Setting Goals

The coach needs to identify two or three key goals for each training session. These should relate to the overall goals for the season and may also be linked either to the previous game or the next game. Linking them to a game helps define how and when success is measured. The goals of each session should be few and two serious mistakes are:

  • trying to do too much in a single practice or a single activity;
  • the coach not knowing clearly what they want to achieve during the training session as a whole and/or with each specific activity.
(English) There are two types of goals - outcome goals and performance goals.


Outcome Goals

Outcome goals refer to collective or individual results, for example, making a certain number of shots, taking a certain amount of time to complete an activity or scoring a certain number of points. Outcome goals may be divided into two types:

  • intra-subject or intra-group - results by an individual player or group, (e.g. make 10 shots)
  • inter-subject or inter-group - results of an individual group compared to another individual or group (e.g. first to make 10 shots)

Performance Goals

Performance goals focus on the desired steps toward an outcome, rather than the outcome itself. For example, improving a chest pass, shooting more often from specific positions on the court, blocking out or passing the ball to the low post.

Achieving a performance goal does not guarantee that an outcome goal will be achieved, but it does increase the probability of achieving it. Performance goals help players to develop confidence in the execution of skills.

For example, shooting more often from ideal positions (performance goal) does not guarantee that more points will be made (outcome goal), but does increase the probability of making more points, and only by shooting more often from these positions will the player be able to control how to make more points.

In general, outcome goals work better at enhancing the players’ interest, but performance goals are better at helping the players to understand that they can control the situations with which they are faced.

It is advisable to combine both types of goals depending on the players’ age group, keeping in mind the following:

  • inter-subject and inter-group outcome goals are advisable for teams made up of 15-18-year-olds and, to a lesser extent, for teams made up of 13-14-year-olds. They are not advisable for mini-basketball teams.
  • individual and collective performance goals are highly recommended for all teams.

(English) In order to be efficient, goals should be SMART:




Goals should be specific and clearly defined rather than general and ambiguous.



There must be some criteria set as to how the goal is measured and,  where possible, this should be objective.



Goals should be challenging for the players. Goals that are too easy (requiring little effort) or that require too much effort are not suitable. Goals should be challenging in such a way as to motivate the player; goals that are too easy, although attractive, are not challenging.



Goals should show the progress that a player or a team will make. To be realistic, those  goals must seem possible. Sometimes you will set a series of goals toward achieving a goal.  For example, for a ten-year-old having a goal of dunking the ball is very unlikely to be realistic (at least at that time). However, by having a series of goals (e.g. the height they can jump) they can realistically take steps toward the ultimate goal.



each goal should have a time frame set to it, whether that is end of the season, the end of the year or the next week. Having a time frame provides a sense of “urgency” and will help track progress.

(English) Goals should be established for the team and for the individual players. If only collective goals have been established, individual motivation can easily diminish. And with young players, it is important that each player be allowed to progress at their own pace; therefore, individual goals are important. It may be that within one activity, different players will have different goals depending upon their skill level.

The importance of Performance Goals

Performance goals are particularly important when coaching young players because they:

  • are centered on what the players do and how they do it, rather than on the consequences of what they do (missing a shot does not mean it was a bad shot and similarly making a shot does not mean it was a good shot);
  • allow a more realistic evaluation of the feasibility of the goals;
  • facilitate a simple and reliable assessment of output;
  • permit the players to use their own behaviour to measure their progress;
  • increase self-confidence (which comes from feeling “in control”) and motivation (which comes from belief that the goal can be achieved).

Coaches of 6-9-year-olds should use only performance goals. Coaches of athletes aged 10-12 years should concentrate on performance goals but may include some intra-subject or intra- group outcome goals related to those performance goals.

For example, in order to work on the individual performance goal of improving lay-ups:

  • a coach of 6-9-year-olds should focus on the players being balanced and using correct footwork;
  • a coach of 10-12-year-olds may set an intra-group outcome goal for how many lay-ups the group can achieve (with correct balance, footwork and shooting with the correct hand) in a certain time;
  • a coach of players aged 13+ may divide the squad into two groups with an inter-group outcome goal of the first team to make a certain number of baskets.

Using performance goals with younger players does not mean that coaches cannot use games that keep score. Often, it can be a lot of fun for an activity to be competitive, however the coach should be careful to focus on performance goals.

For example, teams may play a game where players attempt lay-ups and the first team to make 20 points wins. With young players, the coach may award 3 points for correct footwork and only 1 point if a basket is made (and no points if it is made with incorrect footwork). This is a competitive game, but the coach’s focus is on correct performance of the skill.

Having an outcome can also be useful as it gives a natural ending to an activity (e.g. when one team scores 20 points). Using performance goals with younger players equally applies to games, and indeed in many competitions for players under the age of 10 there are no outcome goals because no scores are kept. Even if scores are kept, the coach should set other goals for the team that relate to processes that they have been practicing.

Performance goals also remain important when coaching older age groups. For example, if players are struggling to make a lay-up with their weaker hand the coach may:

  • award two points if the correct technique is used and the basket is made;
  • award one point if the correct technique is used but the basket is missed;
  • deduct a point if the basket is made but incorrect technique is used.

Choosing the Most Appropriate Goals

Once the coach decides which goals are appropriate, they must decide if these can be achieved within the coaching time available. In many cases, because of the lack of time, they may have to leave out some goals.

Where this is the case (a common occurrence when coaching young teams), the coach has to choose which goals they consider most important, omitting the rest. To do this, they can use criteria such as:

  • the importance of each goal, taking into account the type of team they are coaching and, based on this, the team’s general goals; obviously those goals considered most important will take precedence;
  • the proximity of each goal with respect to the present. In general, if the degree of importance is similar, those goals that can be achieved first should take precedence;
  • the relationship between different objectives, bearing in mind whether the attainment of one goal is essential to achieving others. In general, the simplest goals that facilitate the attainment of later, more complex, goals should take precedence;
  • combining offense and defence goals (for example, improve offense 1-on-1 fundamentals and improve defence 1-on-1 fundamentals). Both on an individual level and on a collective level, the development of offense and defence should follow a parallel progression;
  • the “cost” necessary to achieve each goal, defining cost as the physical and psychological effort necessary. In general, those goals requiring lower cost should take precedence.

In general, goals that are geared toward the development of skills or understanding the game are preferable to those that are geared toward winning a particular game.