By Keith Cooper, Saint Martin’s Univeristy, Washington
Game-goal sheets have been a part of my programs for more than a decade. These sheets provide players with an opportunity to list their goals for the upcoming game, which gets their minds focused on the task at hand.
While it may seem like one more task you and your players need to complete leading up to a game, players have completely “bought into” what this exercise means to our team and our program.
The best way to explain the purpose of game-goal sheet to your players is to say, “if I could have a 10-minute meeting with each of you on game day, these are the types of things we would discuss that you need to do individually and as a team to succeed.”
Let your players know that a real, 10-minute conversation with each of them is not practical but their thoughts and mindsets are critical to the team’s success.
Require all players to submit these sheets to you. Have them turned in to your mailbox on game day prior to the last period of the day.
Creating the sheet
Prior to the season, create your game-goal sheets by making them look as classy as possible so the forms have an important and professional feel to them.
We create a page with a faded image of our court in the background. Type the names of every opponent on each individual sheet. Leave space for players to write their names at the top, much like they need to do for any other school assignment.
You might be surprised how seriously players take this once they see their teammates being singled out for a job well done.
List the “Team Goals” first, as they are the most important. Then, leave space on the sheet for individual goals. Also, add a motivational quote at the bottom of each sheet specific to that game and to that point in your season. Show your players you took the time to put thought into the development of the game-goal sheets, which inspires them to take this task even more seriously.
Using the sheets
If you pass out player notebooks at the start of the season, make a section dedicated to game-goal sheets. Place them in the order of the opponents on your schedule. Instruct players on how to fill them out and let newcomers know to ask the team veterans if they have any questions.
Once submitted, you need to review every goal and highlight a few team and individual goals on each player’s sheet. If you have time or if the player’s words move you to do so, write a small message to the player on the game-goal sheet. Make sure you are the only person to see these sheets.
At the start of your pregame talk, return almost all of the sheets to players but hang onto a couple of them. Instruct players to study their goals and put them away.
Once players are done with that exercise, take the small group of forms you kept and read aloud from each sheet while citing the player’s name.
Highlight the most well thought out team and individual goals. You might be surprised how seriously players take this once they see their teammates being singled out for a job well done.
Players buy into your actions much more when they experience success. We instituted game-goal sheets at a program that had never placed at the state tournament. Within five years, we were playing in the state title game.
Are the game-goal sheets the only reason why we have experienced success? Absolutely not. But it’s part of the process and players see it as an important ritual and task to complete before every game.
With game-goal sheets, you are directly involving your players into the mental side of the game, which leads to greater on-the-court success for your program.