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I am changing the way I set goals and debrief at regattas. Why? Because I Just got done coaching racing skills leading up to a Midwinters in Miami and in describing to them my approach I realized my method was flawed. I realized that I do not write down specific achievable goals that measure process (not results). And I don’t consistently review and improve this process. (To read Mike’s earlier piece on Goal setting, CLICK HERE)
Sure, we talk about a few goals, and we try and remember to talk about what we can do better, but not in a clean consistent way.
Here are the goals we came up with for the team I was coaching for their Midwinters.
Here is a deeper explanation of the Goals
Start: The start goals were based on an inconsistent approach to the practice starts I had observed.
· They tended to set up at random times making it difficult to know when to accelerate
· If they thought they were early, they would often put the bow down, which is a sure way to lose their hole
· Struggling with when to accelerate to the line
Boat Handling: The sets and douses were excellent. They just needed to clean up the turns.
· Occasionally, they would slow down while they prepared to turn. They need to stay full hike, trimmed right, and on the correct angle up to the moment the turn starts. Then when the turn is done, they need to be on the new course at full speed ASAP.
· We worked on smoothing the turn itself
· For big turns, it is difficult to find the correct angle right away, so using the mast head fly to get close was a handy tool
Speed: There always has to be a speed component to goals.
· We tried to eliminate the number of times the driver would “space out” and drift off the wind.
· The rig tune sets up the power, so that is important to get right!
Other: This is the catch all category that often has to do with attitude
· We clearly defined everyone’s roles in practice. We wanted to make sure they stuck to those roles
· With those roles, we defined clear concise communication. But in training, we figured out that they would occasionally forget and either not communicate what they were supposed to or communicate something that was supposed to be communicated by someone else
· Helicopter: This comes from a theory that if you were plopped by helicopter into a boat halfway through a race you would have no idea what happened to get there and therefore only focus on getting to the finish as fast as possible.
· The last two make sure they actually reviewed the goals after each race, and were not afraid to modify them if they were not fitting the needs exactly, or they learned of others they needed to add.
Debrief: After each race, in their wet-notes, they rated each 1-5. And added a comment if there was something specific that could be done to improve. One person (the tactician in this case) was in charge of moderating. Their job was to do it quickly (without rushing), keep it positive, and write it down.
Essentially, the team did well on most of the goals. But there were some very specific things to improve on:
o Stay high instead of killing speed low and losing their hole
o In the real starts, since there was more traffic and dirty air than their practice starts, they needed to accelerate to the line sooner
· Boat Handling
o Nothing specific for that race
o The driver fell off the wind a few times, so besides just plain concentrating harder, the team decided to make sure the trimmer was more aware of this so he could jump in and make the driver aware of it before the boat lost too much
o While they set the rig for the conditions most of the time, the lulls were big and it was more important to set up the rig looser (more powered). That way they could get through these lulls without losing too much.
o The person sitting in the mast position (2nd back behind the bow person) needed to be more involved in both keeping track of compass numbers and discussing them with the tactician
o The bow person needed to be really clear about the way he called traffic, particularly approaching starboard tackers.
o They needed to add some tactical goals to the list
Based on the debrief, that night, we had a discussion on how to set some tactical goals. Specifically, I observed from the coach boat that they were spending too much time in dirty air, and they needed to avoid laylines/ other bad lanes. So here is what we came up with:
The process worked surprisingly well to get their process on track. But it did some other beneficial things we had not thought of.
An interesting and unexpected result was that it tabled any tension during the race. Everyone knew that if they had a problem, there would be a process to address it, so they did not feel they needed to bring it up until after the race. It allowed them to put it behind them (that helicopter theory) and get on with the race.
Another surprise result is that it addressed issues without it becoming personal. If there is no method and someone wants to bring something up, they have to initiate it and it can be awkward. By having a moderator there and a list to go over, it there is always a way to bring things up more casually therefore keeping everyone’s attitude positive.
The process works if the moderator keeps it brief and positive. The goals and debrief are to enhance the racing skills by improving always in almost real time. If instead it drags on, gets negative or the conversation goes into a rat-hole, then it will detract from racing and that defeats the purpose.
Different teams will have different goals depending on skill level, what mistakes they recently made, or just the way they approach sailing. The goals may change over time. Perhaps some universal goals like roles and communication should always stay on, but others will likely go once it becomes habit. For example, the tactician may get good at lanes so we take that off and maybe put doing a better job looking for wind on. Each new one will likely be more refined and there is always something to improve on, so they will always be there no matter how good we get!