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Goal-Setting Principles

This is an excerpt from Successful Sports Officiating-2nd Edition by American Sport Education Program.

Goal setting is not a foolproof process that can be easily implemented without some careful thought and planning. Research has shown that a myriad of personal and task factors influence the effectiveness of any goal-setting program. Although research can illuminate the science of setting goals, the art of setting goals (i.e., when and for whom goals should be set) can only be determined on an individual basis. Specifically, it would be misleading to think that all types of goals are equally effective in achieving particular ends.

Before implementing a goal-setting program, you need to have a firm understanding of the goal-setting process. The key is to structure a program so that it is consistent with the basic principles derived from the organizational and sport psychology literatures as well as from the professional practice knowledge of sport and exercise psychologists working in field settings. However, the effectiveness of any motivational technique depends on the interaction of the individuals and the situations in which the individuals are placed. In essence, you need an understanding of your individual situations (e.g., type of sport, support systems, travel) as well as your personal characteristics (e.g., personality, background, experience) to implement an effective goal-setting program. Following are some recommendations and principles for setting up a goal-setting program.

Identify Your Goals

When first getting started, you must determine exactly what you want to achieve. One way to identify your goals is to ask yourself a series of questions about your skills and attitudes toward officiating. Consider the following questions:

  • What are my greatest strengths and weaknesses as an official?
  • Am I well versed in the rules and regulations?
  • Am I in good physical condition?
  • Do I prepare myself mentally for each game?
  • What aspects of officiating are most enjoyable to me?
  • Do I communicate well with other officials, players, and coaches?
  • Are my mechanics and positioning sound?
  • Do I keep my confidence up despite being booed by spectators and harassed by coaches?
  • Do I stay calm in pressure situations?

You may notice that answering these questions is not necessarily a simple or straightforward process. But just thinking about these things should help clarify what you want to accomplish through your officiating as well as help you target specific areas for improvement.

Set Moderately Difficult and Challenging Goals

One of the most consistent findings from the research literature is that goals should be challenging and difficult, yet attainable (Locke and Latham, 1990). Surveys and interviews have indicated that people prefer moderately difficult goals to very difficult or moderate goals. In essence, effective goals are difficult enough to be challenging, yet realistic enough to be achieved. Setting goals that are too difficult and unrealistic often results in failure. This can lead to frustration, lowered self-confidence and motivation, and decreased performance.

Being an official is a difficult job, and expecting that you will officiate a perfect game is unrealistic, as is expecting a basketball player to make every shot on a given night. Conversely, goals that are too easy do not present a challenge, leading to less than maximum effort and often achieving under your capabilities. This, in turn, might result in being satisfied with a mediocre performance instead of extending yourself to reach your potential. For example, if your goal is simply to be chosen for a particular assignment, then you might be satisfied just to be there instead of focusing on doing a good job as an official. Thus, the secret is to find a balance between setting yourself up for failure and pushing yourself to strive for success. In this middle ground reside challenging, realistic, attainable goals.

Set Specific Goals

One of the most consistent findings from the goal-setting literature is that specific goals produce higher levels of task performance than no goals or general ones. We often hear people tell participants simply, “Go out and do your best.” Although this type of instruction can be motivating, it is not as powerful for enhancing motivation and performance as asking participants to go out and achieve specific goals. Furthermore, when giving performers specific goals, it is important that they be measurable and in behavioral terms. For example, having a goal to do your best when refereeing a game between two teams who have a history of a hotly contested rivalry and bad blood would not be as helpful as having a goal to take a deep breath and count to three before speaking to a player or coach who uses bad language or talks to you in a loud, aggressive manner. Following are some examples of vague goals and how to make them more specific:

Vague: I want to become better acquainted with all the rules of the game.
Specific: I will read and understand one section of the rules every night.

Vague: I want to improve my fitness level.
Specific: I will run three times per week for 30 minutes and will ride a stationary bicycle two times per week for 20 minutes.

Vague: I want to improve my self-control.
Specific: When a coach starts to yell and shout at me, I’ll count to myself for five seconds before responding, making sure to keep my voice subdued.

Vague: I want to improve my teamwork skills with other officials refereeing the same game.
Specific: I will spend three hours per week observing other officials’ styles and their positioning.

Using Goal Setting: A Practical Example

More Excerpts From Successful Sports Officiating 2nd Edition