At the moment the preseason is well on it’s way in the US and in Scandinavia with players enduring the hardship of starting up again after a relaxing vacation time away from football. The players are facing a new season with high hopes of improving themselves and their team. When they come in to training camp their enthusiasm and motivation is top and they can’t wait to get the season going. These weeks or months are spent learning and improving the style of play, team building on and off the pitch and general work to be as ready as possible for the upcoming season.
At some point during the preseason it is usual for the club or coaching staff to call the players to a team-meeting where different themes are discussed. Themes can range from a common set of rules that the players on team has to follow, guidelines from the club to even parts of the training method or the style of play. These themes will be up for discussion among the players in this team-meeting. But there is one theme of this team-meeting that is a certainty to come up in most teams. And maybe this theme has been decided by the club on beforehand, however, it is common that the players get their say in this process, often guided by the coaches or the directors of the club. This theme is of course the goal setting discussion for the season.
In these goal setting discussions all around the football world there are players talking about season objectives such as ”staying up”, ”mid-table”, ”top 5” and only a select few teams that say ”win”. Football players that started playing football for the same reason that any human play games of different kinds, namely winning, say that they want to lose a number of games during the upcoming season. Young children playing football and adults playing a game of tag have one thing in common, and that’s the will to win. The point and meaning of any game, per definition, is to win. For some people the reason of a game could arguably be ’not to lose’. But it’s never, ever anyone who plays a game to lose. Yet, in these team-meeting going on in the football world, there are young players, old players, amateurs and professional players who sit in a room and discuss how many games they are going to lose this upcoming season. How crazy is that?
As a player I could never understand my team-mates or coaches who sat around the table and talked about finishing mid-table with a straight face. I wanted to win, every game, always, and I still do. Even though I also understood that we would probably not be able to win every game, the thought of not giving absolutely everything I had to win every game was one that I did not understand. As a football player and as a coach your goal is to win every game. Without winning the existence of a game is not possible. No one has ever invented a game to lose.
When you gather your players in this preseason for your team-meeting and the subject of goal setting comes up, you will end the discussion in 30 seconds by saying: WIN EVERY GAME. After these 30 seconds and the goal of the season has been established you can now spend your time on the question that really matters. The difficult question that holds the key to your success this season is not goal setting, what you really need to discuss is: HOW?