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3 The application of goal setting
in sport
Kieran M. Kingston and Kylie M. Wilson
Introduction
The scientific or theoretical rationale for promoting goal setting as an effective
motivational tool was based on work in industrial and organisational psycho-
logy. Consequently, Locke’s 1968 ‘theory’ of goal setting led to a broader inter-
est in the utilisation of goals, primarily in the industrial and organisational
sector, but more recently in the context of sport. Here it has prompted theory
testing, the objective of which has been to establish a reliable basis for the
promotion of the technique within sports settings and with sports performers
(Hall and Kerr, 2001).
Edwin Locke defined a goal simply as ‘what an individual is trying to accom-
plish; it is the object or aim of an action’ (Locke et al., 1981: 126). However, it is
important to note that, while goals are portrayed as the drive behind goal-directed
behaviour (Locke and Latham, 1985), they do not necessarily always function at a
conscious level – they may go in and out of conscious awareness (Hardy et al.,
1996a). According to Locke and Latham (1990), while goals may help initiate
action, their active pursuit does not always require them to be elevated to
consciousness. Based on this premise, Locke’s (1968) goal-setting theory was
developed to explain enhanced productivity in the workplace. Locke, however,
considered his initial propositions as simply providing the foundations for a theory
of task performance, recognising that in its current form, it only considered the
strength of a functional relationship between goals and performance on some
specific task (cf. Hall and Kerr, 2001). In their later text, Locke and Latham
(1990) integrated up-to-date research findings on the topic of goal setting to
provide a more thoroughly grounded conceptual base for their ‘theory’ of goal
setting in sport.
According to the theory, goals have two functional characteristics that dictate
the extent to which task performance is influenced: the content of the goal and
the requisite intensity with which it is to be pursued. The content refers to the
nature of the goals (implicitly this describes what is to be accomplished if goal-
attainment occurs), and the intensity reflects the perceived resource requirement
to attain the level of performance demanded by the content (Hall and Kerr,
2001). These characteristics are reflected in the two fundamental premises of
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goal-setting theory. First, difficult goals lead to higher levels of performance than
easy goals, and second, that specific goals lead to higher levels of performance
than vague, do-your-best goals, or no goals. This second premise reflects a reduc-
tion in the ambiguity of evaluating success (Locke and Latham, 1990). The wide-
spread support for both premises, verifying Locke’s (1968) predictions regarding
difficulty and specificity, led some (e.g. Mento et al., 1987) to suggest that these
effects warranted the elevation of goal theory to the status of a scientific law.
Despite this, Locke and Latham (1990) pre-empted possible criticisms of their
proposals by suggesting that more comprehensive explanations of the relationship
between goal setting and performance may be achieved if human action is con-
sidered in the context of motives, values and sources thereof, while arguing that
such a perspective may actually offer less specific explanatory power with respect
to task performance (cf. Hall and Kerr, 2001).
In their seminal text, Locke and Latham (1985) argued that goal-setting effects
in industrial/organisational settings should be transferable to sports because of
the common concern with achieving some end-results, contextual similarities, and
the commonality in the cognitive processes and physical actions utilised across
sport and occupational settings. Indeed, they went still further and suggested that,
since performance was ‘easier’ to measure in sport than in industrial and organi-
sational contexts, the benefits of goal setting would be more pronounced (Locke
and Latham, 1985). The primary purpose of the present chapter is to explore the
efficacy of Locke and Latham’s assertions.
Goal setting in sport
Early reviews examining goal-setting ‘theory’ in the domain of sport suggested
that, while there is some evidence supporting the contentions implicit in the
theory, many studies examining the goal setting–performance relationship in
sport and physical activity have failed to find similarly strong support to those
portrayed from within industrial and organisational settings (e.g. Burton, 1992,
1993; Hall and Byrne, 1988; Weinberg and Weigand, 1993). Nevertheless,
reflecting on the meta-analytical procedures of Kyllo and Landers (1995),1 and
their reviews of 1992 (Burton, 1992) and 2002, Burton and Naylor (2002) sug-
gested that, as the number of goal-setting studies in sport increase, results in the
sport domain look more like general goal-setting findings. In summarising their
review findings, they highlighted two inescapable conclusions: first, goals work,
and second, the process of effective goal setting is more complex than it appears,
or is often portrayed. It might be reasonable to (at least partly) attribute the first
conclusion to two factors: (1) the utility of more appropriate methodologies
arising as a consequence of healthy academic debate (e.g. between Locke and
Weinberg and Weigand in the early 1990s), and (2) a broadening of conceptual
approaches which go beyond examining simple performance effects. This second
issue, however, begs the question: how can we illuminate the ‘complex’ process
of goal setting in such a way as to shift goals from something that athletes
and coaches intuitively know can help, to a situation where the effectiveness of
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goals can be maximised for individual performers across a variety of sporting
situations?
According to Burton and Naylor (2002), the notion of goals can be studied in
two fundamental ways. First, goals can be considered as a direct motivational
strategy (borne of Locke’s original conceptualisation), where they function as spe-
cific standards of performance that regulate behaviour in terms of attention and
effort. In this case, they have the capacity to engender motivation, or to promote
stress when they are in doubt (Burton and Naylor, 2002). While this populist
conception of goals and the research that has adopted that view within sport set-
tings will form the basis of this critique, it is our view that it is limiting not to
consider the potential underlying factors that may well influence (a) the discrete
moment to moment goals that individual’s set and (b) the cognitive, affective and
behavioural responses to setting and striving towards those goals. Consideration
for these individual and contextual factors will, we feel, help to narrow the gap
between the research process surrounding goals and the messages that it conveys,
and the day-to-day grind of applied practice utilising goal setting. Therefore,
while it is not our intention to review the vast research examining goal perspec-
tives in sport (interested readers should refer to a number of extensive reviews,
e.g. Duda, 2001; Harwood et al., 2000; Roberts, 2001), we will adopt the stand-
point that, in addition to contextual variations, both inter- and intra-individual
differences should be considered within the process of goal setting in sport.
The second fundamental way in which goals can be studied is where goals
act, or are considered as the cognitive drivers for involvement in activities.
In this case, goal perspectives (Nicholls, 1984, 1989) reflect the personal
meaning of ability and success, which in turn dictate cognitions, behaviours and
affect. Nicholls’ (1984, 1989) achievement–goal theory provides the theoretical
framework for the study of goal perspectives in sport. The principle behind the
achievement–goal approach is that individuals engage in achievement contexts
to demonstrate competence, and, further, they adopt goals that most closely
reflect their cognitive beliefs about what is required to maximise achievement
in that particular context (Harwood et al., 2000). As Harwood et al. articulate,
individuals have a personal theory of what achievement means to them, and
they set goals that both meet their needs and reflect and satisfy their per-
sonal theory. Nicholls suggested that two types of achievement goals existed.
Individuals who feels successful/competent when they experience gains in
mastery (i.e. improve their own performance, regardless of others) are said to be
task involved. Individuals who feel successful/competent when they outperform
others (i.e. norm referenced) are said to be ego involved (see Harwood et al.,
2000, and Kingston et al., 2006, for a review). Nicholls further proposed the
existence of two independent goal orientations that reflected a proneness to dif-
ferent types of involvement in any particular achievement settings: labelled task
and ego orientations. There has been much debate over the orthogonality of
achievement goals, and while Nicholls’ (1989) work has often been interpreted
as supporting the orthogonality of (dispositional) goal orientations, there is a
strong suggestion that ‘one cannot be both task and ego involved at the same
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moment in time’ (1989: 240; Harwood et al., 2000). This moment-to-moment
fluctuation in goal states is entirely plausible, and at an applied level, there is
considerable anecdotal evidence supporting the view that athletes switch from
one goal state to another during performance. Although we will not review the
extensive literature on goal perspectives, it has been argued that achievement
goals not only play a significant role in an athlete’s decision to invest in an
activity, but they give ‘meaning’ to the pursuit of personal goals (cf. Hall and
Kerr, 2001). Consequently, although their conceptual underpinnings are differ-
ent, any review of individual goal-setting practices could be further illuminated
by considering the achievement goals that an individual holds.
Our purpose within this overview of goal-setting research is to provide a
broad overview of the current ‘state of play’ with regards to the application of
goal setting in sport. Initially, we will consider the research that has adopted
Locke’s (1968) conceptualisation of goals (as conscious regulators of actions) at
an individual level; however, rather than repeating material provided in recent
extensive reviews (e.g. Burton and Naylor, 2002; Hall and Kerr, 2001), we will
attempt to provide a succinct summary of the research, Specifically, in this first
section, we will focus on work that has considered those factors variously
described as: moderators, attributes or parameters of goals (for example, goal
difficulty, goal specificity, goal proximity, goal focus, goal commitment and feed-
back). Having examined goals and considered to a degree their cognitive drivers
at an individual level, we will examine the application of goal setting in the
team environment. The more fine-grained discussion on the application of goal
setting in team settings reflects the evolving nature of work in this area, and the
application of principles from industrial/organisational settings to sport teams.
Throughout our review, we will consider the application of this work, and
our intention is to adopt a critical perspective. Having reviewed the various
literatures, we will identify some ‘issues’ associated with the application of goals
in sport and our view on their potential solutions, before concluding with some
additional proposed directions for future research. The equivocal nature of
research that has taken goal setting from the realm of business to sports settings
has often challenged practitioners to decipher what research ‘messages’ mean to
them as they apply goal-setting principles. Our objective within this ‘issues’
section is to try to give some clarity to these muddied waters, and while doing
so, provide an impetus for more effective research into goal setting.
Goal setting at an individual level
According to Locke’s original operationalisation, goals are considered as
‘discrete’ end states that regulate human action by specifying an aim or an objec-
tive standard for a specific task (Hall and Kerr, 2001). Consequently, this notion
of goals has formed the basis of research examining goals utilising goal-setting
theory as the framework. There have been a number of comprehensive reviews
examining goal-setting research in the context of sport; interested readers are
directed towards the works of Hall and Kerr (2001), and Burton and Naylor
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(2002), from which we have drawn widely in this first section. To summarise,
while early reviews (e.g. Burton, 1993; Weinberg, 1992) provided very limited
support for the major premises of goal-setting theory that specific, difficult goals
had a positive effect on performance when compared to vague, do-your-best
goals, or no goals, the more recent meta-analysis of Kyllo and Landers (1995)
has given some scope for optimism (cf. Burton and Naylor, 2002). Specifically,
in examining some 36 sport studies, they found an overall mean effect size of
0.34 in support of goal setting. Although providing clear evidence of a statistical
effect, the level of conclusive support it generated remained modest, and
significantly lower than the effect sizes obtained when examining goal setting in
other contexts (Hall and Kerr, 2001). Burton and Naylor’s (2002) review of 56
published works on goal setting in sport, however, indicated that 79 per cent of
the studies demonstrated moderate to strong goal-setting effects. While Burton
and Naylor’s work does paint an increasingly positive picture, the mixed effects
described suggest that sport research consistently fails to provide convincing
support for the central theoretical premises of Locke’s theory (Hall and Kerr,
2001). The focus of this section is to consider those critical variables that have
been argued to moderate the goal setting–performance relationship. To clarify, a
moderating variable in this context is one that affects the direction and/or
strength of the predictive relationship between goal setting per se and sub-
sequent cognitions, behaviours and affect (Baron and Kenny, 1986). The mod-
erating aspects we will consider here are associated with goal difficulty, goal
specificity, goal proximity, goal focus, goal commitment and feedback. Critical
examination of these and the research surrounding them will, it is hoped,
provide some explanation for the mixed findings of goal setting studies in sport,
and help to close the research–applied practice gap.
Goal difficulty
One of the most tested aspects of Locke’s (1968) theory revolves around the rela-
tionship between goal difficulty (often examined in association with goal speci-
ficity) and performance. This reflects one of the central tenets of Locke and
Latham’s (1990) goal setting theory that, assuming the individual has the capa-
city to reach them, a positive linear relationship exists between goal difficulty
and performance. Further, while difficult goals were postulated to lead to greater
effort and persistence, performance has been shown to plateau once upper ability
levels are reached (Weinberg, 1994). While general goal-setting reviews sup-
ported the goal-difficulty hypothesis (reporting mean effect sizes of between 0.52
and 0.82), research has shown that, rather than leading to a withdrawal of effort,
goals that exceeded individual performance capacity resulted in individuals
self-setting more realistic goals (cf. Burton and Naylor, 2002). Perhaps as a con-
sequence of this fact, in sport there is no clear evidence that the predictions of
Locke and associates stand up. While excessively difficult goals may not be
achieved, any assumption that low-ability performers are incapable of performing
well in response to the challenges of extremely difficult goals is somewhat off the
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mark (Hall and Kerr, 2001). A meta-analysis carried out by Kyllo and Landers
(1995) investigating easy, difficult and improbable goals reported that only mod-
erate goals produced a large effect size (0.53) on performance, and that athletes
prefer a combination of moderately difficult goals rather than exclusively difficult
goals. Further, in their recent review of goal-difficulty literature, Burton and
Naylor (2002) reported that, out of 19 studies, only ten had supportive evidence
for the goal-difficulty hypothesis.
Several reasons have been posited to account for these contradictory find-
ings. First, the operational definition of ‘difficult’ is unclear (Weinberg, 1994).
Locke (1991) did suggest that, to ensure specific goals were difficult, they should
be set at a level at which no more than 10 per cent of the subjects can reach
them; however, this fails to account for the potential mediating effects of both
competition and perceptions of ability. Moreover, if one takes a broader view of
goals than simply considering them in terms of numeric objectives, it is imposs-
ible to quantify levels of difficulty in terms of, for example, goals that pertain to
individual behaviours or performance processes.
Although there is obvious potential for unrealistic goals to elicit negative
performance effects, this has not been substantiated (Burton and Naylor, 2002).
Indeed, there is some research evidence that suggests that improbable or diffi-
cult goals do not cause reductions in effort or persistence (Weinberg et al.,
1986), and in fact, Hall and Kerr (2001) suggest that such (difficult) goals may
cause these individuals to redefine their goals in line with what they perceive
attainable. This might lead one to speculate that perhaps absolute difficulty
is not really the central issue, but rather it is the individual motivational con-
sequences of realising an inability to achieve their initial goals that is import-
ant. Clearly, the mechanisms by which goals of varying difficulties influence
performance warrants further investigation is sport settings.
Goal specificity
The notion that goal specificity, or the precision of goals, promotes better
performance than general do-your-best goals was widely supported in the early
goal-setting literature (see Locke et al., 1981, for an extensive review). In their
revision of goal-setting theory, Locke and Latham (1985), however, predicted
that precision was a less important moderator than difficulty; that specificity
interacts with difficulty to enhance performance, i.e. it has an indirect influ-
ence. Furthermore, Locke and Latham hypothesised that, when difficulty is con-
trolled, the effect of specificity is to reduce the ambiguity in evaluating success,
and thus lowers performance variance, i.e. specificity contributes primarily to
enhance performance consistency (Burton and Naylor, 2002). However, there
has been no conclusive support for this proposal.
Although, goal difficulty and goal specificity have not been studied indepen-
dently in sport, a significant body of work has identified specific goals as leading
to enhanced performance over vague, general, or no goals (cf. Hall and Kerr,
2001). However, despite this apparent support, it has been suggested that as
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many as one-third of all studies in sport fail to substantiate that goal specificity
has stronger effects than simply doing one’s best (Burton et al., 1998). This
inconsistency suggests that one of the central predictions of goal-setting theory
is again not fully supported. In those studies that failed to distinguish between
the effects of experimental and control manipulations, however, trial main
effects were consistently found – this suggests that all groups (i.e. regardless of
whether they were setting specific, general, vague or do-your-best goals)
improved over time. This might be attributed to subjects in the less-specific
groups setting personal goals (Hall and Kerr, 2001).
Methodological weaknesses, failure to assess personal goals, the motivation
and spontaneous goal setting of control subjects, and task characteristics have all
been posited as explanations for the lack of support for Locke and Latham’s
(1985) propositions (Locke, 1991). Hall and Kerr (2001), however, argued that
certain contextual characteristics unique to sport encourage participants to make
do-your-best goals specific. Detailed knowledge of the activity and associated
performance standards, and the fact that many people engage in sport of their
own volition, naturally results in participants placing a higher value on effort
and specifying what their best performance will be. Boyce (1994) validated this
suggestion when finding that two-thirds of control subjects set specific numeric
goals, and that the purpose of setting these was to create intra-individual
competition. Clearly one of the limiting factors of Locke’s (1991) arguments to
explain anomalous results in sport is the failure to consider individual motivation
and sport knowledge that influence behaviours and cognitions (Hall and Kerr,
2001), a point that will be raised again later in this section.
Goal proximity
Although not explicit in Locke’s (1968) original paper, Locke and Latham
(1985) hypothesised that long-term goals in conjunction with short-term goals
would lead to better performance than long-term goals alone. According to
Weinberg (1994), this was because long-term goals were viewed as too vague to
have a significant motivational impact in the present. The area of ‘goal proxi-
mity’ has however received scant attention in sport.
The meta-analysis of Kyllo and Landers (1995) provided only limited support
for Locke and Latham’s hypothesis. Specifically, from the studies reviewed, a
combination of short- and long-term goals generated an overall effect size of 0.48,
compared to short-term goals alone (0.38) and long-term goals alone (0.19). Two
of the principle studies in sport (Hall and Byrne, 1988; Weinberg et al., 1988)
reported similar results in that no performance differences were found between
the long-term goal group, short-term goal group and the combined goal group.
However, they did find that subjects assigned a combination of short-term and
long-term goals did perform better than the ‘do-your-best’ subjects. In the only
study to explicitly support Locke and Latham’s (1985) hypothesis, Tenenbaum
et al. (1991) used a ten-week muscular-endurance sit-up test to investigate
goal proximity. They reported that groups assigned long- and short-term goals
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improved in their performance, but the group given a combination of short- and
long-term goals demonstrated the greatest performance improvement. In their
recent review, Burton and Naylor (2002) reported that three of eight studies had
shown that combinations of long- and short-term goals were superior in their
effects to either alone. What these results appear to indicate is that goals per se
are better than no goals, yet the ideal ‘recipe’ of more proximal or more distal
goals is unclear. Consequently, proximity recommendations to practitioners are
potentially confused (Burton and Naylor, 2002).
In terms of the mechanisms of potential beneficial effects, Hall and Byrne
(1988) suggested that short-term goals provided a useful feedback device,
enabling participants to feel a sense of achievement and consequential increases
in self-efficacy in pursuit of long-term goals. This proposal sits comfortably
couched within Bandura’s (1986) theory of self-efficacy, since performance
accomplishment (goal achievement) is the strongest predictor of efficacy expec-
tations. Similarly, depending on the nature and focus of such goals, comparisons
of current levels of performance with aspirational levels (i.e. a long-term goal)
has the potential to undermine self-efficacy, motivation and performance if
those current levels indicate failure or a lack of progress (Hall and Kerr, 2001).
A number of other explanations have been proposed for the benefits of short-
term as opposed to long-term goals. Burton (1989) argued that the increased
controllability (and thus flexibility) of short-term goals enabled them to be
readily raised or lowered in order to ensure they remained optimally challeng-
ing. A number of researchers (e.g. Hall and Byrne, 1988; Kirschenbaum, 1985;
Locke and Latham, 1990) have suggested that, while long-term goals provide
individuals with direction for achievement strivings, their motivational impact
depends on short-term goals serving as effective markers in the achievement
process (cf. Hall and Kerr 2001).
Goal focus
Unlike the other potential moderators of the goal setting–performance relation-
ship, goal focus (a phrase coined by Burton and Naylor in their 2002 review)
has not been studied directly except in the context of goal-setting intervention
programmes, or observation and evaluation of goal-setting practices. Neverthe-
less, the evidence to date (e.g. Burton, 1989; Filby et al., 1999; Kingston and
Hardy, 1994, 1997; Kingston et al., 1992; Zimmerman and Kitsantas, 1996)
suggests that the specific nature of the goal in terms of its primary focus has
significant implications in terms of its effect on behaviours and cognitions.
The first study to consider goal focus was Burton’s (1989) goal-setting training
study. Burton found that an educational programme focusing on the setting of
personal numeric performance standards (performance goals) with collegiate
swimmers led to greater performance, more adaptive perceptions of success, satis-
faction and higher levels of perceived competence than a control condition.
Burton surmised that control participants (and thus the non-trained population)
would base perceptions of competence mainly on social comparison and objective
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outcomes (e.g. a finishing place in a race, or winning and losing), although this
was not checked explicitly. Further, he argued that outcome goals (the attain-
ment of which were largely reliant on the performance of others) lacked the flexi-
bility and control necessary to ensure consistent success and to allow individuals
to fully internalise credit for that success (Burton, 1989).
Developing this line of research into goal focus, a number of researchers
(Hardy and Nelson, 1988; Kingston and Hardy, 1994, 1997; Kingston et al., 1992;
Zimmerman and Kitsantas, 1996) clarified and broadened the goal-focus distinc-
tion in sport by separating what Burton defined as goals that view success in terms
of ‘surpassing personal performance standards’ (1989: 107), i.e. performance-based
self-referenced goals, into two categories termed ‘performance’ and ‘process’ goals.
It should be noted, however, that Zimmerman and Kitsantas labelled what Burton
(1989) regarded as ‘performance goals’ as ‘product’ goals. Consequently, three
‘types’ of goal focus were recognised within goal-setting research (e.g. Hardy and
Nelson, 1988). First, outcome goals are based on the outcome of a specified event
and may involve interpersonal comparison of some kind (e.g. a finishing place in
a race or winning and losing; Kingston and Hardy, 1997). Performance goals are
self-referenced, and refer to a specific end product of performance; they normally
involve a numeric value (Duda, 2001), and can be achieved by the performer
relatively independently of others (e.g. the total number of putts taken in the
duration of a round of golf; Kingston and Hardy, 1997; Kingston et al., 2006).
Finally, process goals centre on the execution of behaviours, skills and strategies
(e.g. technique, form, thought processes to regulate behaviour) that are integral to
effective task execution. Examples of a process goal would include a high follow-
through phase in a basketball free throw or perhaps a full-court press in a team
situation (Kingston et al., 2006).
Research into process goals supported the validity of the tripartite distinction
of goal focus. Zimmerman and Kitsantas (1996), using a learning paradigm, found
process goals to be more effective than product (performance) goals in the devel-
opment of a dart-throwing skill, but also facilitating of self-efficacy, appropriate
attributions and intrinsic interest. In their season-long intervention with amateur
golfers, Kingston and Hardy (1997) similarly supported the use of such a goal
focus. Both subjects trained in the use of performance and process goals improved
their skill levels over the course of the season compared to a no-training control
group. Furthermore, those subjects utilising process goals also improved at a faster
rate, and experienced positive changes in self-efficacy, cognitive anxiety control
and concentration. More recent research has shown that goal focus can be pre-
dicted by contextual motivational factors (e.g. intrinsic motivation; Wilson and
Brookfield, in press), and process goals relative to outcome and performance
goals have been shown to be the strongest positive predictor of the positive psy-
chological state of Flow and its constituent components (Kingston and Goldea,
2007).
While the mechanisms through which process goals influence performance
have not been directly examined, the specific nature of these goals has led to
some tentatively supported suggestions. There is a general consensus in the
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literature examining goal focus that one of the key distinguishing factors
between the different goal ‘types’ relates to their controllability and flexibility
(e.g. Burton, 1989; Burton and Naylor, 2002; Filby et al., 1999; Kingston and
Hardy, 1997). Process goals, which can focus on technique, movement form,
self-regulation and strategy at an individual level, are completely under the
control of the performer, in that providing the necessary regulatory skills are
present, there is no reason why any external factors should disrupt such a focus.
Although focusing on absolute standards that are end-products of performance,
the self-referenced nature of performance goals ensures that they are mainly
under the control of the individual (Jones and Hanton, 1996). According to
Burton (1989), their more flexible and controllable nature enables them to be
raised or lowered to ensure optimal challenge. Nevertheless, contextual factors
such as the performance of the opposition, the specific environmental con-
ditions and during-event personal performance levels all have the potential to
disrupt achievement of these numeric ‘products’ of performance. Finally,
outcome goals, which are based on social comparison (for example, winning or
placing in a race), are, by their nature, largely reliant on external factors (e.g. an
opponent’s performance) for their achievement, and are therefore largely
uncontrollable. It might be logical therefore to think of goal focus as existing
on a continuum based on the degree of control over which the performer exerts
on the goal, or more accurately to consider control as a key mediator of the
goal-focus behaviour and cognition relationship.
In addition to control, a number of other potential mechanisms have been
identified through which process goals in particular influence performance.
Some of these have received some, albeit limited, empirical support. Facilitating
attentional focus (Hardy and Nelson, 1988; Kingston and Hardy, 1997), redu-
cing task complexity (Kingston and Swain, 1999; Zimmerman and Kitsantas,
1996), increasing self-efficacy (Kingston and Hardy, 1997; Zimmerman and
Kitsantas, 1996), intrinsic interest (Zimmerman and Kitsantas, 1996), reducing
the tendency to worry about social evaluation (Kingston and Hardy, 1997) and
providing building blocks to ensure desired performance levels are achieved
(Burton and Naylor, 2002) have all been proposed as reasons why process goals
could facilitate performance. Conversely, it has also been suggested that, in
accordance with Master’s (1992) investment hypothesis, encouraging athletes
to use process goals that focus their attention to specific aspects of a movement
might actually inhibit performance (Hardy et al., 1996b; Masters, 1992;
Kingston and Hardy, 1997). Clearly, research examining the nature of process
goals, their potential differential effects on learners and skilled athletes, and the
specific mechanisms through which the different goal types influence task
performance is required to illuminate this area still further.
Although researchers (e.g. Burton, 1989; Kingston and Hardy, 1997; Zimmer-
man and Kitsantas, 1996) have generally compared one goal focus to another in
a specific sport context, the overriding message that comes from such studies is
that performers should use a variety of goal types to optimise their immediate
and long-term effects.
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Support for this proposal has been increasing. For example, Jones and Hanton
(1996) reported that the majority of the 91 swimmers in their sample set at least
two types of goal, with nearly half of the sample using a combination of perform-
ance, process and outcome goals. It was also reported that not one of the sample
set outcome goals exclusively. Filby et al. (1999), in the first sport-based study to
directly compare goal types in isolation and in combination, investigated the
effect of a multiple goal setting style on performance outcome in training and
competition. Although their control group was found to have engaged in spon-
taneous goal setting, the results suggested that multiple-goal strategies led to
significantly greater performance compared to any goal type in isolation. In addi-
tion to confirming the potential for outcome and performance goals to be
dysfunctional if used inappropriately, they contended that adopting a ‘process’
focus prior to and during performance would be beneficial when combined with
the motivational benefits of outcome and performance goals. This finding was
consistent in both practice and competition conditions. In their recent review,
Burton and Naylor (2002) found that six out of seven studies examining goal
focus supported the efficacy of using a combination of process, performance and
outcome goals rather than using any individually. Most recently, in a study of
mixed-ability athletes, Munroe-Chandler et al. (2004) reported that participants
utilised a variety of goal types for both training and competition, and specifically,
goals were more outcome-focused in competition, whereas in training they were
more based on self-referenced criteria (i.e. performance or process focused).
The body of research relating to the benefits of process goals, the widespread
use of rewards in sport and the extensive use of all goal types by athletes
reinforces the argument that it is not so much the specific types of goals that
athletes use in the context of their sport, but more the framework in which
these goals are organised and prioritised (Kingston and Hardy, 1994, 1997).
Filby et al. (1999) in supporting these views argued that process goals are most
beneficial when used within a hierarchy of goals that include performance and
outcome goals. Such a strategy, they argued, is likely to have significant advan-
tages when compared to simply dichotomising process and outcome goals
because they are respectively ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
While recognising the incongruence of theoretical frameworks and the moti-
vational functions of the contrasting conceptualisations of goals renders a
‘merging’ of the literatures problematic, we would like to highlight some research
that illustrates the potential relationships between achievement goals (i.e. wider
views of what achievement represents) and the specific discrete goals that per-
formers utilise. As we discussed briefly in the introduction, we hold the view
that, in addition to considering goals as direct regulators of behaviour, it is also
important to consider the cognitive drivers behind the setting of specific types of
goal, and the oft-reported moment-to-moment shifts in goal focus that occur
during engagement in sport-based activities. Adding weight to this suggestion,
Hall and Kerr (2001) argue that goals should be studied with the view that per-
sonal meaning acts as a critical mediator underpinning the goal-setting process,
and this ‘meaning’ is reflected in the goals that athletes set.
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Burton (1992) attempted to illustrate the potential link between achieve-
ment goals and discrete goal ‘states’ in his competitive-goal setting model.
Within it, he described how dispositional orientations would interact with
perceived ability to dictate the specific goals athletes set. While a number of
problems existed with the model which limits its use (for example, a number of
critical relationships are either unclear, or cannot be accommodated by the
model, key constructs are not adequately defined, and it fails to account for
the use of multiple goal types, or the orthogonality of achievement goals, cf.
Hall and Kerr, 2001), it has at least provided an impetus for adoption of an
achievement-goal framework for examining personal goals.
The relationship between achievement goal orientations (an individual’s
tendency to be task and/or ego involved) and the actual goal performers set was
fuelled by a debate between Hardy (1997, 1998) and Duda (1997). Duda (1992)
argued that ego-oriented athletes were more likely to set outcome goals, while
Duda et al. (1991) suggested that task-oriented individuals were more con-
cerned with the intrinsic facets or processes of performance; however, no empir-
ical evidence was provided to support this later suggestion. In questioning this
view, Hardy (1997) argued that there was no a priori reason why athletes with
high levels of ego orientation would not set process goals if it served to satisfy
their achievement orientation (i.e. to outperform others).
In an attempt to clarify this debate, Wilson et al. (2006) examined the rela-
tionship between process goals and goal orientations in a sample of 150 rugby
union players. In line with Duda et al.’s (1991) assertions, correlation and regres-
sion analysis results confirmed that a task orientation (i.e. ‘I have a personal desire
to improve my performance’, similar to task orientation as defined by Nicholls,
1984, 1989) had a strong relationship with process goals. However, correlation
results also showed that an ego orientation (i.e. ‘I have a personal desire to out-
perform my opponent’) had a positive relationship with process goals, which lends
support to Hardy’s (1997) argument. Wilson et al. (2006) concluded that those
who influence the achievement context (i.e. coaches) should not discourage high
levels of self-directed ego orientation as these athletes may also set process goals if
it serves to satisfy their achievement orientation (Hardy, 1997, 1998; Hardy et al.,
1996a).
If we consider the results of these studies in the context that achievement goals
not only play a significant role in an athlete’s decision to invest in an activity, but
that they give ‘meaning’ to the pursuit of personal goals (cf. Hall and Kerr, 2001),
it may not be the discrete goal per se that is important, but more the achievement-
based meaning attached to them. Future research needs to clarify the relation-
ship between goal perspectives (in particular task and ego-involvement) and the
discrete type of goals performers set (i.e. outcome, performance, process).
Other potential moderating variables
Hall and Kerr (2001) also identified goal commitment and the availability of
feedback as important moderators in the goal setting–performance relationship.
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There exists, however, limited research in sport that has explicitly examined
these aspects – consequently, they will be dealt with only in passing.
Locke and Latham (1985) hypothesised that goal setting will only be effect-
ive when feedback regarding progress towards an individual’s goal is present.
The difficulty of testing such a hypothesis in sport is that it is almost impossible
to prevent participants from receiving feedback in some mode or another while
the retaining ecological validity of any manipulation that is carried out. In
physical activity settings, however, feedback plus goals has been found to be
better at facilitating aerobic endurance performance, than either feedback or
goals in isolation (Bandura and Cervone, 1983). Focusing on feedback ‘type’
(cf. Hall and Kerr, 2001), Hall et al. (1987) found concurrent or terminal
feedback to have no effects on the goal-performance relationship.
Although there is no clear support for Locke and Latham’s hypothesis in
sport settings with generally goal-directed participants, it makes sense that any
moderating effects of feedback may be attributable to increases in effort (when
goal achievement is in doubt). However, the caveat to this proposal is that
when feedback indicates a wide discrepancy between current levels of perform-
ance and goals, diminishing self-efficacy might lead to negative motivational
and performance effects. Clearly, these predictions have yet to be validated in
ecologically valid sport-based studies.
In their seminal text, Locke and Latham (1985) hypothesised that higher
levels of commitment should lead to higher levels of performance. Further, in
1990, the same authors (Locke and Latham, 1990) argued that a great level of
choice in the process of setting goals would lead to greater commitment. Never-
theless, few performance differences have been identified between subjects being
assigned goals and those engaging in participatory goal setting (Hall and Kerr,
2001). In anticipating potential confounds, Locke and Latham (1990) argued
that, when goals are assigned, the level at which such goals are set influences the
performers’ perception of their anticipated capability (or certainly the assigner’s
view of their capabilities), which in turn affects self-efficacy. Conversely, they
propose that giving goal choice may lead to choices of non-optimal challenge.
Despite tentative support that assigned goals within a weight-training pro-
gramme facilitated performance compared to self-set goals (Boyce and Wada,
1994), researchers have remained cautious with regards to Locke and Latham’s
(1990) explanations which imply that simply assigning goals to sport participants
is as effective as involving them in the process (cf. Hall and Kerr, 2001).
Certainly, given that choice and autonomy (along with relatedness) have been
identified as fundamental psychological needs which specifically facilitate intrin-
sic motivation and psychological well-being (Deci and Ryan, 1985), it seems
logical that autonomy in the process of goal setting will facilitate its effectiveness
and have positive motivational consequences. Research to date (e.g. Boyce,
1992; Hall and Byrne, 1988), however, has failed to produce conclusive evidence
to support this view.
In reflecting on Kyllo and Landers’ (1995) meta-analysis, which identified that
cooperative and participatively set goals had greater effects than assigned goals,
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Hall and Kerr (2001) indicated that the degree to which the performer has
ownership of the goals may be critical, with a lack of ownership reflecting in a
lack of personal commitment, investment and performance. Although little
research has considered specific strategies to enhance commitment, publicly as
opposed to privately setting goals has been found to lead to greater levels of
performance (Kyllo and Landers, 1995). It is also unclear as to whether such goals
were participatively set, or what processes were involved in making them public.
One potential strategy to facilitate commitment is to encourage athletes to
engage in strategic planning (Hall and Kerr, 2001), and indeed Locke and
Latham (1990) identified such planning as a necessary precursor to the positive
effects of goal setting on performance. Certainly, a number of researchers have
explored the strategic use of different types of goals either through observation
of goal-setting practices, or through experimental manipulations as part of a
goal-setting training programme. Although goal commitment was not examined
explicitly in such studies, it is reasonable to suggest that involvement in the
process of setting and organising goals might facilitate commitment. Clearly,
this proposal needs to be confirmed empirically.
Drawing primarily on the reviews of Hall and Kerr (2001), and Burton and
Naylor (2002), this review of individual goal-setting research that had adopted
a state conceptualisation of goals started from the position that the robust
support for goal setting in industrial and organisational (I/O) settings had not
transferred to sport settings. Although Locke (1991, 1994) has argued that
methodological confounds can largely explain these disparate findings, exami-
nation of the literature implies that the very nature of sport and those engaged
within it are equally accountable. If we take each of the potential moderators in
turn, we are left with the following broad conclusions:
1 Moderate levels of goal difficulty appear most effective in facilitating
performance, and responses to extremely difficult goals are not as predicted
in Locke and Latham’s (1985) theory of goal setting – low-ability indi-
viduals faced with such goals redefine personal goals to ensure they are
salient and achievable.
2 While specific goals have been found to be better than no goals or vague
goals, subjects instructed to ‘do their best’ do not perform any worse. This
can be attributed to personal goal setting, which, it is argued, reflects funda-
mental differences of sport participants and within sport settings.
3 In terms of proximity, combinations of long-term and short-term goals have
more positive effects on performance than any single level of proximity
alone. However, this research tends to simply illustrate that goals per se are
better than no-goals. Further, short-term goals appear to act as flexible and
controllable stepping-stones that help to provide feedback and a sense of
achievement.
4 Goal-focus research suggests that process goals have some specific benefits;
however, it is also apparent that all goal types have the potential to facili-
tate performance and cognitions. It is clear that athletes utilise multiple
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goal types, and that this has wider benefits – the challenge is to confirm the
ideal recipe of goals, the mechanisms behind their effects and their organi-
sation within a framework of applied goal setting. Finally, given the role of
achievement goals as cognitive drivers, it is important to consider their role
within the process of goal setting in sport.
5 There is a dearth of research examining feedback (with respect to goal
setting) in sport settings. This may be because it is almost impossible to
effectively constrain feedback and retain a reasonable degree of ecological
validity in such work.
6 In terms of goal commitment, although Locke and Latham (1990) argued
that ‘choice’ should facilitate goal commitment, there is little evidence to
support this. Rather, it is suggested that it is the degree of ‘ownership’ with
regards the goal-setting process and the goals themselves that may be critical.
It is apparent from this overview that the varied research examining these
potential moderators of the goal setting–performance relationship has raised as
many questions as it has answered. A great deal of quality research needs to
done, and a number of critical issues need to be addressed to effectively illumi-
nate the area of individual goal-setting practices in sport. We hope to begin to
address these later in this chapter.
Goal setting in a team environment
Many sports are played in teams, yet the focus of sport-psychology research has
been principally on individuals (Woodman and Hardy, 2001). As teams are a
prevalent and salient part of sport (Widmeyer et al., 1992), it is imperative to
explore the application of goal setting with teams.
Locke and Latham (1985) briefly discussed the application of goal setting
within team sports in their review. They stated that setting goals for individual
and team sports are ‘basically the same in the sense that in team sports, each
individual has a specific job to do that requires particular skills’ (1985: 212).
However, they also highlighted that a key difference between individual and
team sport is that teams require cooperation and coordination to facilitate
effective performance. It is the concepts of coordination and cooperation, and
the impact these concepts may have on the application of goal setting within
teams, that will be the focus of this section.
Burton and Naylor (2002) described team/group goals as objectives estab-
lished for the collective performance of two or more individuals, and group goal
setting as the actual processes that underpin such actions. According to O’Leary-
Kelly et al. (1994), goal setting with teams, as opposed to individuals, is unique
due to the fact that (a) several goals (team, unit, individual) may be operating
simultaneously, (b) difficult goals may not lead to increased effort and persis-
tence due to the coordination requirements of team sport and (c) the actual
goal-setting process with teams is more challenging due to increased numbers
and coordination demands. Nevertheless, the lack of research focused on team
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goal setting in comparison to research focused on individual goal setting and
other team processes (i.e. cohesion) in sport might, in part, be attributable to the
lack of a specific conceptual framework.
Carron’s (1982) Conceptual Model of Cohesiveness in Sport Teams has
been employed by early researchers to aid them in making predictions regarding
the role goal setting may play in teams (see Carron and Hausenblas, 1998, for a
review). For example, research examining the group structure component of
Carron’s (1982) model has found goal setting contributed to role clarity and
role acceptance (Locke et al., 1981).
Zander (1971) hypothesised that goals within teams are generated by both
individuals and the team. Individuals set personal goals and goals for the team,
while goals generated by the team focus on goals for members and/or collective
team goals. Bray et al. (2002) supported Zander’s hypotheses in a sample of
155 male and 80 female intercollegiate athletes from various teams. Specifically
they found that athletes set both group and individual goals and reported setting
team goals for members and members’ goals for the team. Ducharme et al. (1996)
interviewed varsity athletes from 17 teams and found that individuals set goals
for themselves and for the team, and the team set collective goals, yet the team
did not set goals for its members. The equivocal findings of Bray et al. (2002) and
Ducharme et al. (1996) raises questions over the predictive ability of Zanders’
hypothesised relationships and highlights that further research testing these rela-
tionships is required. It is apparent from the research to date that both Carron’s
(1982) conceptual model and Zander’s (1971) proposed relationships between
individual- and team-generated goals lack predictive ability and specificity
regarding the actual role goals play within teams.
Researchers have suggested several ways that goals impact on performance
within teams. For example, goals affect team performance by influencing team
focus (Widmeyer and Ducharme, 1997), inter-group communication and overall
team commitment and satisfaction (Widmeyer et al., 1985). However, the influ-
ence of team goals on team performance has been hypothesised to be through
the mediating effect of cohesion (Brawley et al., 1993; Carron et al., 1997, 2002,
2003; Widmeyer and Ducharme, 1997; Widmeyer et al., 1992). The following
section details research that has focused on cohesion as a mediator of the team
goal setting–performance relationship.
Research in team goal setting
In contrast to research examining goal setting with individual athletes, there is
a comparative lack of empirical research focused on examining the influence of
team goal-setting processes. It has been suggested that group goal setting
directly influences performance via cohesion by providing a team ‘focus’ which
promotes inter-group communication and facilitates overall commitment and
satisfaction (Widmeyer and Ducharme, 1997). Widmeyer et al. (1992), in their
study of 145 team athletes, found that having a clearly stated team goal was
viewed as the most important contributor to task cohesion, and second most
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important for social cohesion. Acceptance of a team goal was rated as the top
contributor to social cohesion. Limitations of both Widmeyer and Ducharme
(1997) and Widmeyer et al. (1992) are (a) the cross-sectional nature of the
research design limits the authors’ ability to draw cause-and-effect conclusions
and (b) the ‘snap-shot’ look at the nature of goals within team sports. A number
of intervention/longitudinal studies have attempted to address these issues.
More recently, in an attempt to establish a framework for a team goal-setting
intervention, Kingston et al. (in preparation) investigated the impact of a team
goal-setting intervention on cohesion and self-rated performance. The experi-
mental group (n= 10) participated in two workshops designed to establish team
goals, unit goals and individual goals for the season. Results indicated that the
experimental group had significant increases in cohesion (group integration
task, group integration social, attraction to the group social) scores compared to
the control participants. The intervention group also had significant increases
in the perception of team performance compared to the control group.
Outside of research that has examined goals in the context of cohesion effects,
Brawley et al. (1992) investigated the nature of team goals using 154 athletes from
college and community teams across one competitive season. Participants were
asked to list up to five team goals for both practice and competition. Results
showed that 70 per cent of team goals set by athletes throughout the season were
non-specific (e.g. work hard in practice) and lacked description. Athletes focused
primarily on team process goals (e.g. to run the team offence correctly 85 per cent
of the time) for training (92 per cent) and team outcome goals (e.g. to win) for
competition (51 per cent) throughout the course of the season. Brawley et al.
(1992) also suggested that goals set with teams lack the specificity, quantitative
and behavioural dimensions recommended by previous individual goal-setting
research (e.g. Albinson and Bull, 1988).
Using a method of performance-posting, Anderson et al. (1988) manipulated
goal setting and goal sharing by setting goals (player-and-captain-agreed hit-rate
per minute) and displaying goal achievement (graph displaying each team
member’s actual hit-rate per minute) with a male ice hockey team over two
seasons. As a result of the goal setting and sharing manipulation, team perform-
ance improved significantly for the two years of the study. Anderson et al. (1988)
found that goal sharing had a greater effect on performance than did goal setting
or praise, but acknowledged that goal sharing is crucial for goal setting and vice
versa (Bandura and Simon, 1977). Although there are some questions regarding
the reliability of the goal-setting measures employed (Locke and Latham, 1984),
Lee (1988) examining the relationship between self-efficacy, goal setting and
performance (win/loss record) using nine female field hockey teams, found that
team performance was positively related to setting team performance goals. Medi-
ation analysis revealed that group goal setting had a stronger predictive relation-
ship with winning percentage than self-efficacy. Using a qualitative research
design with 14 elite (NCAA Division I) coaches, Weinberg et al. (2001) showed
that the goal-setting process for teams was distinct to individual goal setting
with regards to context (practice versus competition) and focus (physical versus
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psychological). Key outcomes of the research indicated that team goals tended to
be coach-dictated for competition yet player-derived for practice, and goals for
practice tended to be focused on physical aspects whereas goals for competition
were more psychologically focused. Nevertheless, the results also highlighted
many similarities between goal-setting processes for team and individual athletes
(i.e. player involvement, setting process, performance and outcome goals).
In a comparison of individual versus group goal setting, Johnson et al. (1997)
examined ten-pin bowling performance in 12 three-man novice bowling teams.
Participants in the group goal-setting condition (n= 4 teams) attempted to
achieve, for each game, an overall team score which was the average of
individual team members’ score from the previous game. The group goal-setting
condition significantly improved their bowling performance compared to the
individual goal-setting condition and ‘do your best’ control. Those in the group
goal-setting condition also set more difficult personal goals (when initial ability
was controlled for). Johnson et al. concluded that group goal setting may have
facilitated bowling performance due to the nature of the task (i.e. skill execution
involving cognitive decision-making components). Supporting this contention,
Jackson and Williams (1985) found that participants performed better individu-
ally on simple cognitive tasks, but on difficult tasks, being in groups facilitated
performance. Johnson and colleagues also suggested that social support, the task
demanding cooperation and task planning developed through having a common
focus, all lead to increased quality, accuracy and speed of performance (Johnson
and Johnson, 1985).
Critique of team goal-setting research
Locke (1991), in his critical review of early research into goal setting in sport,
highlighted a number of issues directed primarily at studies examining goal setting
with individuals. Many of the issues raised, however, can be equally applied to the
team goal-setting literature. The first methodological flaw identified by Locke
(1991) was the manipulation failure of the ‘do your best’ goal condition. Particip-
ants in control or ‘do your best’ groups in the team goal-setting intervention
studies outlined above (Brawley et al., 1993; Johnson et al., 1997; Kingston et al.,
in preparation) may have engaged in personal and/or team goal setting, unless
they were specifically prevented from doing so. Of the few strategies identified by
Locke (1991), the most pertinent and easily manageable without undermining the
ecological validity of field-based studies would be to conduct post-intervention
interviews to assess whether control group participants did actually engage in
personal/team goal setting. Perhaps one of the key issues when researching goal
setting within teams might not be the type of goal set. A more critical moderator
of the goal setting–team performance relationship may in fact be teams engaging
in the process of systematically developing goals and the strategic planning
involved when team members work towards goal attainment.
Another research issue that may impact upon the effectiveness of team goal-
setting research is whether assigned goals are sufficiently challenging. This is
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more critical for research conducted in laboratory settings or for research
involving concocted groups/teams (i.e. Johnson et al., 1997) when participants
are performing unfamiliar tasks. When participants have no pre-conceived idea
about what their performance standards are, any goal set for them is fairly
arbitrary until they record a baseline score. Johnson et al. (1997) attempted to
minimise the impact of this issue by assigning teams a goal that was 30 per cent
more difficult than the performance standard the team achieved at baseline.
However, clearly this limits the nature of team goals to those based on numeric
targets (i.e. performance goals). For team goal-setting research conducted in the
field (Brawley et al., 1993; Kingston et al., in preparation), goals were primarily
generated by participants, with guidance from a sport psychologist or coach, and
were developed to be both challenging yet realistic.
A further potential moderator or confound identified by Locke (1991) was the
issue of competition between participants during individual goal-setting research
– clearly, this may impact upon results and should be controlled for. When con-
sidered in the context of team goal-setting research, this issue is rather more
complex. Team goals are normally assigned by the practitioner, or developed and
agreed upon by the coach and/or team. This should result in team members
attempting to cooperate with other team members in their attempt to achieve the
team goal. However, when a team goal is set, individual team members may also
set personal goals that they believe will contribute to the team goal. If each team
member has personal goals, this may result in conflict between team members
when they are trying to achieve their personal goals. To minimise competition
between team members, personal goals should be shared, developed and agreed
upon by all team members. Future research should investigate the impact of these
processes (personal goal sharing, personal goal inter-team-member agreement)
upon team performance and other cognitive/motivation variables in team goal-
setting intervention studies.
As discussed earlier, Locke and Latham (1985) suggested key differences
between individual and team sports were the concepts of coordination and
cooperation. The next sub-section will consider these aspects and the research
surrounding them. As Fiore et al. (2001) state, it is through the examination of
these two concepts within team goal setting that our conceptual understanding
should advance.
Goal setting to influence coordination in teams
Steiner (1972) argued that a team’s actual productivity is the result of its poten-
tial productivity minus its faulty processes (i.e. poor coordination). The concept
of coordination within team-sport research has received scarce attention despite
Steiner’s suggestion that effective coordination may lead to increased team pro-
ductivity (Germain, 2005; Wilson and Mellalieu, 2007). Eccles and Tenenbaum
(2004) proposed a social–cognitive conceptualisation of team coordination and
communication in sport. For the purposes of this chapter, we will focus solely on
the coordination aspect as it relates specifically to goal-setting applications
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within teams. Eccles and Tenenbaum defined coordination as ‘integrating the
operations of the team in a timely way to form a composition of operations that
achieves satisfactory performance’ (2004: 543). Before the model is outlined in
relation to goal setting, some background information and definitions are salient
to facilitate understanding.
Industrial and organisational (I/O) psychologists utilised the terms ‘task
work’ (i.e. elements of a team member’s tasks that are not related to other team
members’ tasks) and ‘teamwork’ (i.e. elements of a team member’s tasks that are
related to other team members’ tasks) when describing team processes. It is the
concept of teamwork that introduces the need for coordination (Bowers et al.,
1997; McIntyre and Salas, 1995; Smith-Jentsch et al., 1998). Cannon-Bowers et
al. (1993) suggested that each team member’s knowledge of task work and
teamwork must be at least similar to other team members’ knowledge (i.e.
shared by all team members) for coordination to be effective. The sharing of
task work and teamwork knowledge by team members is coined ‘shared know-
ledge’ or ‘shared mental models’ (Stout et al., 1999) and is a critical element of
coordinated behaviour within teams. Ward and Eccles (2006) go further and
propose that goals and strategies of each team member must, at the very least,
be similar or complementary to those of others on the team for coordination
and successful performance to ensue.
With these concepts in mind, Eccles and Tenenbaum (2004) hypothesised
that teams require coordination (which relies on shared knowledge) to perform
effectively. Their model (see Figure 3.1) predicts that shared knowledge is
acquired through coordination that is developed prior to performance, within
performance and after performance. Eccles and Tenenbaum identified ‘setting
goals and objectives’ as a pre-performance coordination process. Pre-performance
coordination comprises of preparatory behaviours that enable a team to achieve
shared knowledge prior to performance. A limitation of Eccles and Tenenbaum’s
(2004) original conceptualisation is the lack of detail regarding the actual
processes (i.e. setting goals and objectives) that impact upon shared knowledge
and coordination.
Within I/O psychology settings, researchers examining the influence of shared
knowledge to enhance team coordination have focused on the role of goal
setting. For example, Larson and Schaumann (1993) found that specific, difficult
team goals were beneficial (i.e. increased motivation, improved performance)
when task-coordination requirements were low or when teams were allowed to
develop task action plans prior to task execution. When task-coordination
requirements were high (like in many interdependent team sports, e.g. basket-
ball, hockey, football), specific, difficult team goals resulted in reduced perform-
ance levels. Because individuals have multiple goals (i.e. personal, unit and
team), coordination losses may occur if there is a conflict between the team
member’s individual goals and team goals. For example, a full-back in rugby
union may want to counter-attack with ball in hand, while the team goal is to
play a territory game plan that requires him or her to kick. The result of this con-
flict between the full-back’s personal goal and the team goal may result in
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coordination losses between the full-back and his/her unit who, anticipating that
the full-back will kick, get into a position to chase the kick. However, the full-
back runs at the opposition to satisfy his or her personal goal, becomes isolated
and eventually loses possession.
In order to avoid team-performance decrements, Gully et al. (2002) suggested
that (a) highly interdependent tasks and sports (e.g. rugby union, football,
hockey, basketball) are likely to lead to the adoption of goals that facilitate coop-
erative strategies and coordination, (b) motivation to coordinate should increase
when personal goals match team goals, (c) group members should have an ade-
quate representation of their team members’ individual goals and (d) knowledge
about the team and individual goals of one’s team members are central features
of shared knowledge and team functioning. These suggestions have not been
empirically tested within a sporting context and would provide valuable informa-
tion for coaches regarding the impact of team goal setting on performance and
coordination.
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Figure 3.1 Conceptual framework of coordination in teams (source: reprinted, with
permission, from D. W. Eccles and G. Tenenbaum, 2004).
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There has been limited sport-based research testing the role of goal setting
that is underpinned by Eccles and Tenenbaum’s (2004) conceptual model of
coordination in team sports. Preliminary evidence from a qualitative study con-
ducted by Wilson and Mellalieu (2007) indicated that elite rugby union coaches
utilised both long- and short-term goals with individuals and the team. Coaches
also believed that goals should move from being detailed to general as match
time approached, and there was a strong emphasis by coaches on the link
between individual process goals, unit performance goals and team performance/
outcome goals. In addition, outcome goals (e.g. ‘Finish in the top four of the
premiership’) were only utilised with regards to long-term goals set at the outset
of the season and were avoided in preparation for individual games. An interest-
ing point raised by the majority of the coaches interviewed was the avoidance of
performance goals with a numerical quality (e.g. ‘Make 12 tackles in a game’).
Coaches suggested that players might chase their personal goal at the expense of
a team goal (e.g. ‘Keep our defensive alignment 90 per cent of the time’), result-
ing in coordination losses and deterioration in team performance. Coaches high-
lighted that performance goals which focused on percentages were more effective
for players (e.g. ‘Make 80 per cent of your attempted tackles’) and speculated
that this focus on a percentage, as opposed to a number, helped players to main-
tain focus on individual goal achievement while not compromising a focus
on team goals during performance. Perhaps this is because goal attainment is
sufficiently vague to warrant fine-grained attention. Aligned with the sugges-
tion regarding individual athletes, teams performing in a sport context may not
give up when goals are difficult, but simply readjust their goal. Therefore, Eccles
and Tenenbaum (2004) may need to consider including re-setting goals and
objectives in the within-performance part of their model.
Cooperation and competition effects of goal setting within teams
According to Deutsch (1949, 1973), there are two types of goals that are applica-
ble in team settings – independent and interdependent goals. Individuals who set
independent goals in teams give priority to their personal goals over group goals.
Individuals who set interdependent goals subordinate their personal goals to the
goals of the group. Deutsch (1980) also distinguished between two types of inter-
dependent goals, namely cooperative (i.e. one’s movement towards their goal
facilitates others achieving their goals) and competitive (i.e. one’s movement
towards their goal makes it less likely others will achieve their goals). Tjosvold
(2001b) suggested that individuals who set cooperative interdependent goals
(a) want to encourage team members to perform effectively, (b) are optimistic
about their interactions with team members and feel confident they can rely
on others, (c) are able to exchange information and resources, coordinate actions
and manage conflict constructively and (d) result in teams that are high in
friendliness, attraction and team spirit (i.e. cohesion). In contrast, team members
that set competitive interdependent goals (a) suspect others will not help them
and may work against them, (b) fail to exchange resources fully, coordinate with
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difficulty, resort to threats and insults that embarrass and arouse fears of losing
face and escalate their conflict and (c) result in teams that are characterised by
self-reliance, disinterest in coordination and distance from others (Tjosvold,
2001a). Research in I/O settings testing Deutsch’s (1980) argument (that teams
who set cooperative interdependent goals engage in adaptive team processes,
functioning and performance), showed that cooperative interdependent goals
were found to be associated with, but not sufficient for, successful interactions,
suggesting a limitation to the argument. Tjosvold (2001a) concluded that coop-
erative goal interdependence needs to be supplemented with interpersonal skills
(i.e. open communication, emotional intelligence and problem-solving coping
skills) to facilitate coordination and productivity.
In applying Deutsch’s (1980) argument to sport, team members should be
encouraged to set and work towards individual goals (interdependent coopera-
tive) that facilitate other team members’ goal achievement. For example, a foot-
ball player may want ‘to get the ball into the penalty box 20 per cent more times
per game’, which is congruent with his/her team members’ goal ‘to get 20 per cent
more shots on goal from corner kicks per game’. However, as Tjosvold (2001) sug-
gested, these two players would also need interpersonal skills (i.e. evaluate their
goal progress together) to ensure they were both working together to achieve their
goals.
In general, research findings from industrial and organisational settings have
indicated that cooperative interdependent goals led to increased shared vision
(Wong et al., 2005) and were positively associated with a problem-solving
approach and learning from mistakes (Tjosvold et al., 2004). Managers who
were described as ‘cooperative interdependent goal setters’ were thought to
influence their employees effectively (Tjosvold et al., 2001). In a sporting
context, the findings of Wong et al. (2005) suggest that if performers were
encouraged to set cooperative interdependent goals this may lead to the
empowerment of team members (Kidman, 2001) and unity amongst the team.
In contrast, setting competitive interdependent goals (i.e. ‘Ensure I, as opposed
to my striking partner, get 80 per cent of goal shooting opportunities in this
game’) and independent goals (i.e. ‘Ensure I mark my opponent effectively
90 per cent of the time during this game’) may lead to athletes neglecting the
interests of their team members.
In sport, getting team members to set interdependent cooperative goals may
promote problem-solving interactions that may lead to less repetition of mis-
takes. For example, the use of ‘blaming’ interactions (i.e. ‘Player A did not kick
accurately from the corner and that is why I could not get my shots on target’), if
done in an open, honest and constructive manner, may promote accountability
for players’ actions (Tjosvold et al., 2004). This accountability may promote
effective decision-making, coordination and performance. However, this sugges-
tion has not been empirically tested in a sport setting and is an avenue for future
research.
In order to be perceived as an effective leader by their athletes, coaches
should try to set cooperative interdependent goals for/with their athletes (and
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avoid setting competitive interdependent and independent goals; Tjosvold
et al., 2001). Due to the nature of cooperative interdependent goals, cooperative
strategies (i.e. communicating plans, problem-solving, coping with setbacks) are
required between team members and between coach and team members to
facilitate goal achievement. Consequently, it may be the utilisation of these
strategies that moderates the relationship between goals and performance – this
area would be a challenging focus for future research.
Goal sharing
Team performance is generally influenced by the degree to which team goals are
shared (Swezey and Salas, 1992). In order to increase coordination, promote
cooperative interdependent goal strategies and enhance team members’ shared
mental models, each individual team member’s goals should be shared. Goal
sharing represents knowledge of a goal rather than having a common goal
(Lee et al., 1991). Earley and Northcraft (1989) suggested that sharing goals
facilitates member cooperation, and the discussion of performance strategies
may minimise conflict/coordination losses arising from task interdependence.
Hollenbeck and Klein (1987) argued that sharing goals increases commitment
to one’s goal. Anderson et al.’s (1988) findings indicated that goal sharing
should increase coordination, decrease the potential for conflict and improve
task performance in highly interdependent teams (e.g. field hockey).
Earley and Northcraft (1989) suggested that the advantages of sharing goals
will only be realised if team members work together to develop their individual
goals so there is agreement and approval among team members of each person’s
individual goals. For example, future research should extend the protocols
outlined by Munroe et al. (2002) and Kingston et al. (in preparation) to include
an additional stage whereby individual athletes would develop and share
their personal goals with relevant team members. This process would involve
(a) a discussion between team members about how each individual would con-
tribute to the achievement of unit/team goals, (b) how each individual would
support team members in their movement towards personal goal achievement
and (c) development of unit-/team-based strategies to minimise difficulties in
the achievement of personal goals. Future research should examine the impact
of goal sharing on performance and other coordination-related behaviours
(i.e. communication, problem-solving) in teams that are highly interdependent
(i.e. hockey, football, basketball, rugby union) to test Earley and Northcraft’s
(1989) suggestion.
Within a team context, it is also important to ensure that goals are coopera-
tive, especially within highly interdependent teams (Tjosvold et al., 2001, 2004;
Wong et al., 2005). For example, an individual team member’s process goals
should lead to the attainment of a unit’s (sub-group of team members normally
with specific common roles) performance goal, which should also lead to the
attainment of the team’s outcome goal. The link between the three goals should
be transparent to all team members (Wilson and Mellalieu, 2007). Any goal
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within the team that is competitive (i.e. the achievement of the goal will lead
to failure to achieve another goal) may be detrimental to performance.
In the preceding paragraphs, we have attempted to highlight how goal-
setting research mainly conducted in I/O settings has implications and applica-
tion to sport. However, Cannon-Bowers and Bowers (2006) suggested that
lessons learned in the workplace may not generalise to sports teams for several
reasons. For example, sports teams may require more interdependence compared
to working groups due to the nature of the tasks and time pressures involved in
sport (for a full review of the differences between work groups and sports teams,
see Cannon-Bowers and Bowers, 2006). In addition, O’Leary-Kelly et al. (1994)
highlighted that I/O psychology research frequently utilises concocted groups
(i.e. formed for the purpose of the research; McGrath, 1984) in laboratory
settings to examine the impact of goal setting on performance and other
cognitive/behavioural variables. The results of studies that involve concocted
groups/teams, as opposed to intact or natural groups/teams, should therefore, be
interpreted with caution.
Overarching implications from team goal-setting research (sport and I/O
settings) are that: (a) cohesion appears to mediate the goal setting–performance
relationship, (b) the sharing of personal goals that contribute to team goals may
influence coordination, performance and reduce conflict, (c) team goals should
be difficult (to enhance collective motivation) but teams should be allowed
to develop action plans prior to performance when performance coordination
demands are high, (d) coaches should encourage athletes to set cooperative
interdependent goals to enhance motivation, shared vision, effective problem-
solving, effective superior–subordinate relationships and performance, and
finally, (e) coaches should discourage their athletes from setting competitive
interdependent and independent goals to avoid team members engaging in
exploitation, blaming and developing ineffective superior–subordinate relation-
ships. The challenge for researchers in sport settings is to design field-based
research studies with high ecological validity in order to explore the proposi-
tions outlined here.
Conceptual and practical issues
Throughout this critique a number of issues have arisen that have potentially
undermined the transfer of the findings of goal-setting research from industrial/
organisational settings to the context of sports. Many of these issues have been
considered briefly already, as part of the reviews; however, the purpose of this
section is to highlight those that we think are most pertinent in terms of
moving the study and use of goal setting in sport forwards. In highlighting these
issues, we will also attempt to provide some potential solutions in terms of how
work in these areas may be developed to facilitate the use and application of
goal setting in sport.
One of principal factors undermining the transferability of goal-setting
findings from industrial and organisational settings to the sport domain is the
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operationalisation of goals. As discussed in the introduction, Locke and associ-
ates (Locke, 1968; Locke and Latham, 1985, 1990) recognised that their view of
goals as the object or aim of an action – that is, ‘what an individual is con-
sciously trying to do’ (Locke, 1968: 159) – was limited in so far that it provided
only a first-level explanation of human behaviour (Hall and Kerr, 2001). It can
be described as such because it only deals with the immediate precursors of
human action, and makes no attempt to specify broader roots of human action.
According to Beggs (1990), what is apparent from the early descriptions of goals
and the research findings regarding their effects is that they were focused solely
on maximising output, rather than considering other cognitions (e.g. needs,
values, attitudes) which are regarded as the backdrop to action (Locke and
Henne, 1986; cf. Beggs, 1990). This limited view of goals has been acknow-
ledged previously; for example, Hall and Kerr (2001) suggested that Locke
and Latham’s (1990) operational definition excludes aims focusing on the
behavioural processes or the antecedents of performing some action.
In the sport domain, activities often take place in an overtly competitive
context, motives are often intense as well as being varied and changeable,
arousal and anxiety can be rife, and coaches interact in a manner that both
supports and at times undermines facilitative cognitions and performance.
Given these factors and the limitations of Locke and Latham’s conceptualisa-
tion of goals outlined in the previous paragraph, it is unsurprising perhaps that
research into goal setting in the dynamic world of sport has often produced
results incongruent with those found in business-type settings. Adopting an
approach based on Locke’s (1968) and Locke and Latham’s (1990) operationali-
sation of goals does not account for multi-level views of goals, for example in
terms of their antecedents and affective consequences, and fails to accommo-
date many of the factors and relationships that go on within sport and its
participants. One might argue therefore that, in order to fully report on the
potential benefits of goals to coaches and athletes (as Locke and associates were
able to do with respect to employee motivation) there is a need to consider
(a) the motivational aspects of goals, (b) their antecedents and (c) their regula-
tory effects. Burton’s (1992) competitive goal-setting model was argued to
provide a more comprehensive explanation of goal-setting processes in sport;
however it has been criticised at a number of levels which limits its usefulness as
a heuristic tool. The criticisms have taken a number of forms: (a) the failure to
substantiate a number of assumptions it makes at a conceptual or empirical level
(e.g. the relationship between goal orientations and goal-setting styles), (b) the
lack of precision in the description of relationships between key constructs,
(c) it fails to accommodate the notion of orthogonality within achievement
goals and (d) it does not account for the potential overriding effects of situa-
tional factors (e.g. motivational climate) on goal orientations (cf. Hall and
Kerr, 2001). Burton and Naylor (2002) have since proposed a revised model,
which holds some promise, however, some limitations appear to remain –
exhaustive testing will, nevertheless have the potential to illuminate under-
standing of the underpinnings, functions and effects of goals.
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Goal parameters
In sport, there is limited evidence to support Locke and Latham’s (1990) theory
in relation to the notion of goal difficulty; in fact, athlete responses to
extremely difficult goals, rather than leading to a withdrawal of resources, often
lead individuals to redefine their goals in line with what they view as being
achievable. Perhaps this indicates that absolute goal difficulty is not really the
key issue; rather, as practitioners we should concern ourselves with the potential
motivational consequences of athlete realisation that they are unlikely to
achieve their performance or outcome goal. If, however, athletes hold multiple
goals (as has been supported by the work of, for example, Filby et al., 1999;
Jones and Hanton, 1996), or have multiple criteria for success, then the poten-
tial negative effects of failing to achieve a target level of performance could be
buffered by achievement of other goals. For example, focusing on behaviours
associated with technique or employing specific self-regulation strategies can
still be carried out successfully. Consequently, the potential negative motiva-
tional and cognitive effects of quantifiable ‘failure’ can be softened by executing
specific processes, or by the learning opportunities associated with refining these
processes.
In terms of goal specificity, the lack of direct support for Locke’s prediction –
that subjects simply instructed to do their best will perform worse than those
with specific objectives – raises one of the central issues potentially undermining
the transferability of research in this area to sports. The failure of experimental
conditions to discriminate between goal effects suggests that, personal, perhaps
even spontaneous, goal setting occurs irrespective of the manipulation or lack
thereof (in the case of control group participants), and attempts to control it.
One could argue that, in spite of experimental control, the process of internalis-
ing, processing and problem solving, and then strategising, is an integral part
of engagement in achievement activities such as sport. Consequently, even a
relative beginner who has actively pursued other such sports, when met with a
new task/challenge, is likely to engage in, or revert to, evaluation and perform-
ance strategies adopted in similar evaluative (self or other) situations. The issue
of how and why this ‘learned response’ has been acquired and socialised is of
course open to conjecture, and will continue to be explored and debated.
The issues associated with proximity and the focus of goals could be argued to
be two sides of the same coin – research in both areas reinforces the need for goal
setting to be a systematic process. This process should exist within a framework
where immediate goals facilitate the achievement of wider objectives, and where
the organisation and prioritisation of such goals reflects a variety of personal and
situational factors. Short-term goals which are controllable and flexible, and
which maximise opportunities for ongoing feedback and achievement (e.g.
process-based goals), should be used as stepping stones, or an immediate focus in
pursuit of specific performance outcomes (e.g. hitting a target or achieving a pre-
determined numeric product of performance). Furthermore, these intermediate
targets might reasonably represent the route by which longer-term or broader/
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wider objectives, such as winning a tournament (i.e. an outcome goal), might be
realised. Such a framework may enable (a) the positive motivational and affec-
tive qualities of the different goals to be maximised, while buffering against the
potential negative effects associated with, for example, a lack of control over
social comparison based targets, and (b) athletes’ use of multiple goals to be har-
nessed in a more structured and strategic manner. To summarise, longer-term
outcome-based goals give an overall direction to which performers allocate
personal resources, while short-term process goals can act as more immediate
objectives – the pursuit of which will facilitate intensity.
When formulating their theory, Locke and Latham (1990) identified a number
of factors that they argued would determine the strength of the goal
setting–performance relationship: ability, feedback, commitment, task complexity
and barriers to goals. Consideration of these factors was clearly a driver for the
hypotheses described by Locke and Latham (1985), and which underpinned their
proposed systematic examination of goal-setting theory in the context of sport. It
is apparent from reviewing the literature on goal setting in the context of sports
that these factors can be affected by the nature of the goals themselves. For
example, increased levels of goal commitment have been linked to strategic
planning by the athletes in pursuit of their goals, and to the degree to which the
performer has ownership of the goal (Hall and Kerr, 2001). Both of these are
more likely to be supported by controllable personalised self-referenced goals that
act as meaningful ‘stepping-stones’ in pursuit of wider longer-term objectives
(i.e. process goals). If we take this line of logic, and apply it to all those factors
outlined by Locke and Latham (1990), examination of the literature suggests that
goals set should ideally satisfy the following criteria: (a) support perceptions of
ability, (b) facilitate commitment, (c) ensure ongoing feedback regarding imme-
diate performance and progression towards wider objectives and (d) have strategy
development and ongoing planning as integral parts of the goal-setting process.
In addition to considering those variables that might alter the nature of the
relationship between goals and performance, one also needs to consider the
mechanisms through which goals influence performance (i.e. the mediating
variables). According to Locke and Latham (1990), the direct mediators might
include: focusing the individual on task-relevant cues, optimisation of effort and
persistence over a protracted period. They further suggested that once goal
commitment is achieved, these direct mediators operate automatically. At an
indirect level, problem-solving and strategic planning facilitate goal attainment.
The challenge for researchers aiming to provide a more parsimonious theory of
the relationship between goal setting and performance is to develop a clearer
picture of the variables that determine the strength of the relationship between
goals per se and performance, as well as identifying the mechanisms through
which different types of goals facilitate performance and its associated cognitions,
behaviours and affective responses.
In association with this need to more effectively examine those variables that
are ‘hypothesised’ to moderate or mediate the relationship between goals and
performance, it is important to consider the use of acronyms as an applied tool
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when promoting goal setting in sport. One of the original acronyms used was
SCRAM (Fuoss and Troppman, 1981), which described the properties of goals
that should lead to effective performance as being specific, challenging, realistic,
achievable and measurable. Similarly, the acronyms of SMART, SMARTER
and MASTER (representing: measurable, adjustable, specific, time-based, exciting
and realistic) have also been used, though their origins do not appear to be docu-
mented to our knowledge. While on one hand the use of such acronyms can
potentially facilitate goal choices, adherence and act as useful educational tools,
they do perpetuate a relatively narrow conceptualisation of goals, and so may not
always be as useful as they first appear. For example, in the context of setting goals
associated with numeric ‘products’ of performance (e.g. a time to achieve in a race,
or a score to achieve in, for example, a round of golf), the appropriateness of such
goals can be broadly evaluated against the acronym. However, sometimes such
numeric targets might actually become a hindrance (Beggs, 1990; Kingston and
Hardy, 1997). For example, Wilson and Mellalieu (2007) conducted a qualitative
investigation with elite rugby union coaches and found that when setting goals for
individuals performing in team sports, numbers attached to performance/process
goals should be avoided (e.g. ‘Make 12 tackles in the next game’), because this
may result in athletes focusing on achieving their individual goal at the expense of
a team goal (e.g. ‘Keep our defensive organisation intact 90 per cent of the time’).
They suggested that more appropriate measurable goals should focus on percent-
ages (e.g. ‘Make 90 per cent of my tackles in the next game’) to avoid such issues.
Furthermore, given that many of the goals that athletes set do not fall into this
‘type’ (see Burton and Naylor, 2002; Jones and Hanton, 1996; Munroe-Chandler
et al., 2004), i.e. they are equally likely to be associated with processes of perform-
ance in the immediate sense, the use of such acronyms might actually create con-
fusion and/or undermine educational efforts. Clearly such educational approaches
should ensure that all goal types are considered in developing snappy initiatives to
promote effective goal setting in sport.
Personal and situational factors
According to Hall and Kerr (2001), the critical process that influences goal
effects is not so much the goal itself, but rather the athletes’ interpretation of
information concerning progress towards those goals. Specifically, athletes’ goal
perspectives give meaning to the investment of personal resources directed at
accomplishing some discrete goal. Thus, achievement goals provide a framework
within which an individual can interpret performance-related information, i.e.
judging competence and defining success or failure. This lends further support for
the view that, in order to fully understand goal effects, goal setting should be
examined from a multi-level perspective where antecedents, cognitions and
affect are considered.
Another social-cognitive approach to motivation that might aid understand-
ing of inter-individual differences in the setting of goals is Deci and Ryan’s (1985)
self-determination theory. Self-determination theory considers the regulatory
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processes through which goals are pursued. Deci and Ryan (2000) argue that the
impact of goals reflects the extent to which attainment of, and the process of, goal
pursuit satisfies the fundamental human needs of competence, autonomy and
relatedness. They go further to suggest that the fulfilling of these needs is what
gives goals their psychological potency, and thus if goals were not related to these
needs, their impact on achievement would be negligible. Research should there-
fore consider the potential mediating role that individual psychological needs and
such variables have on the goal setting–performance relationship.
Motivational climate
According to achievement-goal theory (Nicholls, 1984, 1989), goal orientations
(individual tendencies to be task and/or ego involved) interact with individual per-
ceptions of the achievement environment to determine moment-to-moment states
of involvement (task or ego involvement). An important socio-environmental
factor assumed to predict cognitive and affective responses is the motivational
climate created by the coach or leaders (Ntoumanis, 2001), and the motiva-
tional attributes of these are presumed to play a critical role psychologically,
emotionally and behaviourally (Duda, 2001). Based on work in education settings
(Epstein, 1989), and grounded in the achievement-goal framework, Ames (1992)
proposed that two motivation climates existed which could be applied to a sport
context; namely, mastery and performance climates. A mastery climate was in
operation if individuals were given time to master a task, effort was rewarded,
groups were not based on ability, mistakes were emphasised as being part of learn-
ing and success was evaluated with regards to personal improvement (Ames,
1992). A performance climate was in operation if there was a set time to master a
task, superior performance over others was rewarded, groupings were based on
ability, mistakes were punished and success was evaluated with regards to out-
performing others (Ames, 1992). Recent studies have suggested that the motiva-
tional climate is more important than goal orientations in determining individual
levels of motivation (e.g. Cury et al., 1996).
To date, no research has empirically tested the relationship between motiva-
tional climate and the actual goals performers set. There is evidence to support the
link between a mastery climate and task orientation and a performance climate
and ego orientation (e.g. Brunel, 1999; Creswell et al., 2003; Newton and Duda,
1999; Standage et al., 2003). Accepting the limitations of incongruent theoretical
underpinnings, one might still predict that a congruent relationship exists
between climate and the nature of goals, as that which has been proposed to exist
between goal orientations and discrete goals (i.e. task orientation and process
goals, ego orientation and process/outcome goals). For example, individual ath-
letes exposed to a strong mastery climate might set more process goals compared
to athletes in a strong performance climate, who may set more outcome goals
(but not predispose them against setting process goals; see Wilson et al., 2006).
In support of the essence of the propositions, recent research by Reinboth
and Duda (2006) suggests that a mastery climate may be supported by (amongst
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other things) encouraging athletes to develop internalised performance stand-
ards through self-monitoring and ongoing performance evaluation, both of
which reflect a process-based focus for goals. At a practical level, creating a more
task-involving ‘mastery’ motivational climate by applying Epstein’s (1989)
TARGET dimensions has the potential to facilitate the use of goals based on
learning, development of skills and evaluation of performance relative to per-
sonal (as opposed to normative) standards. Ames (1992) identified several struc-
tural features of the achievement context that influence motivational climate.
To foster a mastery climate, Ames contends that (a) tasks should be inclusive,
self-referenced and based on an individual’s ability level, (b) learners should
be involved in decision-making regarding the tasks and they should be recog-
nised and evaluated in terms of individual effort, knowledge and skill develop-
ment, (c) they should work in small, mixed-ability, cooperative groups and
(d) should be given flexible (and maximal) time for improvement (cf. Morgan
and Kingston, 2008).
Preliminary research suggests that manipulation of the TARGET structures
can facilitate a more mastery-involved motivational climate and enhance moti-
vational responses (Morgan and Carpenter, 2002; Morgan and Kingston, 2008;
Theeboom et al., 1995). The obvious extension of this work is to identify and
clarify whether these effects are attributable to a change in the goals and/or the
meaning attached to goals in this type of achievement context.
Reconceptualisation of goal focus
We have previously argued that employing Locke’s original view of goals in
sport was perhaps overly narrow. Additionally, exploration of the literature into
the specific primary focus of goals and anecdotal accounts of goal setting in
applied situations leads us to propose that the trichotomous distinction of
outcome, performance and process goals may need to be refined.
Hardy and Nelson (1988) initially distinguished between three different
types of goals. Outcome goals are based on the end-product of a specified event
and may involve interpersonal comparison of some kind (e.g. a finishing place
in a race, or winning and losing). Performance goals are self-referenced, and
refer to a specific end-product of performance; they normally involve a numeric
value (e.g. the total number of putts taken in the duration of a round of golf).
Finally, process goals centre on the execution of behaviours, skills and strategies
(e.g. technique, form, thought processes to regulate behaviour) that are integral
to effective task execution. Outcome and performance goals are distinguishable
because outcome goals are normatively referenced, whereas performance goals
are self-referenced. Research has supported this distinction, and indeed they
have been argued to have qualitatively different effects on performance and
associated cognitions (e.g. Burton, 1989; Filby et al., 1999; Kingston and Hardy,
1997; Zimmerman and Kitsantas, 1996).
Having clarified the delineation between the two types of self-referenced goals,
a number of researchers have provided support from the use of process-based goals
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to facilitate sports performance (e.g. Filby et al., 1999; Kingston and Hardy, 1997;
Zimmerman and Kitsantas, 1996). Such a directive, however, has been widely
debated in the context of learning and coaching because instructing performers to
consciously focus on their body movements during skill execution is not an effect-
ive learning strategy (Baumeister, 1984; Hardy et al., 1996b; Jackson et al., 2006;
Masters, 1992; Wulf and Prinz, 2001). In their dart-throwing task, Zimmerman
and Kitsantas (1996) failed to find support for the possible liabilities of awareness
when learning motor skills. In attempting to explain this apparent confound,
Kingston and Hardy (1997) proposed that process goals should be tailored accord-
ing to the skill level of the performer, and further that they may actually serve
qualitatively different functions for athletes. On the one hand, less-able perform-
ers may utilise process goals to focus attention on key elements of performance,
while more-able performers may use them as holistic conceptual cues for the
to-be-performed behaviour, which thus reduces the potential for performance
disruption caused by explicit monitoring (Hardy et al., 1996b; Kingston and
Hardy, 1994, 1997). While preliminary research has failed to illuminate this issue,
the debate raises an interesting question: are there other self-referenced-type goals
that facilitate perceptions of control and ownership, ensure a task focus, yet do
not suffer because they encourage self-monitoring in the manner associated with
process-oriented goals?
Zimmerman and Kitsantas (1996), using a learning paradigm, examined the
effects of two goal types: process and product goals. Their operationalisation of
process goals was in line with that forwarded by Hardy and Nelson (1988), while
they described product-oriented goals as those that specify the outcomes of learn-
ing efforts. They suggested that ‘product goals shift learners’ attention away from
the strategic means to task outcomes’ (Zimmerman and Kitsantas, 1996: 62).
Drawing upon the work of information-processing theorists (e.g. Carver and
Scheier, 1981), which has shown that paying attention to other aspects of the
task can be adaptable once elements of a complex skill become automatised,
Zimmerman and associates suggested that product goals should assist learners
when they are applying their routinised skills to natural conditions (cf. Zimmer-
man and Kitsantas, 1996). In terms of delineating between the different types of
goal focus, it is apparent that their definition of product goals encapsulates both
outcome (e.g. based on outperforming others) and performance (i.e. personal
performance targets that are normally numeric) goals.
Within their review outlining a rationale supporting the use of process goals as
a learning strategy, and based on the discussions of Singer et al. (1983), Zimmer-
man and Kitsantas (1996) outlined what they described as a ‘non-awareness’
strategy. This involved focusing on such things as the pre-planned form of the
movement, a specific single situational cue (such as the seam of the ball or the
centre of the target), and ignoring movement information and other situational
cues as the task is executed. This notion of non-awareness ties in nicely with
the recent work of Gabrielle Wulf and associates (e.g. Wulf and Prinz, 2001).
Reflecting on Singer’s (1985, 1988) five-step approach to skill learning (which
encourages a task focus while distracting them from their own movements), Wulf
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and associates argued that cues used to focus attention need to be ‘external’
(e.g. on the dimples of the golf ball, the anticipated trajectory, or the target)
rather than ‘internal’ (e.g. on body movements themselves), thus taking atten-
tion away from the required movement pattern (Wulf et al., 2000). More specifi-
cally, Wulf and colleagues found that directing attention to the anticipated
environmental effects of the movement (e.g. the consequence of kicking a ball)
was more effective than focusing on the action itself (Lawrence and Kingston,
2008). This supports Prinz’s (1997) action–effect hypothesis that suggests that
actions are planned and controlled most effectively by their intended effects.
Based on this notion of ‘effect goals’, we would propose that such a strategy
or focus represents a practically relevant and qualitatively distinguishable goal
type that, while self-referenced (in so far that they do not involve social com-
parison) and task-based, do not promote conscious control of the skill itself
(which is likely to undermine skill execution, especially when it is largely auto-
mated). ‘Effect’ goals might thus be defined as those where the primary focus is
on the physical and environmental effects of task execution. While self-
referenced, they are distinct from process goals because they are consequences
of movements rather than an integral component of the skill. Examples of
‘effect’ goals might include the target, or the anticipated line, flight or trajectory
of the ball. These goals are distinguishable from process goals which focus on
such aspects as technique, form, thought processes and/or strategies that are
integral to effective task execution.
Figure 3.2 provides an illustration of how ‘effect’ goals might be represented
in a pictorial delineation of the different goal types. We have also shown how
these types of goals might be distinguishable from other goal types in terms of
the degree of personal control the individual exerts in pursuit of goal attain-
ment; and, in team situations, the degree to which fellow team members need
to be involved in the setting and planning of such goals.
It can also be seen that we have distinguished between three types of
process-based goals: (a) those associated with technical aspects (e.g. focusing on
the movement of the hands or shoulders while making a stroke), (b) those
associated with self-regulation (e.g. adhering to a performance routine or main-
taining a regular breathing pattern) and (c) those associated with strategic
aspects (e.g. staying within two yards of an opposing player when their team is
on the offence). This distinction reflects research (e.g. Wilson and Mellalieu,
2007) and anecdotal accounts of the nature of goals utilised by athletes that fall
under the broader category of process-based goals.
Applied implications
Throughout this review, we have attempted to bridge the theory–practice link by
illustrating how the evolving knowledge base might be effectively applied to the
domain of sport. Before drawing some conclusions and identifying explicitly a
number of potential avenues for future research, we would like to illustrate how a
number of the research findings to date, the logical proposals based on work
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within teams at a sport and business level and the refined distinction between
the different goal types can be used to guide goal setting at an individual and a
team level. It should be noted, however, that these proposals represent ‘best
judgements’ founded on the information to hand – clearly intervention-based
studies utilising all or part of these suggestions are required to validate these
proposals.
Application at an individual level
There is considerable empirical and anecdotal support for the use of process-based
goals as a primary focus in competitive situations, mainly because they promote a
task focus. Additionally, however, they can serve as controllable and flexible step-
ping stones in pursuit of performance and outcome goal ‘achievement’. The
caveat to these suggestions is that the process goals pursued by individual per-
formers should be tailored according to the context (e.g. practice or competition)
and their skill level. According to the ‘reinvestment’ hypothesis (Baumeister,
1984; Masters, 1992), the explicit focus elicited through attending to bodily
movement while executing tasks is likely to disrupt performance in more capable
performers. However, while this notion of ‘skill’ level as a moderator of the
process goal–performance relationship has still to be supported in sport-based
research, a number of researchers (e.g. Kingston and Hardy, 1997; Zimmerman
and Kitsantas, 1996) proposed that process goals of a more holistic nature, for
example those that focus on a single context-relevant conceptual cue (e.g.
smooth, extend or tempo), would avoid the potential interference highlighted in
Master’s hypothesis.
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Low
High
High
Low
Goal focus
Process goals
– Self-regulatory.
– Technical.
– Strategic.
Effect goals
Performance goals
Outcome goals
Self-referenced
(process)
Self-referenced
(product)
Norm-referenced
(product)
Team-member
involvement Control
Figure 3.2 Delineation of goal types.
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Many skilled performers, particularly in closed-skill sport tasks (e.g. a golf
swing, a place kick in rugby union or a basketball free-throw), describe focusing
on the target, or imagining seeing the ball follow a desired path, as their primary
focus. This focus on ‘effects’ might ensure a task focus, yet guard against the
potential for conscious processing, and so be highly pertinent as an objective.
The important point here is that there may need to be some sort of automated
routinised behaviour before adopting an ‘effect’ focus to ensure that the indi-
vidual is absorbed fully into the task and not liable to distraction. However, this
idea requires empirical support.
The use of performance goals (numeric objectives) to evaluate performance
levels is an integral component of many sports. Burton’s (1989) study broadly
supported their adoption; however, he also added that available research
(Roberts, 1984) and anecdotal evidence suggested that most athletes do not
spontaneously evaluate their competence based on performance goals. Never-
theless, performance tracking through numeric criteria is widespread. While
some research suggests that such goals can have a positive motivational effect
(Burton, 1989), and thus may be used as intermediate stepping stones in the
pursuit of, for example outcome goals, they should not be used as a primary
focus because, although being self-referenced, they may be undermined by
external factors such as the environment or the quality of the opposition
(Beggs, 1990; Kingston and Hardy, 1997).
The value placed upon outcome goals such as winning are clearly emphasised
in our modern sport culture, and there is no doubt that the advent of profes-
sionalism and the tremendous rewards available in sport ensure that the import-
ance of winning will continue to be emphasised. Consequently, there is little
doubt as to the positive motivational function of such goals – as we pointed out
earlier, such goals may give athletes an overall direction for their personal
resources (e.g. ‘I want to become world number one’). Indeed, research has sup-
ported the value placed upon outcome goals (Weinberg et al., 2001); however,
according to Burton and Naylor (2002), athletes have become more sophistic-
ated in their use of process and performance goals to realise their desired
outcome goals – their importance lies in their long-term motivational function.
The preceding paragraphs have outlined a possible framework for utilising
goals in sport. However, what has become apparent within our critique is that,
in order to explain inter- and intra-individual differences in goal-setting prac-
tices and fluctuations in the nature of discrete goals used, it may be important to
consider individual achievement goals (i.e. the meaning that individuals give to
their goals). We would like to outline this case a little more explicitly and
provide an applied illustration.
It has often been posited that high-level athletes may hold simultaneously
high levels of task and ego orientations; that is, they have similarly high tend-
encies to be both task and ego involved in achievement settings (e.g. Hardy,
1997). This is because these goal orientations are viewed as orthogonal, or
independent. Although there remains some conceptual confusion, Harwood
and associates provide a compelling argument that, while it is quite possible for
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an individual to have simultaneous ‘tendencies’ for task and ego involvement
(i.e. to be high task and high oriented), in a moment-to-moment sense ‘one
cannot be task and ego involved at the same time’ (Harwood et al., 2000: 240).
Consequently, if we adopt this viewpoint, at an applied level it is critical to
consider both the antecedents to moment-to-moment fluctuations in states of
involvement, and the motivational, behavioural and affective consequences of
judging competence and defining success and failure along the associated lines.
As we have outlined in the previous paragraphs, coaches are likely (and
quite rightly in our view) to promote the value of goals that do not emphasise
social comparison during competition, as it is unlikely that focusing on such
would be the most effective goal-setting strategy in comparison to a process- or
task-based focus. However, if we consider an individual athlete who in a general
sense has a potentially (for an athlete who has multiple ways through which
to judge competence) motivationally adaptive high task/high ego orientation
profile, such a person (by definition) has tendencies to judge competence and
define success in terms of both personal aspect of performance and social
comparison. Consequently, at a situational level, especially in a competitive
environment (as opposed to a training situation) where direct comparison can
become salient, it is not surprising that the athlete may be susceptible to
judging competence and evaluating success and failure based on social compari-
son – i.e. outperforming an opponent. The following hypothetical scenario
illustrates how this may occur.
Let us consider an athlete who has both a high task and a high ego orienta-
tion ‘goal profile’ in a competitive sporting environment (i.e. an important
game). The coach, throughout the season and the lead up to the game, has
illustrated and emphasised the team’s goals, and how unit (small group, e.g.
offensive or defensive groups) and personal goals regarding strategy and execu-
tion of skills facilitate performance and team/unit goal achievement. The
important point is that the player is in no doubt of the value of focusing on the
task, rather than focusing on judging his competence based on social compari-
son. During the game, however, his immediate opposing player attempts to
undermine his focus by fouling him off the ball and this is goes unseen by the
officials. Annoyed and frustrated, his focus changes from his particular task-
based goals (individual and unit goals perhaps) to a personal crusade to outper-
form his opposing player – from a goal perspectives view, he has moved from a
task to an ego-involved state of involvement. Consequently, his lost focus on
his specific role within the team undermines both the unit and the team goals,
and ultimately team performance.
Such a situation shows how goal states have the potential to fluctuate from
moment to moment in ‘normal’ situations experienced within the sporting
arena. More importantly for practitioners, however, it illustrates how inter-
individual differences might make athletes differentially susceptible to poten-
tially performance-inhibiting changes in their goal-setting practices. This can
occur despite individuals fully buying into the team, unit and individual philo-
sophy of a task or process focus while engaging in competition because this is
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perceived as a route through which to achieve their broader comparison-based
objectives (e.g. winning the league). For the coach or sport psychologist who has
advocated a task focus in competitive situations, this type of scenario provides a
teachable moment whereby the potential hazards of adopting a social comparison-
based focus, even at a moment-to-moment level, can be illustrated. Further, it
will facilitate understanding of the importance of prioritising goals according
to the demands of the situation. Thus the role for practitioners is to recognise
both inter- and intra-individual differences in ‘tendencies’ to be task and ego
involved, and to educate athletes in how best to utilise or control possessing
multiple criteria for judging competence and defining success and failure.
To summarise the application of goals at an individual level, we suggest that
process (e.g. self-regulatory, technical or strategic) and effect (e.g. target or tra-
jectory) goals should be used as a primary focus (with due consideration for
personal and contextual factors), and as flexible and controllable stepping
stones to realise intermediate performance-based goals (e.g. numeric targets). A
structured and strategic programme of such goals should provide the performer
with a route to realise his or her longer-term outcome-based objectives. Further,
in organising and evaluating individual goal-setting practices, practitioners
should give due consideration for the fact that athletes might reasonably possess
multiple ways through which to judge competence and define success and
failure, and that these have specific antecedents as well as varying behavioural,
cognitive and affective consequences.
Application in a team context
When applying the goal-setting framework to teams, the control continuum is
particularly salient. For example, teams will naturally set outcome (normatively
referenced product) goals (e.g. to finish in the top four in the league) over which
they have has limited control due to, for example, the performance of opposition
teams. However, teams have also set team self-referenced performance goals (e.g.
‘Win 80 per cent of our first-phase possession’) and self-referenced process goals
(e.g. ‘Keep our depth after first phase’), for which teams have increasing amounts
of control over attainment. In addition to the control continuum, when using
this framework with teams, practitioners might also consider an involvement
continuum (see Figure 3.2).
The involvement continuum reflects the degree to which goals need to be
developed, discussed and agreed upon by all members of the team. For product-
type goals (performance and outcome goals), these should generally have a high
level of involvement by all team members, while process goals may require less
involvement as they may (a) be more relevant to certain sub-units within a
team (therefore only that unit need to discuss, develop and agree the goal) and
(b) be more important for certain individuals who have distinct roles and
responsibilities (e.g. hockey goalkeeper, striker in football, hooker in rugby
union). In an applied context, practitioners should endeavour to ensure team
product goals (normative and self-referenced) are developed, discussed and
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agreed by the coach and all team members (or relevant units for specific unit
self-referenced product goals). Self-referenced process goals might be developed,
discussed and agreed between pertinent individuals (i.e. defence, forwards) or
the specific person for whom that goal is relevant. This increased level of shared
knowledge should result in enhanced coordination, which is hypothesised to
lead to increased performance levels in teams (Eccles and Tenenbaum, 2004).
When team members set individual self-referenced process goals, at minimum
they should be developed, discussed and agreed between player and coach
(maybe through the use of performance profiling; see Butler, 1989; Dale and
Wrisberg, 1996; Munroe et al., 2002). However, sharing (which does not
necessarily imply agreement) individual goals (with relevant team members)
may also enhance goal achievement, as it allows for increased understanding
between team members, which should result in a greater degree of shared know-
ledge (Stout et al., 1999).
Conclusions
Our original desire was to provide the informed reader with a critical appraisal
of the current ‘state of play’ with regard to work in the area of goal setting and
its application to sport. Second, we sought to critique this work based on the
large gaps that exist between goal setting at a theoretical and research level and
the application of that work. The central emphasis became the consideration of
individual and team-based research into goals and goal setting, and its applica-
tion and implications for sport. However, we also sought to consider inter- and
intra-individual differences, for example in terms of achievement goals, which
were argued to give psychological meaning to the use of goals.
At an individual level, it is clear that there is great disparity in findings
between business and I/O settings and sport. At a team level, while currently
there is a relative dearth of literature examining the effects of goals, this is
beginning to be addressed. In carrying out our review, a number of messages
came to the fore:
While considerable debate surrounds the lack of transferability of goal-
setting findings and principles from industrial/organisational settings to
sport, this has tended to focus on methodological confounds. Our review,
however, suggests that consideration for the unique sporting environment as
well as inter- and intra-individual differences may be equally attributable.
Moderately difficult goals are more desirable than very easy or very difficult
goals; however, even in the face of such goals, sport participants by default
engage in individual goal setting at a specific level.
A structured framework of goals may help to optimise positive effects. This
framework should include self-referenced, process or effect-based goals at
the immediate level (depending on skill level and the context). These
process goals should be flexible to provide for maximal learning and
optimal task focus, and serve as stepping stones within a framework of
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achieving intermediate performance and outcome goals. Coaches need also
to consider the personal meaning of goals.
Performers should perceive a high degree of choice and ownership of goals
and the strategies to achieve them to maximise their motivational effects.
While many of the methodological limitations identified in individual goal
setting have been argued to apply equally to teams, the issues of cooperation
and coordination are pivotal to the effects of goals in this environment.
Team goal setting and the processes therein are unique and more challeng-
ing because several individual goals exist simultaneously.
There is a lack of predictive validity in the models applied to goal setting
within teams, but researchers have identified several ways in which goals
impact on performance in teams (e.g. team focus, communication, indi-
vidual commitment to the team, satisfaction and cohesion).
The systematic development of goals and strategic planning and the use, at
an individual level, of cooperative interdependent goals which facilitate
unit and team goals are pivotal motivationally, and to minimise confound-
ing effects of individual team member goals.
Coaches utilise both long- and short-term goals, and link individual process
goals with unit performance goals and team performance and outcome
goals. Outcome goals are only used explicitly in the long term.
The relationship between achievement goals (states of involvement or
dispositional motives) and discrete (state) goals is unclear. However, despite
questionable theoretical underpinnings, the links appear logical and thus
more research attention needs to consider the relationship between cognitive
drivers and specific goal-setting practices.
Ames’ (1992) TARGET framework for developing a mastery-based motiva-
tional climate can effect positive motivational change, and the use of
process-based goals that involve self-monitoring and ongoing evaluation
promotes a mastery-based motivational climate.
Future research questions
Throughout this review we have attempted, as an ongoing process, to highlight
where a specific line of research might help to illuminate the theoretical or
applied knowledge base. The purpose of this final section is to give an overview
of the questions raised across the whole chapter and which, in our opinion,
require attention in order to facilitate work in the area of goal setting. Further-
more, a number of the applied research questions will, we anticipate, help to
close the gap between the research process and the application of those findings.
The early part of this chapter, covering individual goal setting, examined
past research that focused on the attributes of goals that have been argued to
moderate the goal setting–performance relationship. While we highlighted a
number of contentious findings, several key future research questions emerged
from this section. With regards to goal difficulty, we suggested that, in addition
to questions surrounding the operationalisation of ‘difficulty’ across varying
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goal types, further research was required to understand the motivational con-
sequences of athletes realising their inability to achieve their initial goal. Past
research has suggested that if goals become too difficult, athlete performance
levels plateau (Weinberg, 1994). In reality, however, athletes may redefine their
goal to be more realistic and achievable, and continue in the pursuit of the new
goal (Burton and Naylor, 2002). In addition, in terms of goal proximity, and
with the objective of building a coherent framework for organising a long-term
goal-setting strategy, it is important to identify the ‘recipe’ or combination of
long- and short-term goals that most effectively support sports performers. This
may well involve consideration for the specific focus of those long-, intermedi-
ate and short-term goals. Touching on this notion of goal focus, there is an
emerging, yet under-developed, body of literature that has given rise to a
number of contentious issues. Consequently, we suggest that possible directions
for further work in this area might include: investigations into the nature of
different process-based goals used by performers, and examination of the poten-
tial moderating (e.g. self-efficacy, concentration) or mediating (e.g. skill level)
variables influencing their application in sport.
Hall and Kerr (2001) identified feedback and commitment as potential moder-
ators of the goal setting–performance relationship in sport. To move this area
forward, we suggest that researchers should examine the influence of feedback
which highlights to the performer a wide discrepancy between current levels of
performance and personal goals (e.g. the coach telling a performer he or she is not
achieving set performance targets), and the effects on, for example, self-efficacy,
motivational variables and performance. With regards to goal commitment, we
propose that future research should examine the impact of athlete involvement
(i.e. self-set versus other-set) in the setting of goals on commitment to goal
achievement.
As we highlighted previously, relative to goal-setting research focusing on
individual athletes, team goal-setting research in sport is in its infancy. Con-
sequently, this area requires sustained research attention to facilitate understand-
ing of the use of goal setting in team contexts. Particularly with respect to the
notions of coordination and cooperation, we propose the following directions for
future research:
1 Examine the impact of personal goal sharing and personal inter-team-
member goal agreement upon team performance and coordination-related
behaviours (i.e. communication) and performance.
2 Identify the extent to which effective performance in highly interdependent
teams is associated with the adoption of goals that facilitate cooperative
strategies.
3 Examine whether the congruence of team goals with individual goals
increases motivation to coordinate within teams.
4 Assess whether performance and associated cognitions are supported when
team members have an adequate representation of their fellow team
members’ individual goals.
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5 Examine which types of personal goals (i.e. self-referenced product goals
versus self-referenced process goals) allow team players to maintain a focus
on individual processes during performance while avoiding compromising
team goals.
6 Identify whether team members setting interdependent cooperative goals
have increased accountability over their goal achievement (which is sug-
gested to lead to effective decision-making, coordination and performance).
7 Examine whether coaches that promote cooperative interdependent goals
for/with their athletes are perceived as more effective leaders by their players.
8 Identify the extent to which cooperative strategies (e.g. communication
plans, problems solving and coping with setbacks) facilitate goal achievement
within teams.
An overarching challenge for researchers examining goal setting within
teams is to maintain the ecological validity of research utilising sports teams
while aiming to control for potential confounding variables (i.e. control groups
setting team goals).
Throughout our review we have also been keen to emphasise the importance
that should be placed on considering inter- and intra-individual differences
when planning and evaluating the use of specific types of goals. Specifically, with
regard to achievement goals, we suggest that there is a need to clarify the rela-
tionship between goal perspectives, for example states of involvement and goal
orientations, and the types of goals performers set. This would allow researchers
and practitioners to more fully understand the link between the meaning
athletes place on achievement contexts and the resulting types of goals they are
likely to set. With regard to the psychological environment in which athletes
develop and execute their skills, future research should explore manipulation of
the motivational climate (via a manipulation of the TARGET structures), and
its effects on (a) changing their goals and/or (b) changing the meaning of their
goals. Staying with achievement motivation, given Deci and Ryan’s (2000)
arguments that needs give goals their psychological potency, we believe that
future research should consider the mediating role of the basic human needs of
autonomy, competence and relatedness (Self-Determination Theory; Deci and
Ryan, 1985) on the goal setting–performance relationship, and perhaps more
specifically on the relationship between goal type and performance.
Finally, on several occasions throughout this chapter we have highlighted
that a major limitation within goal-setting research (both individual and team)
is the lack of adequate theoretical models to guide researchers and aid practi-
tioners when applying goals within sport. Further examination of the predictive
ability of Burton and Naylor’s (2002) revised competitive goal-setting model
would be a good starting point. In a team context, examining the predictive
ability of Zanders’ (1971) hypothesised relationships within contemporary
team-sport contexts, and the role of goal setting as posited within Eccles and
Tenenbaum’s (2004) conceptualisation of team coordination and cooperation
in sport, will again begin to inform both further research and applied practice.
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Acknowledgement
We would like to thank Professor Dave Gilbourne for his advice and insightful
comments throughout the production of this chapter.
Note
1 While detailed meta-analytic procedures have the potential to smooth-out data to
identify trends, they have similar effects in shielding potential methodological flaws.
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... Being realistic is related to self-setting attainable goals. Realistic, achievable goals should lead to effective performance (in Kingston & Wilson, 2009, p.103). Failure or a lack of progress in current performance together with high aspirations could worse further performance (in Kingston & Wilson, 2009 , p.82). ...
... Realistic, achievable goals should lead to effective performance (in Kingston & Wilson, 2009, p.103). Failure or a lack of progress in current performance together with high aspirations could worse further performance (in Kingston & Wilson, 2009 , p.82). High initial aspirations exceeding individual performance capacity after some efforts and persistence could be adjusted to more realistic goals (in Kingston & Wilson, 2009, pp.79-80). ...
... Failure or a lack of progress in current performance together with high aspirations could worse further performance (in Kingston & Wilson, 2009 , p.82). High initial aspirations exceeding individual performance capacity after some efforts and persistence could be adjusted to more realistic goals (in Kingston & Wilson, 2009, pp.79-80). Risk-taking is related to aspiration level and could play an important role for performance in different sports. ...
Article
Full-text available
Not only cognitive processes and training, but also personality traits are important for successful practicing of sport. 69 athletes were studied in Bulgaria by means of some computerized test methods from Vienna Test system (4DPI concerning their compatibility for team work, RISIKO concerning their readiness for risk-taking, AHA concerning their frustration tolerance and aspiration level) and three questionnaires concerning their aggression, neuroticism, and communicative self-control. The results indicated that some personality traits were interrelated. A group of relationships between the personality traits included neuroticism, communicative self-control, and physical aggression. Another group of relationships between the studied personality variables included compatibility for team work and readiness for risk-taking. Indirect aggression was a linking variable between aspiration level on the one hand, communicative self-control and physical aggression on the other hand, and also with readiness for risk taking. Frustration tolerance was not related to the other studied personality traits in the athletes. The period of sports experience, and age both predicted athletes’ compatibility. The period of sports experience also predicted athletes’ readiness for risk taking and indirect aggression. The importance of these findings for reducing traumatic experiences in athletes was discussed.
... Music makes the monster, or at least emboldens the monster within the athlete, but such gusto must be underlaid with consistent, careful training progression to ensure success. Detailed, but flexible performance goal-setting (Kingston & Wilson, 2009) should be undertaken by the athlete in order to ensure that he adheres to this advice of his, thus achieving the maximum potential flowing from his former experience. ...
... Goal-setting -Ensure maximum potential - (Kingston & Wilson, 2009): As it has seemed from previous discussion that you might have been a little too strict on your performance achievement goals set, this is just a courtesy reminder to you, to continue using your detailed goal-setting, but to ensure sufficient flexibility so as not to discourage yourself, but rather empower your confidence and self-belief that you can make up any possible loss in ...
Research
We, as humans, all love to talk about ourselves, and one thing about an appreciative interview, if done effectively, is that it can transfer the richest of information from the depths of one human being to another, as the interviewee unveils thoughts and feelings on a number of relatively personal issues. It is a rare privilege, not to be taken lightly by the researcher. For this study, a world champion male powerlifter, 50 years of age, with eight years experience spanning over two decades, 19 competition wins, 6 top-three placings, and countless hours of training was interviewed for half an hour on the internal and external contributors to his strengths, weaknesses, and advice in powerlifting excellence. The interview was voice recorded with the athlete's permission and transcribed verbatim. This information was sorted by keyword under various performance factor categories. The results indicate that the athlete's advice informs his strengths (solid training founds confidence and concentration) and his weaknesses (primarily personal/business concerns) seem to be conquerable by his strengths. Avenues to enhancing the athlete's performance include self-statement modification, dynamic stretching, mindfulness training, weight training adjustments, sports vision exercises, supplements modification, visualisation, and weight loss strategies. CITATION: Last, A. (2017). A case study by appreciative interview of the strengths, weaknesses, and advice in the performance achievement of a powerlifting athlete with recommendations for improvement. Cape Town.
... Effort towards effective goal setting for individual athletes has been well documented elsewhere (see [60,61] for examples) and so in this section we present a brief overview of information and applicability to strength athletes. Generally speaking, previous research has identified that goal setting strategies are adopted by most athletes in an attempt to improve performance, and overall, this process is considered moderate-to-highly effective [62]. ...
Article
Full-text available
The ongoing global pandemic brought about by Coronavirus II (SARS-Cov-2 or COVID-19) has caused an ongoing cessation of sporting competitions and training facility closures. This is a fundamental challenge for amateur and elite sporting professionals. Although recommendations have been provided for team-sport athletes to maintain general and sport-specific conditioning, these methods are often not optimal for strength athletes (i.e., powerlifting (PL) and weightlifting (WL)) due to the unique and narrow set of performance requirements posed by these sports. The purpose of this review is to provide evidence-based information and recommendations and highlight potential strategies and approaches that may be used by strength (PL and WL) athletes during the current global crisis. Collectively, we provide evidence from resistance training literature regarding the loss of muscle strength, power and mass, minimum training frequencies required to attenuate such losses and training re-adaptation. Additionally, we suggest that time off training and competition caused by ongoing restrictions may be used for other purposes, such as overcoming injury and improving movement quality and/or mobility, goal setting, psychological development and emphasizing strength sports for health. These suggestions are intended to be useful for coaches, strength athletes and organizations where existing training strategies and recommendations are not suitable or no longer feasible.
... A most important aspect of this engagement process, supported by VFB, was the creation of specific learning targets in collaboration with the teacher. According to Kingston and Wilson (2009), the multiple-goal approach (such as using self-assessment and motor alignment goals) has the advantage that the potential negative effect of failing to achieve a target level of performance can be buffered by achieving other performance goals. Moreover, the constraints of this learning environment appear to meet the need for the development of competence through more precise assessment of progress. ...
Background: Much of the existing research concerning the use of video feedback (VFB) to enhance motor learning has been undertaken under strictly controlled experimental conditions. Few studies have sought to explore the impact of VFB on the skill learning experience of the students in a structured, school-based physical education (PE) setting. Most of those studies have only used qualitative approaches to implicate the potential value of VFB to enhance skill acquisition, students’ engagement or self-assessment ability. Using a quantitative approach, the aim of this study was to investigate effects of using VFB on motor skill acquisition, self-assessment ability and motivation in a school-based learning environment (structured PE programme) with novice children learning a gymnastic skill. Method: Two French classes of beginners took part in a typical five-week learning programme in gymnastics. During each of the five, weekly lessons participants carried out the same warm-up routine and exercises. The experimental group (10 girls – 8 boys, 12.4 ± 0.5 years) received VFB intermittently when learning a front handstand to flat back landing. VFB was given after every five attempts, combined with self-assessment and verbal instructions from the teacher. The control group (12 girls – 13 boys, 12.6 ± 0.4 years) received exactly the same training but was not given VFB. In order to assess progress in motor skills, the arm-trunk angle (hand-shoulder-hip) was measured in the sagittal plane just as the hips formed a vertical line with the shoulders. Motivation was assessed using the Situational Motivation Scale questionnaire (Guay, F., R. J. Vallerand, and C. Blanchard. 2000. “On the Assessment of Situational Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: The Situational Motivation Scale (SIMS).” Motivation and Emotion 24 (3): 175–213), and self-assessment ability was measured by self-perception task scores. Results: Statistical analysis of arm-trunk angle values showed significant differences only for the VFB group between the fifth lesson and all other lessons. Between lessons 4 and 5, the arm-trunk angle value increased significantly from 146.6 ± 16.9 degrees to 161.2 ± 14.2 degrees (p < .001; ES = 0.94). Self-assessment scores improved significantly for the VFB group between lesson 1 and lesson 2 (p < 0.01, ES = 1.79) and between lesson 4 to lesson 5 (p < .01, ES = 0.94). Amotivation decreased significantly for the VFB group between lesson 1 and lesson 5 (3.06 ± 1.42 vs. 2.12 ± 0.62, p < .001, ES = −0.89). Discussion/conclusion: Our quantitative data, identifying key movement changes as a function of experience in a structured PE programme, were congruent with outcomes of previous qualitative research supporting the role of VFB. This study highlights the potential relevance of using VFB in fostering motor learning, motivation and self-assessment during a PE programme with young children. Future pedagogical research is needed to examine the ways students could use VFB technology for greater self-regulation, with the potential to deliver appropriate movement feedback, based on different levels of experience in students. KEYWORDS: Feedback, pedagogy, video-based technology, learning, self-regulation
... A most important aspect of this engagement process, supported by VFB, was the creation of specific learning targets in collaboration with the teacher. According to Kingston and Wilson (2009), the multiple-goal approach (such as using self-assessment and motor alignment goals) has the advantage that the potential negative effect of failing to achieve a target level of performance can be buffered by achieving other performance goals. Moreover, the constraints of this learning environment appear to meet the need for the development of competence through more precise assessment of progress. ...
Background: Much of the existing research concerning the use of video feedback (VFB) to enhance motor learning has been undertaken under strictly controlled experimental conditions. Few studies have sought to explore the impact of VFB on the skill learning experience of the students in a structured, school-based physical education (PE) setting. Most of those studies have only used qualitative approaches to implicate the potential value of VFB to enhance skill acquisition, students’ engagement or self-assessment ability. Using a quantitative approach, the aim of this study was to investigate effects of using VFB on motor skill acquisition, self-assessment ability and motivation in a school-based learning environment (structured PE programme) with novice children learning a gymnastic skill. Method: Two French classes of beginners took part in a typical five-week learning programme in gymnastics. During each of the five, weekly lessons participants carried out the same warm-up routine and exercises. The experimental group (10 girls – 8 boys, 12.4 ± 0.5 years) received VFB intermittently when learning a front handstand to flat back landing. VFB was given after every five attempts, combined with self-assessment and verbal instructions from the teacher. The control group (12 girls – 13 boys, 12.6 ± 0.4 years) received exactly the same training but was not given VFB. In order to assess progress in motor skills, the arm-trunk angle (hand-shoulder-hip) was measured in the sagittal plane just as the hips formed a vertical line with the shoulders. Motivation was assessed using the Situational Motivation Scale questionnaire (Guay, F., R. J. Vallerand, and C. Blanchard. 2000. “On the Assessment of Situational Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: The Situational Motivation Scale (SIMS).” Motivation and Emotion 24 (3): 175–213), and self-assessment ability was measured by self-perception task scores. Results: Statistical analysis of arm-trunk angle values showed significant differences only for the VFB group between the fifth lesson and all other lessons. Between lessons 4 and 5, the arm-trunk angle value increased significantly from 146.6 ± 16.9 degrees to 161.2 ± 14.2 degrees (p < .001; ES = 0.94). Self-assessment scores improved significantly for the VFB group between lesson 1 and lesson 2 (p < 0.01, ES = 1.79) and between lesson 4 to lesson 5 (p < .01, ES = 0.94). Amotivation decreased significantly for the VFB group between lesson 1 and lesson 5 (3.06 ± 1.42 vs. 2.12 ± 0.62, p < .001, ES = −0.89). Discussion/conclusion: Our quantitative data, identifying key movement changes as a function of experience in a structured PE programme, were congruent with outcomes of previous qualitative research supporting the role of VFB. This study highlights the potential relevance of using VFB in fostering motor learning, motivation and self-assessment during a PE programme with young children. Future pedagogical research is needed to examine the ways students could use VFB technology for greater self-regulation, with the potential to deliver appropriate movement feedback, based on different levels of experience in students. KEYWORDS: Feedback, pedagogy, video-based technology, learning, self-regulation
... Επιπρόσθετα, ερευνητικά δεδομένα καταδεικνύουν την αποτελεσματικότητα των φάσεων του κυκλικού μοντέλου αυτο-ρύθμισης του Zimmerman (2000) και των επιπέδων του κοινωνικο-γνωστικού μοντέλου ανάπτυξης της αυτο-ρυθμιζόμενης μάθησης (Kolovelonis, Goudas & Dermitzaki, 2010;Zimmerman & Kitsantas, 1997;Zimmerman, 2000) στη ΦΑ και τον αθλητισμό, μέσα από την υιοθέτηση στόχων διαδικασίας, την επίδειξη, την κοινωνική ανατροφοδότηση, τον δομημένο σχεδιασμό και την ανάλυση εκτέλεσης, την αλλαγή στόχων διαδικασίας σε απόδοσης, την αυτο-καταγραφή, την αυτο-αξιολόγηση και τις αποδόσεις αιτιών. Ειδικότερα, δε, σε ότι αφορά στους στόχους των μαθητευομένων, υπάρχουν ενδείξεις που υποστηρίζουν την ωφελιμότητα της υιοθέτησης πολλαπλών στόχων επίτευξης (Goudas, Kolovelonis & Dermitzaki, 2011a), γεγονός που αποτελεί μια περισσότερο υποσχόμενη προσέγγιση στη διδακτική της ΦΑ λαμβάνοντας υπόψη τον περιορισμένο διδακτικό χρόνο των μαθημάτων (Kingston & Wilson, 2009). Τα παραπάνω αποτελέσματα επιβεβαιώνουν την εφαρμοστικότητα των μοντέλων στη φυσική και τον αθλητισμό, καθώς και τη διδακτική τους συμβολή στην μάθηση και απόδοση κινητικών δεξιοτήτων (Κολοβελώνης & Γούδας, 2014; Από την περαιτέρω ανασκόπηση της βιβλιογραφίας, όμως, διαπιστώνεται και η δυνατότητα προαγωγής της αυτο-ρυθμιζόμενης μάθησης στη ΦΑ και τον αθλητισμό, μέσα από την εφαρμογή κατάλληλων διδακτικών παρεμβάσεων, με στόχο την εμπλοκή των μαθητευομένων σε διαδικασίες αυτο-επίγνωσης, αυτοπαρακολούθησης και προσαρμογής των δράσεων και συμπεριφορών, μέσα από τον προσανατολισμό στη μάθηση, την προσπάθεια και την προσωπική βελτίωση, με τη βοήθεια της ανατροφοδότησης (Beauchamp, Halliwell, Fournier & Koestner, 1996;Grim, 2002;Lakes και Hoyt, 2004;Robazza, Pellizari & Hanin, 2004). ...
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... In a similar vein, participants discussed the value of being able to set appropriate goals in helping players to develop problem solving and critical thinking skills. Again, it was proposed that many coaches take the skill of goal-setting for granted and as such set inappropriate targets or challenges for players, which is likely to have a negative impact on motivation, persistence and confidence (Kingston & Wilson, 2006). For example, it was stated, "I see so many coaches trying to motivate players but without challenging them correctly", another participant commented, "The best coaches I have seen constantly use goals in different forms, individual challenge and team goals, in all exercises to ensure tempo, realism, and competitiveness." ...
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... As Jane perceived returning to international competition as her priority, it was decided in collaboration to work on a plan of action to achieve this goal. Some of the sport psychology literature suggests that goal setting is a basic psychological skill, making it a potential intervention option to help athletes plan their training and competitions (see Kingston & Wilson, 2009). Some of the literature indicates that a combination of process, performance, and outcome goals are most effective at maintaining performance and motivation (Hardy, Jones, & Gould, 1996;Kingston & Hardy, 1994, 1997. ...
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I: Background.- 1. An Introduction.- 2. Conceptualizations of Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination.- II: Self-Determination Theory.- 3. Cognitive Evaluation Theory: Perceived Causality and Perceived Competence.- 4. Cognitive Evaluation Theory: Interpersonal Communication and Intrapersonal Regulation.- 5. Toward an Organismic Integration Theory: Motivation and Development.- 6. Causality Orientations Theory: Personality Influences on Motivation.- III: Alternative Approaches.- 7. Operant and Attributional Theories.- 8. Information-Processing Theories.- IV: Applications and Implications.- 9. Education.- 10. Psychotherapy.- 11. Work.- 12. Sports.- References.- Author Index.
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