This isn’t a negative. This is reality. The reality is then that you and your coach will have a better understanding and appreciation for what you are trying to achieve within your time constraints. If you are only able to put in 25% of your athlete development time into athletics then make sure that it is the most focused and determined 25% you can. But understand that the rest of the competitive world isn’t going to wait for you either.  Some people will win with little to no work put in while others would put in more work than is possible and still lose. No matter the situation you need to find enjoyment in the process and the pursuit of your goals, commitments, and the choices that you make.

*Note this post is not directed or written to get individuals to quit multi-sport involvement or give up on their extracurricular activities. Multiple sports involvement and other activities are extremely positive in long term athlete development, life balance, and developing well rounded individuals who can adapt and persevere through a variety of situations later on in life. We just need to understand that others won’t be balanced. They won’t be doing other activities and won’t be involved with a wide range of pursuits. They won’t hold back either. Life isn’t fair. Make choices. Pursue them 100% but understand that every choice has an impact.