Individual Goals vs. Team Goals

These articles were written and contributed by Scott Rosberg

Individual Goals vs. Team Goals (Post 2 of 5)

In the first post in the series, I talked about the importance of team members focusing on team over individual.  If you missed that post,  Click “Individual vs. Team,” so you can read that one first. Today I want to take the idea a step further and zero in on the idea of individual vs. team when it comes to goals and goal-setting.

Goals are a key component of any endeavor, especially when it comes to organizations like teams. Most teams, whether they be sports teams, work teams, fund-raising teams, or any other team, will talk about the goals of the team as they begin to embark upon the journey of their season. Goals are a good way to create a destination for where the team wants to end up.

Individual and Team Goals Co-existing

The first question when thinking about the ideas of goals and goal-setting is, “Should team members develop individual goals or team goals? The answer is “Yes.” They should develop both kinds of goals. As I said in the last post, individual vs. team should not be an adversarial relationship. Individuals should be able to exist, function, and thrive within a team setting without giving up who they are as individuals. To quote that post, “People can be themselves as individuals with their own personalities, style, and goals, while at the same time sacrificing and putting the needs of the team ahead of their own.” I stated that for any team to have success, it was critical that individuals did this.

However, that does not mean that they cannot have their own individual goals. In fact, having their own individual goals is a good thing. Individual goals create a drive, dedication, and passion for working to be one’s best. While we want that same kind of dedication to team goals, people are human, and they will generally be more dedicated to things that will benefit them individually. Rather than fight that, we as coaches need to accept that and work within that understanding.

But how do we do that? How do we create a “team-first attitude” when we are accepting that people have “me-first goals”? We open up about it, and we have our players open up about it, too.

Write them Down

The first thing to do is have your players write down 3-5 individual goals that they have for their season or for their involvement on this team. Tell them to be as specific as they want to be. Use this list as a guide for better understanding where each of the members on your team is individually. This will help you figure out what’s most important to them, what they hope to get out of this experience individually.

As a coach, you need to do the same thing. Write down your individual goals for the season – YOURS for you, not for the team. (That comes next.) Coaches are human, too. They have their own individual goals for seasons, just like players do. Figure out what yours are, and write them down. Then be ready to discuss them with your players, just like you will be asking your players to do.

Next, have your players write down 3-5 team goals – things they hope the team will accomplish or the experience they hope the team creates for everyone. Again, coaches need to do the same thing. In fact, team goals are much easier for coaches to create than individual goals. This is the world in which we live. This is how coaches think all the time – “What do I want our team to accomplish this year? Who do I want us to become? What do I want our identity to be?”

Talk about Individual Goals

Now that players and coaches alike have their individual and team goals written down, set up time to talk about them. This can be done before or after practice, or it can be done at a separate meeting time. It is best if this is done as a team, so people hear what others would like to accomplish. This helps everyone on the team better understand why some players (and coaches) behave and perform the way they do. (However, given the nature of your team, you may choose to do this in individual meetings. Keep in mind, though, that this will take A LOT longer, and teammates will not know each other’s goals.)

Meeting in a group can also create a way for people to start to talk about holding each other accountable. By hearing one of my teammate’s goals, I may be able to help hold him or her accountable to achieving it. At the same time, if we hear individual goals that run counter to the team goals (more on that later), we can also work to hold teammates accountable to not pursuing those individual goals over the team goals.

In the discussion, coaches should start with their own individual goals, so players can hear that it is okay to have their own unique, individual goals. They will also see you as an individual with your own aspirations and goals – a human being just like them! Then have the players share theirs. Listen intently to what they say. You may want to videotape this meeting, or have someone writing down everyone’s goals, so you can refer to them in the future. Putting them on a whiteboard can be really beneficial, especially for the next part of the exercise.

Talk About Team Goals

Once everyone has laid out their individual goals, it is time to talk about everyone’s team goals. Depending upon how much time you took with the individual goals, you may need multiple days/meetings to do all of the individual and team goals. That is not necessarily a bad thing, as it may indicate that people are really into this and getting a lot out of it. However, don’t wait too long between meetings. You want the individual goals fresh in everyone’s mind when you start addressing team goals.

Again, use a whiteboard and write down everyone’s team goals. If multiple people have the same goal (like winning a conference or state championship), just write the numbers 2, 3, 4, etc. after the initial goal each time one is repeated.

Fitting the Goals Together

Once you have completed the team goals, now the work begins. Look at the list of individual goals and team goals. Discuss how some of the individual goals fit within the framework of others’ individual goals and with the team goals. You should also discuss how some of the individual goals may not fit with others’ individual goals or within the team framework. Finally, discuss any individual goals that are detrimental to others’ individual goals or the team goals. This is an important step in helping individuals come to grips with the impact their own goals have on their teams.

Ask them – “Where do your individual goals align with other’s individual goals? Where do they align with our team goals? Do any of your goals run counter to what others are trying to accomplish individually or what we are trying to accomplish as a team?”

Once you have had a good discussion and you feel you are ready to move forward, take the entire list of team goals that you have created and as a group come up with a narrowed down list of 3-5 team goals for the entire team. Listen to what people are saying as you narrow down your list. This list will become the team goals that you will focus on and refer back to throughout the season. It will also be the list of goals that you will hold players and coaches accountable to when their own individual goals are getting in the way of them working toward the team goals.

As I discussed in the last post, we are trying to create selflessness within our players and our teams, so that players become more “other-centered.” This is a learned thing, so we need to take the time to teach it, discuss it, and work on it. As I said in that post, “We must keep working to instill in them that the best chances for success on our teams are when we all understand the importance of focusing on what’s best for all instead of what’s best for the individual. Teams work best and succeed the most when everyone works together in pursuit of the success the team seeks over the success the individual seeks.” This individual and team goal-setting exercise is the first step in the process.

Next time, I will take this step further and work to align the individual and team goals for everyone.

About the Author of this Article

Scott Rosberg has been a coach (basketball, soccer, & football) at the high school level for 30 years, an English teacher for 18 years, and an athletic director for 12 years. He has published seven booklets on coaching and youth/school athletics, two books of inspirational messages and quotes for graduates, and a newsletter for athletic directors and coaches. He also speaks to schools, teams, and businesses on a variety of team-building, leadership, and coaching topics. Scott has a blog and a variety of other materials about coaching and athletic topics on his website – He can be reached by email at

Scott is also a member of the Proactive Coaching speaking team. Proactive Coaching is dedicated to helping organizations create character and education-based team cultures, while providing a blueprint for team leadership. They help develop confident, tough-minded, fearless competitors and train coaches and leaders for excellence and significance. Proactive Coaching can be found on the web at Also, you can join the 200,000+ people who have “Liked” Proactive Coaching’s Facebook page at Scott can also be reached through Proactive Coaching at

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