The State – Aug 23, 2007 – Ron Morris – WHEN IT COMES TO setting goals for their respective football teams, Steve Spurrier and Tommy Bowden are as different as garnet and orange. Spurrier prefers numerous end-of-season team goals. Bowden opts for in-season goals obtainable by various factions of his team with only one unified team goal of winning a conference championship.
Since both coaches have had highly successful careers, it is difficult to say one method or the other is right or wrong. It would be easier to say Spurries method has been more effective than Bowdens because his Duke and Florida teams won eight conference championships and one national title. Bowdens lone conference title was at Tulane.
Interestingly enough, John Murray, a Palm Beach, Fla.-based sports psychologist, says Bowdens method of goal-setting is much preferred from a psychological standpoint.
Murray says there are three types of goals: process, performance and outcome. A process goal would be for a lineman to perfect a blocking technique. A performance goal would be for a defense to shut out an opponent in one game. An outcome goal would be for a team to win a conference championship.
When youre setting goals for sports teams, you probably want to be deep into the nitty, gritty of the actual process goals and performance goals, Murray says. I am almost always emphasizing process and performance, and only about 5 percent is on outcome goals.
You dont really control outcome goals, the final score, or the outcome. Because of that, you dont invest a lot there. To focus your goals extensively on that can be out of your control and can lead to pressure, which is not necessarily a good thing.
I would rather a team go out there and execute on every play, a great strategy, a great performance … then let the chips fall where they may as far as a state championship or whatever.
Bowden apparently concurs. He and his assistant coaches list many board goals prior to each season that apply for each game. Those goals deal with scoring offense, scoring defense, yards allowed rushing, yards gained rushing, etc.
When asked whether he talks to his team about unified goals, Bowden responded, not so much, because he says the goal of winning an ACC championship is always there.
Everybody here understands thats the goal, Bowden says. Its pretty much an assumed. We don’t talk about it. We talk more about what it takes to achieve that, more so than that.
Even though Clemsons sole goal is pretty much unspoken, the Tigers break huddles during practice with a chant of ACC champs! and have done so for several seasons, according to Bowden.
As with just about everything, Spurrier deals with goals differently than most coaches. He sits down with his senior class of players and team leaders before the season and suggests goals to them. They mutually decide on six, seven or perhaps eight team goals.
During each of Spurriers first two seasons at USC, he said realistic goals were for the Gamecocks to win more games than they lose, defeat Clemson and win a bowl game. This season, he has asked his seniors to up the ante. Among USCs goals is to win the SEC East Division.
Its probably not very realistic when you look at where we are right now, Spurrier says of that goal. i just saying we need to believe were capable (of winning the SEC East), and if we get into position, lets believe we can do it. I want our players to believe they are good enough to do it.
Spurrier says he believes it is important to set many goals, in case some are found to be unattainable during the regular season. He points out his 1996 Florida team won the national championship, but failed to reach goals that included going unbeaten and defeating rival Florida State during the regular season.
Spurrier says he began setting team goals when he was coach at Duke in 1988. Prior to the 1989 season, he suggested to his Duke seniors that goals such as winning eight games, defeating rival North Carolina and winning a bowl game were realistic.
Bubba Metts, a senior center on that team, spoke up and said he believed the Blue Devils could win the ACC championship that season.
I said, wait a minute, I dont believe in setting unrealistic goals, Spurrier recalls saying. Lets dont do something foolish.
Spurrier relented, although only under the condition that no player told anyone outside the team about that goal. Duke, of course, achieved its goal by sharing the ACC championship with Virginia.
In the case of goal-setting for USC and Clemson, much of it has to do with expectations. It long has been realistic for Clemson to set a goal of winning the ACC championship, and Bowden has put the Tigers in position to challenge for the title just about every season.
USC has seldomly been in a position of believing it could win a conference championship. Maybe for the first time since it joined the SEC, the Gamecocks have at least a chance of challenging for an East Division championship.
If either Clemson or USC wins a conference championship, then that teams coach will have done the best job of goal-setting â€? at least for this season.
Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.