There’s a perfectionist in all of us, but especially in goalies. While this is always thought to be a good thing, something that motivates and pushes us, there’s also a dark side to it. Striving to be perfect, sets us up for failure. It’s a lofty goal that isn’t attainable. Fact of the matter is, humans aren’t perfect. Goalies… are far from perfect. How many shutouts have you ever had? How many have you ever seen? Throughout my 20+ years of lacrosse, I can safely count the number of shutouts I have had and seen on one hand.
So, if we’re not striving for perfection, what are we striving for? We’re striving for progress. Progress is described as “forward or onward movement toward a destination.” This… this moving forward, is what we’re striving for. Make realistic goals, and every day CHOOSE to move forward towards them. Some days, you’re going to move a foot, other days you may only move an inch. But if you’re getting better every day, if you’re progressing every day, you will be great one day.
How do we set these goals? Make them S.M.A.R.T.:
Specific: Make a goal that is clearly defined and outline. “Being better” just isn’t good enough. Do you want to make it to the college ranks? D1, D2, D3? Do you want to make more saves? Is that seeing the ball better, driving your hands more, etc? Be faster? With your feet, with your reaction? Make a goal, but make it specific.
Measurable: This goes along with it being specific, but make sure your goal is measurable so you know when you have achieved it. If your goal is to make it to the college ranks, you can easily check that off (even more so if you choose a division or specific school). If you want to have a faster reaction time, you can also measure this. So make sure when you set your goal, it is something you can one day actually check off as having accomplished. Something someone from the outside would be able to look at and say, “Yep, s/he accomplished that.”
Attainable: Maybe you’re in 6th grade right now, making a goal such as being on the USA team is a huge goal, but maybe not attainable right now. Instead of dismissing that, make smaller, more reachable goals. Make your modified/middle school “A” team, start on the freshman team, make Varsity by sophomore year, get recruited to a top school, etc. Likewise, having a shutout isn’t very attainable (or sustainable), but having a 50% SV percentage over the course of a year, is attainable at any level. As you get better, so will the shooters, so to continue to strive for 50% is a great and attainable goal.
Relevant: Often one we don’t struggle with, but make your goals relevant to your biggest aspirations. Is scoring a goal really going to make you a better goalie? Probably not. So don’t make it a goal. Keep goals relevant to your position and the overall picture of what you want to become.
Time-bound: Obvious but sometimes overlooked, you need to make goals that have a time limit. Make long term goals (a few years) and short term goals (a few weeks or months) but always put a timestamp on them. This motivates you, but also allows us to make adjustments and re-evaluate how you are going about your goals. You want to be efficient and productive when getting better, so if you’re not reaching a goal, that’s ok, it’s just time to readjust how you’re practicing or trying to get better!
To that last point, I want to make something very clear. Just because you have not reached a goal, does not mean you are a failure. It does not mean you won’t be successful. Some of the world’s most successful people have failed time and time again. That is why we aim for progress. Get better, even in the slightest. Even if you don’t reach your goal. Just get better. Keep moving forward and keep progressing. We all fail, but it is those who get back up again, reset goals, and keep striving for progress that eventually get there!