Most Goals are SMART where, S = Specific, M = Measurable, A = Agreed, R = Realistic and T = Time-phased.
SMART goals can be set in a directive or non-directive way.
Learning to set a SMART goal in a child-centred way helps to offer choice and generate responsibility in our children as in the example below;
‘We’ve got an hour together – what would you like to work on?’ (Time-phased)
‘My backhand and my serve.’
‘Which one would you like to look at first?’ (Specific)
‘What specifically would you like to work on with your backhand?’ (more Specific)
‘To be able to hit it deeper cross court.’
‘What would a deep cross court backhand look like?’
‘I’d like them to land say…6-8 feet inside the baseline.’
‘OK, so could we mark this area out with cones?’ (Measurable)
‘How many would you say you are making at the moment out of 10?’
‘Oh, only about 3.’
‘So how many out of 10 would you like to be hitting into this area?’
(Measurable and Time-phased)
‘I suppose I would like to be hitting about 6-7.’
‘OK. How could we set this up?’
‘Well, maybe…could you hit me a topspin forehand fairly wide first and then hit one to my backhand side that lands over the service line.’
‘Certainly. So you would like me to hit a topspin to your forehand out wide first and then a topspin to your backhand side that lands over the service line. And your goal is to be able to hit 6/7 out of 10 by the end of the lesson.’
(Agreed, Realistic and Time-Phased)
‘Do you think this is achievable?’
‘Yep, I think so.’
In the coaching dialogue below, the child is helped to become more Specific about what their goal is and how they want to achieve it.
‘Ok so we’ve got 30 minutes, What would you like to work on?’
‘I’d like to work on my serve and my backhand slice.’
‘Which one would you like to work on first?’
‘What exactly would you like to work on with your backhand slice?’
‘To get more slice on the ball and for it to stay low after it bounces.’
‘OK, which one are you most interested in – putting more slice on the ball or how low it bounces after each shot?’
‘I think if I get more slice on the ball it will stay low….., but maybe I could notice how low it bounces after each shot.’
‘Ok and where would you like to play these shots from?’
‘I’d like to hit them when I’m behind the baseline and hit them crosscourt.’
‘Ok, where would you like the ball played from and what type of ball?’
‘I’d like you to hit it down the line with medium topspin from the deuce side.’
In the dialogue below, the child is helped to set a Realistic measure of their goal and to find a way of monitoring of this;
‘So, how high are the balls bouncing at the moment?’
‘Oh, about waist height I guess.’
‘What height would you like them to bounce at?’
‘Somewhere just above the knee – say about half a metre.’
‘That seems achievable to me – and you’re happy with that?’
‘Yep, that’s ok.’
‘So how could we measure this’?
‘I could call out how high the ball bounces in inches.’
‘That sounds like a good idea.’
The goal is Realistic in that the height is set at half a metre, and it is time-phased at 30 minutes. It is also Agreed as the coach and child have agreed on the goal of hitting backhand slices from the back of the court with a topspin feed down the line.
Continuing the Coaching Process after the Goal has been Set
The goal has been set and the young player is hitting slice backhands and calling out after each shot how high the ball is bouncing, 1/4 metre, 1/2 metre, 1/4 metre, 3/4 metre, 1/2 metre…..etc.
So what do we do next as coaches?
At this stage we might want to remind ourselves that, when being child-centred, our role is help them to maintain focus and increase their awareness of what they are interested in observing. Watching them as they hit their first few balls, we might occasionally nudge them if they forget to monitor a ball by asking, ‘What was that one?….And that one?….How high did that one bounce?’
To raise their awareness further, we could ask them, ‘What are you noticing when you hit these slices?’ If they achieve their target, then to help them to become more aware of which focus is key for them we could ask them, ‘What did you notice on that one?’