Goal Setting- 2019

This is the time of year that people around the world set New Years resolutions for better habits and results in the coming year.  For athletes, it is a great time to turn attention to the upcoming season, improve their skills and create great daily habits to increase performance on the field.

It is proven that people who regularly make short and long range goals are more successful than those who do not.  It is also proven that setting goals (or resolutions) correctly and sticking to them is very difficult and the failure rate is very high.

Developing Goals

Below are three levels of goals that we are requiring our players to complete by the end of the weekend.

Level 1 (Long Term Goals):  Write down 2 individual goals for the season, or what you would like to accomplish this season on the baseball field.

Level 2 (Checkpoint Goals):  Write down 2 individual goals (based upon your season goals) to achieve in the next 3 months (end of March) to help you have success achieving your season goals.

Level 3 (Daily Checklist):  Create a checklist of drills, fundamentals, or actions you can take every day to set you down the path to achieving your checkpoint and season goals.

Level 3 is the most important aspect of goal setting.  This is your plan to reach your goal.  A goal is not a goal without a plan.  Our long term goals are hard to reach without a daily change in behavior that moves us down the path to positive results.

I had a great coach long ago that always reminded us of this by using the mantra, “How you gonna do it?” We heard this from him every at bat, every inning, every day.  He knew that we were a very highly functioning group and had lofty goals for ourselves. His job was to remind us that what we wanted to achieve was not as important as how we go about getting it done…every day. The how is what builds strategy, structure, and discipline in our daily routines.

We want our players to focus on the “how” in achieving our goals.  Our long term goal is our prize at the end of a journey. The “How you gonna do it” every day is the key to success!!

Anatomy of a Goal

Our goals should be challenging, but realistic and achievable with a lot of hard work.  They should also be quantifiable so that we can track progress. Lastly, they should be controllable in that you should not have to rely on others to make these goals happen.  For example, a goal to be a better teammate is admirable, but is difficult to quantify.  A better strategy is to break this goal into components of being a good teammate. A pre-season “Better Teammate” goal could be (1) Going to every open gym before the season, and (2) Creating an accountability group (or just one other player) to make sure a core group of teammates is attending a certain number of open gyms, with (3) Each member of the group working together to create a practice plan for each open gym.  A long range goal could be (1) To create an informal mentoring program where the older players “adopt” a younger player to help them learn at a faster rate and feel more comfortable on the team during the season. These goals are now quantifiable in that a player can check off the list if they have (1) Created an accountability group, and (2) Mentoring program. A daily goal would be to make sure the group is communicating 2 times per week (on a schedule) discussing what they will be working on in open gyms.

Goal Setting Exercise

Create a weekly plan, based upon your current academic and in-season sport schedule, to accomplish your daily/weekly goals.

It is always very tricky to be able to balance other current (in-season) activities with baseball, an off-season activity.  We have found an effective process to create a realistic but productive schedule for positive movement toward goals while juggling other sports, academics, and family time.

1. Step 1:  Assess how much free time after school you actually have.  Take into account all priorities that rank above baseball/softball training.  These include any family time or activities, in-season sports, ample time set aside for academics/homework, and adding into the schedule a consistent and early bed time.  After this exercise, you now have a good estimate of the amount of time you can schedule in training on a daily basis. Also, be sure to build in a day off. If you are setting your daily schedule correctly, you will need a day off.  Our bodies and minds need it to re-energize.

Each day will likely be different in how much time you have available for baseball. That is ok. At least now you know what you have to work with.

2. Step 2:  Create a list of drills or activities for baseball/softball that will take you closer to your pre-season and end of season goals.  This list can be lengthy, with any and all drills or exercises you can think of. This is your rough draft version that will be revised as you go through the first couple of weeks.  One quick test for each of these drills is to ask the question – Does this drill or activity help me come closer to reach one or more of my goals?

3. Step 3:  Create of “Daily Grid” for the week.  Picture this in a spreadsheet or table.  Day of the week at the top of the column.  Each row is reserved for drills or exercises to go on your checklist.  Also, add to each day how much time you estimate to have for baseball training.  

4. Step 4:  Create a checklist for each day with any regular after school activities you have higher on your priority list than baseball/softball training.  You can be as detailed as you would like, including time slots for the activities, color coding by priority for quick glance reference.

5. Step 5:  Add your Baseball/Softball Activities to fill up your time available on that day.  Go through every day of the week, including assigning a Day Off in writing to make sure you are building that into your schedule.

If you go through these steps, you now have a rough draft of your daily checklist.  We have provided an example below. Pay much more attention to the general format rather than the content.  The content will be customized for every individual.

Every player has different preferences in how to document and plan. Use any format that works for you.

Sample Daily Checklist and Weekly Planner

This exercise may take some time to think through all of the variables of drill options and time available per day.  Do not be afraid to spend ample time on this step in the process. It is part of the success formula of goal setting. Showing up every week to think about your goals and plan for them is one of the best habits you can create.

Enjoy this process of creating your weekly schedule and checklist.  You are heading in the right direction for your success….on the field and off.  

Thank you for reading and good luck.

Brad Woodall
Former Major League Player
Owner- Woodall Baseball Academy and Silver Sluggers

A Note to Parents for a Successful Season

As we head into the season, our players’ experience hinges upon a team effort.  Our team extends beyond the dugout with their teammates, coaches, umpires, and competition.

We, as parents, play a major role in our kids’ and their team’s experience on the field.  Beyond wins and losses, individual successes and failures, and their experience with their teammates off the field, parents can greatly impact a player’s perspective on each season, positively or negatively.

My parents were my biggest cheerleaders, supporters, and motivators through my childhood all the way up to the major leagues.  They let me know when I played the game the right way, let me know when I did not, and pushed me in the right direction when I needed a push.  They lived the parent experience from the stands like all of us do now.  They were excited with wins and empathetic with losses.   They secretly questioned coaches, umpires, teammates, and my decisions on the field.  They were no different from any other parent as they watched their son try to figure this game out.

They played their role as parents and supporters of my experience on and off the field masterfully.  They were cheerleaders in the stands, and coaches on the way home from the game.  They were always helping me when I needed help away from the field, but let the coaches coach when they were in charge.   They never declined an opportunity to play catch with me or throw  batting practice (my dad’s shoulder is now paying the price for millions of batting practice throws to my brother and I),  and they never passed up an opportunity to help me understand what the game was trying to teach me.

They always talked me through my experiences in games.  They softened my disappointment after tough games by turning losses into learning opportunities.  They made me realize early in my career that every game is a successful game…win or loss, strikeouts, home runs, errors, and everything inbetween.

Our responsibility as parents is not to compete alongside our kids while they are competing, but to support them and help them navigate through the successes and failures of competitive sports.  Let them compete, fail, learn, and work toward success as a result of their experiences.  Guide them along the way so that they know the correlation of work and improvement.  Teach them the concept that playing time is not a right but a privilege, and playing time is not always there for us when we want it.  We have to earn it..every day.

Every team, and every role on each team is different.  Every player must learn how to add value to each team that they are on, and that value is not always from being the star, hitting 3rd and playing shortstop every inning.

We must teach them (from our own actions) that an umpire’s bad call is an opportunity to overcome adversity and that some aspects of a game are out of their control.  A bad call is not an opportunity to tell the umpires how bad they are from the dugout or the stands.  Umpires do not yell at players when they make an error, so we should give them the benefit of the doubt when they make a mistake.

A coach’s decision to not play your son in a game or two is not personal.  It is an opportunity for your son to communicate with the coach to learn how he needs to improve and compete for more playing time.  It is not an opportunity to openly bash the coach and his decisions, in the stands or on the way home from games.  Hearing a negative opinion of a coach only diminishes the player’s view of his coach and his overall experience with his team.  Openly criticizing a coaches decision teaches your son a reaction to adversity that you would never want him copying as a player, a student, or as a co-worker in a business environment.  Even though you do not agree with a coach’s decision, you will not change his/her mind by going negative, especially in front of other parents and your son.

Coaching or yelling instruction to our kids from the stands is at a minimum confusing for the players, and potentially embarrassing for the player and the team.  If we are able (against our instinct) to sit back and let the only voices of instruction come from the dugout, they will bond better with their coaches and teammates, and learn as a team on the field.

We want our players to communicate freely with their teammates and coaches on the field in a time-sensitive and pressure filled environment.  We want them to rely on their teammates and decisions in the moment.  We want our young players to take responsibility for their decisions and actions, and learn from their mistakes when they make them.  We want our kids to be independant thinkers, leaders, and great teammates by staying accountable to their team at all times.  Parents yelling instruction from the stands is often subtracting from these learning opportunities, and adding a distraction for a player in an already distraction-filled setting.

Playing sports is an incredible opportunity for young athletes to learn about teammwork, performing under pressure, and managing adversity.  It is also a great opportunity for parents to teach our kids the right way to react to this adversity, to learn from failures, and to take the “I” out of  team.

This game prepares us for life.  The successes, failures, disappointments, dealing with bosses (coaches) of all types and difficult teammates.  It is not all about the wins and losses, but the journey it takes us on that prepares us for the next phase of our lives.

Our responsibility as parents is to play the part of “perspective police”.  It is staying positive when our kids go negative.  It is to get our kids to understand that each practice, game, and experience is an opportunity to learn and improve.  It is to teach our kids the correlation between work ethic and success.  It is about reacting gracefully to coach and umpire decisions that do not go our way, or when opposing teams or coaches are not showing great sportsmanship.

Our role as a parent is about rising above our competitive impulses, to be the tour guide and mentor for our kids in a journey through competition so they can learn the most they can from their experiences on the field this season.

Let’s have a great 2018 season!!

–Brad Woodall

Owner- Woodall Baseball Academy and Silver Sluggers
Former Major League Player- Braves, Brewers, and Cubs
Professional Coach- Tampa Bay Rays Organization
Presenter and TV Broadcaster