8 steps to set and achieve goals for your players in the offseason

By Sara Perez | Posted 2/19/2015

Setting goals is one of the most important foundations a team can have. It sets into motion everything that needs to take place for players, coaches and the group to improve during the upcoming season.

For many teams, the offseason is the most crucial part of the year. The majority of strength, skill and knowledge improvements – or backtracking – taking place during the offseason directly correlates with the amount of time and effort coaches and players put in.

Greg McCaig of Cypress Creek High School in Houston and Wayne Voorhees of Legacy High School in Broomfield, Colo. – two high school football head coaches and USA Football Master Trainers – use the offseason to keep their players in shape, focused and constantly improving.

Together, these coaches have almost 50 years of coaching experience, and one thing they hold in common is the emphasis they put on setting offseason goals.

Here are eight steps to setting and achieving goals for your players in the offseason. 

  • Develop a goal-setting system. Voorhees has devised a system that works year in and year out. “We use test cards. At the end of the season, the players write a reflection on the card, then they write their team and individual goals for next season.” Voorhees and his position coaches then sit individually with each player to assess their reflection and goals, providing feedback. This allows players to write out their goals and have a constant reminder of what they are trying to achieve, whether they leave it in their locker or take it home with them. 
  • Team goals. Team goals are what will catalyze individual goals. If a team sets a goal to win a league title next season, develop individual goals that will serve as small steps to achieve the team goal. “These kids want to be a part of something special. They don’t want something that is simple,” McCaig said. Set team goals that are challenging, use input from both the players and the coaching staff and customize steps for how each player and coach can contribute. 
  • Individual goals. “Our position coaches sit down with individual players, and we ask them ‘Where do you want to be?’ ” McCaig said. Asking this one simple question allows athletes to come up with goals on their own, which can range from wanting to rush for the most yards next season to earning a starting position or becoming the fastest player on the team. Make sure they are setting goals specific to their aspirations and that the goals will be true challenges to increase their skills and abilities. Ultimately, achievement of individual goals should funnel into the accomplishment of team goals.
  • Set smaller goals as steps to reach the ultimate goal. If an athlete’s goal is to become the fastest player on the team, assess what his first step should be so he can work into achieving the final goal. The smaller goals could be to run a certain amount each day, then increase his 40-yard dash by half a second and so forth. Focusing on and achieving these smaller goals as steps toward a final goal keeps an athlete motivated because the progress is tangible.
  • Coaching staff goals. Offseason goal setting isn’t limited to players. “We meet, both sides of the ball, and discuss changes, improvements, and each position coach coaches the other coaches. It makes us better teachers,” Voorhees said. Focus on specific improvements the coaching staff needs as well as the improvements you’re looking for from the team. Assess these goals, and outline what you can do as a coaching staff to reach these goals, whether it’s increasing offseason participation or winning your league. 
  • Accountability. “Kids need to set attainable goals and be accountable. Not just held accountable by the coaching staff, but by their teammates,” Voorhees said. If players don’t have any accountability, they will not achieve their goals, ultimately hurting the team goal. This is why having a coaching staff that motivates the players throughout the offseason is important, but having teammates that hold each other accountable in a respectful way is just as important. Captains are an extension of coaches. Talk to the captains and tell them your expectations to keep themselves and their teammates accountable.
  • Motivate. Change up workouts or schedules each week so that athletes don’t get bored. McCaig utilizes his coaches as much as possible when it comes to changing up drills and weights. “The position coach identifies skills and then customizes for each group,” McCaig said. “It makes no sense for my offensive linemen to be doing the same thing as my running backs.” Kids are competitive. One way to keep them motivated is to make weights or drills into a competition. Keep them motivated by reminding them of their individual and team goals. 
  • Track progress. Voorhees uses his test card goal setting system throughout the entire offseason. Approximately every eight weeks, players get tested on speed, agility, strength, conditioning, drills and various exercises. They write results on their cards so they can see if they have improved. One way athletes can lose motivation during the offseason is by not visually seeing results. They may not have any physical changes, but having cards that track their progress shows whether or not they are improving. The test card ultimately serves as a reward for hard work when they are improving and serves as a reminder to work harder if they are not.