Parent Guide: Goal Setting

by Adrienne Koob-Doddy

Hello all and welcome back to IDC’s Parent Guide!

We are already in to June, the month when I think most coaches and skaters start to lose sleep. As we approach the first early competitions of the season, there are many questions swirling around:

“How will the key points be evaluated?”

“Will they like the theme of the free dance?”

“Will our new lifts get called as a Level 4?”

Skaters are hoping that new programs/music/costumes will be received well, that they’ll be able to get through the demands of their dances, and that everyone stays on the feet. The beginning of the year is stressful when sometimes the vision for the year is beyond the current capabilities of the skater. As the parents and supporters of the skater, it is vital to keep your skater’s goals in mind. What goals should they have? I’m glad you asked.

Goals are most beneficial when they are realistic, attainable, and flexible. Sounds easy, right? Hardly! Many skaters have perfectionist tendencies (so do their coaches!) and thus keeping everyone in the “realistic” mindset can be a challenge. The most obvious and common error in regards to goal setting is making goals based on placement. Of course, we want to see our skaters move up in competition. Of course, we want that satisfaction of achieving a higher placement and perhaps a medal. Of course we want these things because we are all human! However, we also must remember that determining our successes based upon the relative comparisons to other skaters on any given day is a slippery slope. Placements change frequently, skaters have good days and bad ones, one small slip and a hand down on the ice can change an entire event- let’s recognize this when evaluating our skaters when they place at competitions. When skaters have the goal of raising their personal scores (by achieving stronger component scores, better GOEs, and higher levels), their confidence will grow, and eventually they will rise in placement. Those who focus on their own growth will ultimately have the mental and emotional stamina to reach the top.

Attainability is important and aligns with realistic goal setting. What is actually possible for your skater? What is the gap between their current abilities and their goal abilities? Understanding this gap, planning with coaches, and having a structured training schedule will be the best way to help your child achieve the goals that are outside their abilities, but within reach. For example, it may not be attainable for a new Novice dance team who just moved up from Intermediate to achieve a level 3 on their non-touching step sequence at Chesapeake. But perhaps the goal of a level 2 by sectionals is more attainable for them. Being aware of the type of learner that the skater is will help the entire coaching team determine goals that are attainable. We want our skaters to find success in goal setting and not feel defeated.

This brings me to my final caveat of goal setting- flexibility. Sometimes, skaters have to reevaluate their goals as the year progresses. Perhaps the goals weren’t as attainable as they thought- there is no shame in this! In the interest of the skater’s longevity in the sport, we should reevaluate goals that are unattainable and remind ourselves we are always striving for skaters to feel confidence and pride in their development. Maybe the reevaluation has to occur because the skater achieved the goals earlier than anticipated! What a wonderful opportunity to grow more than originally anticipated. Regardless of the circumstances, encourage your skater to check in with their goals as the season progresses and be reflective about what is and is not working. Promoting this self-reflection will keep your skater from getting lost in the details of the day-to-day training, and allow them to see the bigger picture of their season.