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The Best Seat in the House:   GOAL SETTING

Geoff Robertson

5 August 2015


Many umpires ask how they can work on a plan to follow their progress in a aim to become better umpires and improve their umpiring.

The setting of goals is one way of following your progress in a pathway.


It doesn’t matter what level you are umpiring or what level you wish to achieve:    Goal Setting can assist.


It can be applied to those who are happy with their level but want to do the best job possible. Simple goals like “I want to improve my proficiency umpiring Under Age games because the game deserves it”, is a good goal at that level.


For those with higher aspirations the setting of goals maybe a bit more formal.


The following may help you in setting and hopefully attaining those goals.




A goal is the aim or purpose of an action.  Put simply, goal setting is a means of identifying what you want to accomplish and when you plan on accomplishing it.  Goal setting can be defined as attaining a specific standard of proficiency on a task, usually within a specific time limit. Regardless of the precise definition, a goal usually focuses on achieving some standard of excellence, whether it be to get in better position to make close calls, to be more decisive in making your call, or to keep calm under pressure.




More and more people in business education and sport are using goals to help improve productivity and performance.  The beneficial effect of goal setting on performance is one of the most consistent and strongest findings in the psychological literature. Those who set specific hard goals can exhibit significantly higher levels of performance than individuals who set easy goals, no goals, or do-your-best goals.   Let’s examine why goals have such a significant impact on improving performance.


Goals Help Determine What’s Important


Many people become involved in officiating because they simply enjoy sports and competition.  Officiating is one way for them to stay close to that environment.  But this initial impetus will probably be insufficient to maintain your interest for a long period of time.  Goals can help you determine exactly what you want to get out of officiating.


You will need to set some specific goals to define what you want to accomplish.  These goals should be related to why you became an official in the first place.  In other words, your goals should serve as stepping stones leading to your ultimate destiny as an official.  Just make sure that the stones (goals) aren’t too far apart (ie, they don’t increase dramatically in difficulty) or you’ll likely fall short and become discouraged.


Goals Increase Effort and Direct Attention


If you set an important goal for yourself, you will generally put forth more effort to achieve that goal.  Specifically, if your goal is to make sure that you are in good position to make tough calls, then you will typically try harder to reach that goal.


A basketball official, for example, might work very hard to stay fit because then they’ll be able to get up and down the court easier and be in a better position to make the calls.  And because the official’s goal is to get in good shape, their future behaviour is more likely to include activities that accomplish that objective.  Thus the official will focus on diet and exercise.


Another official might want to improve their officiating technique and knowledge of the game.  And, therefore, the official attends a number of officiating camps and seeks out information in books and other sources to acquire the knowledge they desire.


From these two examples, you can see that goals can help you improve as an official, both physically and mentally.


Goals Help Maintain Motivation


Regardless of what profession or activity you are pursuing, you must be motivated to live up to your potential.  Officials are seldom rewarded by a constant stream of accolades.  Rather, the only time that most officials receive attention is when they are perceived to have blown a call, lost control of the crowd, or gotten into a big altercation with a coach or an athlete.  Thus officials in particular find it hard to maintain motivation.

Although you are certainly motivated from time to time, goals will help you stay motivated over a long period of time. 


Setting goals for personal improvement rather than praise or recognition from others will allow you to experience self-satisfaction, independent of other sources.  Continually striving to meet self-set goals is a consistent and powerful source of motivation.



It would be misleading to suggest that setting any type of goal will improve your performance or that all goals will be equally effective.  In fact, certain kinds of goals work better than others.  Sport psychologists have developed goal-setting guidelines that maximise performance and motivation.  These guidelines direct you to do the following:


Identify your goals

Set challenging but realistic goals

Make your goals positive

Set short- and long-term goals

Write down your goals

Identify strategies to reach your goals


Identify Your Goals


When first getting started, you must first determine exactly what it is that you want to achieve.  One way to identify your goals is to ask yourself a series of questions about your skills and attitudes toward officiating.

What are my greatest strengths as an official?

What are my greatest weaknesses as an official?

What aspects of officiating are most enjoyable to me?

Do I prepare myself mentally for each game?

Am I in good physical condition?

Do I communicate well with other officials, players, and coaches?

Am I well versed in the rules and regulations?

Are my mechanics and positioning sound?

As you address these questions, you will realise that the answers are not necessarily straightforward or simple.  But just thinking about these things should help clarify what you want to accomplish through your officiating and identify specific areas for improvement.


Set Challenging But Realistic Goals


It has been demonstrated that the more difficult the goal, the better the performance, as long as the person is capable of achieving the goal.  But don’t try to be a perfectionist and set goals that are unrealistic or impossible.  Being an official is a difficult job and it is unrealistic to expect that you will officiate a perfect game, just as it is unrealistic for a player to expect to bat 1000 every game.


Similarly, you should not set goals that are too easy because such goals will severely limit what you achieve.  If you set your goals too low you might be satisfied with performance that is less than your best.  For example, if your goal is simply to be chosen for a particular assignment, then you might be satisfied just to be there instead of focusing on doing a good job.


Make Your Goals Positive


Always word your goals positively.  That is, try to identify the things you would like to do instead of the things you don’t want to do.  Telling yourself not to do something calls attention to the undesired act.  If there is behaviour you want to reduce in frequency or to eliminate, set a goal to do an alternative, positive behaviour.


For example, if you want to reduce the number of times you hesitate too long before making a call, don’t set a goal not to hesitate.  Rather, set a goal to improve your decisiveness by practicing making calls using the proper use of eyes technique.  In addition, use imagery to reinforce your positive goal.  Imagine yourself in situations where you have been indecisive in the past and visualise yourself, making decisive calls in an assertive, confident manner.  This will help you focus on responding successfully in a situation that has been troublesome, a response you want to become almost automatic.


Set Short- and Long- Term Goals


When you ask people what their goals are, they invariably mention very ambitious long-term goals such as being president of the company, becoming a millionaire, or going to medical school.  Officials also tend to set their sights on such grand goals, like making it to the professional or international ranks.


Although long-term goals are important, research shows that short-term goals are essential for two reasons.


One reason is that short-term goals provide feedback on how you are progressing toward your long-term goal.  For example, if your long-term goal is to be a professional or international umpire, you can monitor your progress toward that goal every time you officiate with short-term goals.  Your short-term goals might include improving your knowledge of the rules, being more decisive, staying calm under pressure, communicating better with athletes and coaches, or becoming more confident.  The key is that short-term goals provide a standard to shoot for in each officiating performance and they provide feedback concerning your progress toward your long-term goal.


The second reason short-term goals are critical is that they are a vital source of motivation.  It is sometimes hard to look down the road and actually believe that you will accomplish your long-term goal because it seems so far away.  It is much easier to maintain motivation if you can see improvement in your performance every time you officiate a game.  That does not mean that you will improve with every game, but short-term goals provide a yardstick by which to evaluate progress each time you put on your officiating uniform.


Write Down Your Goals


People who fail to write down their goals often fail to attain them.  Writing down your goals will increase your commitment to them.  Goals are useless unless you are committed to them.  Having a record of your goals and the progress you are making toward them is one good way to ensure commitment, effort and persistence.  In other words, charting your own improvement on paper helps you to hang in there during the difficult times.


A good way to keep an accurate account of your goals is to start a notebook that contains your written goal statements and achievements.  Such a recording system provides written feedback that can serve as a powerful motivator and sustain your efforts over time.  You can keep chronological records for charting your progress over time.  These records will help you monitor improvement and allow you to adjust your goals should you find them too easy or unattainable.


Identify Strategies to Reach Your Goals


Although goals provide direction, you still must map out a strategy to get there.  For example, suppose one of your goals is to improve your conditioning so that you can sustain a high level of performance throughout each officiating assignment.  What are you going to do to improve your conditioning?  At this point, you need to identify a strategy to help you reach your goal.  In this case it might involve exercising at least four times a week for 30 minutes each session or reducing caloric intake by 500 calories a day.  The important point is that you identify what you will do to achieve your goals.


Many officials mistakenly believe that they have achieved a goal by being appointed to a level of competition that they have set as a goal, for example appointed to a higher grade in their local competition or more importantly to the ABL or a National Panel.


Very few umpires are appointed to these competitions because they have reached that level of competency.


They have been appointed because they have shown the potential to umpire at that level.


Then they must apply themselves further and realise that potential.


Unfortunately a number of umpires forget about their task of applying themselves to realise that potential and for some reason stray from their development. Suddenly they have stepped from the ladder to the snake.

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