Setting Goals for Sports Teams and Individuals

  • January 30th, 2019
  • Tom Bean

The Six Nations are back and in a huge year for international rugby, the teams will be using the tournament to test their final preparations in the build-up to the World Cup.

When I got into the side, everything was centred towards 2019, so we've spoken about 2019 for so long. - Maro Itoje to the press

In modern sport, teams plan ahead to an ultimate goal; during their preparation, they set smaller objectives to lead towards their overall aim. Lifting the Webb Ellis cup later this year will be the ultimate target for most, yet this eventual goal will be built upon hundreds of progressive, smaller achievements en route.

So, why is setting an overall goal so important and why isn't just one target enough?


Why set goals?


Directs Attention

As a coach, having everyone's focus driving towards the same aim is vital to being able to implement your ideas. Players will recognise why sessions are as they are and will understand where their level needs to be.

Gives Purpose

Without a purpose, training becomes flat, ineffective and pointless. Having a goal as an incentive puts a value on players efforts and gives them a reason to push themselves.

Increases Focus

Without a vision of what the team or individual is trying to achieve, it's easy to get bored of training. With goals, they can focus on the route and on regular improvements leading them to achieving the final objective.

Motivates Learning

Having a clear route of how to achieve is great, but when faced with problems, a goal will motivate individuals to learn ways to overcome it. Without one, players are more likely to settle on the problem being terminal because there is no incentive to surmount it.


Knowing why is vital to getting the most out of setting goals. Realising how will help you apply them effectively to the teams improvement.

How to set goals?


Think of goal-setting in three stages - process, performance, outcome.

Process Goals are the short term goals you set based around completing the actual training processes.

For example:

Getting to training two times a week and applying oneself to the necessary fitness and recovery sessions.


Performance Goals are the mid-length goals used to track improvement.

For example:

Targeting a certain level on a fitness test; giving the team a target amount of shots per game.


Outcome Goals are the end results you want to achieve. Use them as a way to stay focussed on the bigger picture when completing the process and performance goals.

For example:

Winning the upcoming tournament you have planned; maintaining your position in the league.


It's all about the process, it helps achieve the performance goals and is essential to the overall outcome goal. Therefore, by not committing to the process, improvement is unlikely and subsequently failing to achieve the outcome goal is inevitable.

When setting goals, you have to be S.M.A.R.T about how to get the team or individual to commit to the process.

Make the goals:


Specific - To focus individual and team efforts, the goal must be specific enough to measure if it was achieved or not.

Measurable - You want to be able to quantify your goal ultimately to see if you achieved it but also to determine progress during the process.

Accepted - Individuals need to buy into the goal. If they don't set it themselves, it's not their goal and their application with suffer.

Realistic - Setting unrealistic goals can damage confidence when not achieved or have a detrimental effect on motivation if it's either too achievable or completely out of reach.

Time limited - Having a time limit on the goal improves motivation to put in maximum effort to achieve them. It prevents procrastination and time-based excuses.

Meet with your team or individuals to set goals together and make sure they have the majority of the input. Come up with a target to aim for and start working on the process as soon as the meeting is done.


The Six Nations 2019


Each team will be going into the tournament with realistic goals of their own. But who should we be looking out for as potential winners and what teams will be scrapping it out to avoid the wooden spoon?

The Favourites

At an all-time high in the world rankings (2nd) and riding the crest of beating the All Blacks in the autumn, Ireland captain Rory Best will lead out a pumped up and confident team in Dublin on the first weekend. Overcome that one against England, then the boys in green will be well on their way with one eye on repeating the Grand Slam of 2018.

The Challengers

After a pretty convincing set of results in the Autumn Internationals that saw wins over Australia and South Africa, Wales will be confident of finishing ahead of the Irish come the end of the Six Nations. The two face-off on the last weekend in Cardiff which has the potential to be a winner-takes-all belter.

England were left feeling a bit bruised after finishing fifth last year however saved some face over the Autumn with wins over South Africa, Australia and Japan and a narrow one point defeat to New Zealand. That would have given them the confidence for a minor upset going into their big away games against Ireland and Wales.

The Rest

Historically, Italy have been the team picking up the wooden spoon and there is little to suggest otherwise this time round. After damning defeats in the autumn and only 1 point in last years six Nations, their hopes of 5th place are slim.

Scotland and France both had relatively successful 2018's, finishing 3rd and 4th respectively in the Six Nations. They showed their improvements with some impressively displays in the autumn but question marks still exist over their consistency. Could one of them challenge? The potential is there.


Be inspired by the Six Nations this winter and make coaching easier with over 650 drills and weekly session plans with Sportplan.