Goal Setting



To set goals, you have to first figure out what you want. You can’t let someone else give you a goal, you have to make the decision yourself

– Angela Ruggiero, represented USA in ice hockey 4 times in the Winter Olympics (1998 – 2010), winning a gold, a silver and a bronze

January and August – after the summer break – is the time of the year when we make resolutions, set goals and strive to achieve them over the course of the year. What goals should a student athlete set, if he or she is still in high school, and would like to have a career in hockey?

The student athlete should first address the following questions:

  • Do I want to play hockey just at the school level, or also in the college/university?
  • Am I aspiring to get a university sports scholarship?
  • After my student days, do I want to play hockey only occasionally, for recreation and to keep fit?
  • Or, do I want to play professional hockey for a club or a company that employs sportspersons?
  • Do I want to play for my country, at the junior and eventually senior levels?
  • Do I want to play in the elite tournaments in the world, like the Olympics, World Cup and the Champions Trophy?


After answering these questions, the student athlete should come up with goals that are clear, specific, measurable, and in writing.

The next step is to set up short term and long term plans to achieve the goals. The student athlete should sit down with his/her coach to chalk out a training plan, covering the technical, tactical, physical and psychological aspects of the game.

It will be good to keep parents in the loop regarding the plans and take their advice. In addition, there is nothing like having a mentor – a senior athlete with high level of experience – to guide along the way.



In the example below, a high school student athlete has set a short term goal of making the university team, and earning a sports scholarship. To make the example a bit more specific, the student’s goal is to make the university team as a right-half, since the position is currently vacant, but the student would like to develop versatility to be able to play more than one position.

Based on the above, the student can come up with the following training plan:

Technical Training
  • First touch passing, and ball possession under pressure
  • Various forms of tackling, especially lunge tackling
  • Ball passing and ball receiving
  • Accuracy in hitting, practice quick hitting with a short back swing
  • Increase in the range of the scoop. e.g., increase the scooping distance from 5 – 10 meters, or more in the next  3-6 months, depending upon one’s current form
  • Practice right-side attacks, overlapping with the right-inner
Tactical Training
  • Develop game sense, be aware of options even before the ball is received
  • Develop defensive strategies. e.g., How to cope defensively when the attacking opponents overload the zone
  • Practice changing the focus of the attack from the right to the left
Physical Training
  • Improve acceleration speed over a short distance, 10-15 meters
  • Practice change of pace and direction.
  • Follow a strength training program, to develop core and upper body strength
Psychological Training
  • Learn to stay cool and calm under pressure
  • Learn to stay focused and manage distractions
  • Be able to visualize positive thoughts
  • Join a yoga class to develop balance in the mind and body
Individual Training
  • Commit for individual training, 2 – 3 times a week, in the mornings, before school
  • Focus on developing basic and advanced skills during these individual sessions

Coach Marshall Goldsmith, Ph.D., says, “Ask yourself the following question every day to stay on track toward goals and focus on the things in your life that are within your control.” Did I do my best to?

  1. Set clear goals?
  2. Make progress toward goal achievement?
  3. Be happy?
  4. Build positive relationship?
  5. Be fully engaged?


A number of studies have indicated that student athletes who set goals become high performers and achieve better results. Goal setting is probably the most important thing, one can do to be highly successful. Write and break down your goals into yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily basis. This is easier said than done. Thus, the student athletes who are serious about their sport should aim for SMART goals – i.e., goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

All the best.

Shiv Jagday is a FIH accredited coach, FIH Hockey Academy Coach Educator, and a former Canadian and USA national team coach. Due to his vast hockey knowledge and experience, he conducts coaching courses/clinics, for the various national governing bodies, in different parts of the world.