Introduction on goalsetting in rugby

A coach should try to find out what individual needs of players are and then cater for them (where possible). From such a dialog lots of good things can happen:

You can help this process by organising goal setting sessions where you actually take the team inside and sit down to discuss how to continue. This part of my site describes:

why is goalsetting necessay?

A popular theory of Albert Carron on team cohesion describes these four steps as important in the development of a team:

In this theory you see that goal setting has a prominent place.


Here are some parts of a discussion on the rugby coaches mailserv:

-----Original Message-----
From: Peter xxxx
Sent: xxx
To: xxx
Subject: Re: Getting fired and getting over it

This is a very common situation in the US, where many teams (especially collegiate) are fundamentally social clubs that play rugby. I always believe that we coach at the discretion of the players, and therefore we should coach to their goals and not ours. I have found it useful to have a goal setting meeting at the start of the season. This has done a number of things including allow me to see what the team wants, and then being able to hold them to their goals throughout the year. I still do this with one of my teams that has been nationally competitive for many years because they need to make the decision of what they want the team to do and then I can frame what their behaviour and actions need to be to still be competitive.

If the team does not have the same goals as the coach then the coach has to make a decision. They can leave, they can coach to the players goals or they could work to change the culture of the team over time. To me this is a big challenge but possible. Teams evolve and coaches are key in that evolution and can guide the change. I have just started coaching a team that has traditionally been social, but has a core group of players that would like to move the team to a higher level. I coach this team differently than the team that is national calibre, but with the same effort. It will be interesting to see where the PLAYERS want the team to go, but it will take several years to change the culture if that is what they want.


My belief is that if you look at rugby in the US, the successful programs have had one thing in common at all levels and that is continuity of coaching. Good coaches attract athletes, get them motivated and excited and the actual technical coaching side is probably less that 50% responsible for the success. Coaching transitions are really tough and often as coaches we fail because we do not have the same goals/direction as the players.

I have been through many coaching transitions so if anyone would like to contact me to discuss this I am very willing.



[Note, Peter makes some interesting remarks about "social" and "competitive" clubs]

Approach to goal setting

Generally what you need to do is transform the ideas/wishes/ambitions of the individual players to a training program. Goal setting is therefore not easy. I use the Mental Game Plan book approach:

Step 1: have the players list the things that they would like to see happening to them and the team.

Step 2: distinguish between wish (would be nice) and want (can happen and willing to work for)

Step 3: prioritise, list the "wants" in order of importance

Step 4: only continue with the "wants" rated important or very important and write down the events where the one you feel will take the longest is on top. This is the long term goal.

Step 5: discuss each individual event with your players:

This is where you normally read about SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time related. I would like to add Self-controlled and Challenging.

Based on the discussions you can adjust the list.

Step 6: describe / determine what you have to do for these events to happen. You can use a role model.

The role model can be handy: look at what the model or ideal player does and comparing with your own characteristics you will see the competence gap that needs to be closed.

Step 7. now you can work out the development from goals and characteristics to a specific training program.

Step 8. include a description how you are going to monitor your progress, you already did a lot of work to make this possible by identifying the key aspects. Look here for more on Performance Profiling.

Performance and outcome goals

There is an important difference between these two. Performance goals relate to the characteristics or skill levels describe using the process described above. Outcome goals are often more the result of a complex set of performance goals. Take this example:

More interesting questions is what performance goals will lead up to achieving this outcome goal? I started to use the steps to success approach: what performance goals will in the end lead to meeting the outcome goal?


I think that this goal setting process is an excellent way to discuss with your players how you all are going to work together. It gives you an opportunity to discuss with the players what you think is needed for the team to progress.

All in all valuable time spent inside! Good luck, hope that reading this page helps you!

Reference material: