Cross-country skiing is not only a race against other skiers, but against the clock as well. As with any racing sport, you have the opportunity to set goals compared to others as well as compared to the time. For example: Option 1 you can say, “I would like to finish within the top five people in this race.” Conversely, Option 2 can be something along the lines of, “I would like to finish this race in under 3 minutes because last race I was able to finish in 3 minutes and 5 seconds.” Option 1 provides a goal that is not in direct control of the athlete. It is impossible to control what competitors show up to your race, and how they perform. Perhaps the people you are racing against have the best race of their life, and you end up getting last place. Even though you didn’t place as high on the podium as you would have liked, there is a good chance that you still gave it your best effort and performed to the best of your ability. Therefore, it is best to set goals like Option 2. These are goals set against the clock, and they are much more attainable because the athlete has control over them. However, it is easy to get caught up in dreams that may not be realistic…
With any sport, it is tempting to watch the professionals and think, “wow, I think I’d like to ski that fast during the next race.” We need to remember that these people dedicate their entire lives to the sport, and spend hours on end training. Therefore, it is not the most realistic scenario to compare and set goals based off of the professionals. Instead, it is wise to set goals based on previous performances. Below is a list of steps to take while setting time goals and working towards achieving them:
1) What do you want out of cross-country skiing?
Even before you set a goal based on time, have the athlete list and/or discuss what it is they want to gain from participating in Special Olympics’ cross-country skiing.
Ex: “I would like to become a better skier and improve my fitness”
Additionally, have the athlete make a list of what it will take to reach the aforementioned goal.
Ex: “In order to become a better skier and improve my fitness, I will need to show up to every practice, work my hardest, and participate fully”
Have the athlete list the race times of their past few races.
If this is the athlete’s first season, simply have them record the times of each of their races
Look over the list of times and decide on a realistic “ideal time”.
The ideal time should not be too far off from the athletes average race time, but should give them a challenge to work towards
After deciding on an ideal time as a goal, work with the athlete to choose a race date to try and match the time.
This can be the following week, month, etc. As long as the athlete and coach are on the same page about how much time they will have to work towards the goal
Ex: “On March 26th, I hope to complete my race in under 4 minutes”
With the athlete, make a list of commitments that they will make in order to reach their ideal time goal.
Ex: “I will work my hardest at each practice”, “once a week, I will do some strength training”, “I will keep a positive attitude while working towards my goal”, etc.
Multiple times before the set race date, time the athlete during practice. This will give them a better idea about where they are in progressing towards their goal.
6) HAVE FUN
Regardless of the outcome, it is important to acknowledge that the importance of goal setting can lie within the process. Yes, it is the best-case scenario when the athlete can be rewarded with reaching their goal. But this is not 100% guaranteed. Therefore, at the end of the race always provide a positive attitude and the mindset that there are always more goals to set and reach.