Aligning Individual & Team Goals

These articles were written and contributed by Scott Rosberg

Aligning Individual & Team Goals (Post 3 of 5)

This is the newest post in my short series on the concept of “Individual vs. Team.” If you missed those first two posts, go to the posts – Individual vs. Team and Individual Goals vs. Team Goals – to be taken to them. Basically, each of those posts discussed the dilemma of our athletes having to balance their own individual needs and desires for what they hope to get out of playing sports and the needs of their teams. It is crucial that we coaches do all we can to instill a “Team-First Attitude” in our players and then consistently keep that message in front of them.

However, we must also recognize that kids will have their own individual goals, and we don’t want to quell those goals. Rather we need to teach them the importance of maintaining their own individual goals while at the same time putting the team goals ahead of their own. But how do we do that? This post will examine some ideas on that concept.

As was discussed in the last post, one way coaches can begin this process is by having coaches and kids both write down their individual goals and their team goals. Then set aside some time to discuss them. Be open and honest with your kids, so they will be open and honest with you.

Discussing Individual Goals

Once you have gotten the various goals out on the table (or more appropriately, up on a white board), discuss the various individual goals that they have. Talk a bit about why they want to accomplish what they want to accomplish. Then begin the process of discussing how those goals can fit into the team goals. What can each player do to fulfill their goals while at the same time focusing on the team’s goals? What strengths does each player bring to the team that will help the team achieve its goals while at the same time help the player achieve his/her goals?

For instance, in basketball, if a player has an individual goal of scoring 15 points per game, talk with her (or the team in general) about why she wants to do that. Ego is certainly a part of our goals, and we need to recognize that. But if this player is a really good scorer, help her (and the rest of the team) see that her scoring 15 points per game might be a good thing for the team. Scorers need to score, so it is okay for them to have goals related to that.

Discussing Potential Team & Individual Goal Conflicts

However, you should also discuss with her how scoring 15 points per game cannot be done at the expense of the team goals. She cannot focus on her own point total instead of the team’s total. She must work to score her points within the framework of what is best for the team throughout the game. It is up to coaches and teammates to help her recognize that her scoring points will help the team as long as she is not trying to score points for her own gain at the expense of the team’s success. In other words, if she is forcing tough shots up from very difficult spots on the floor, instead of finding open teammates with better shots, she is hurting the team. It is imperative for team success that she sees her role of being a scorer on the team as being, first and foremost, important to team success and then secondarily her own individual success. If she handles her goal in this way, it can be a really good thing for the team.

What if a player is not potentially a 15-point a game scorer and yet has scoring 15 points per game as a goal? Now we have a situation where the individual goals are in conflict with the team’s goals. If this player goes out on the court with a 15 ppg goal and tries to play with that as his focus, he will be thinking of himself and getting his points instead of thinking about what the team needs most. This will be detrimental to team success, and so the coach will need to discuss the situation with the player.

The coach will need to talk about ways to bring the player’s individual goals into alignment with the team’s goals, so that the individual goals are not being squashed, but at the same time they are not overcoming the team goals. The coach can help the player re-evaluate his goals and figure out what something more reasonable might be, while at the same time helping him see how this fits into the team goals.

Sacrifice & Reward

One other key to help players see the importance of sacrificing individual goals for team goals is for coaches to help players see that more often than not, when the team achieves what it seeks, the individual players will achieve what they seek. In this day and age of astronomical free agent salaries at the professional level, kids often see the individual rewards that players receive for their success. However, they sometimes forget that the players who receive the most are usually players that were on very successful teams. By being part of those highly successful teams, the players are often rewarded in big ways due to their contributions to the team’s success.

Youth and school coaches can use these situations to help show their players that the individual successes that the players achieved contributed to the team’s success. Then in return, the team’s success contributed to the players receiving the rewards that they sought. This is a great lesson for players to see that even at the highest levels of sport, individuals sacrifice for the team and that sacrifice often leads to even greater levels of success for both the individual and the team.

Next time, I will talk about the process and the habits necessary for players to commit to team goals!

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