|January 22, 1999||Volume 6, Number 9|
How to get there from here
When Tom Graham was in high school in Comox, BC, he went to volleyball camp to get in shape in order to try for a spot on the provincial team. He didn't make the cut, but he determined he would eventually.
"You look at the elements you can control," expains Graham, who recently completed his PhD through Kinesiology. "Serve passing, my vertical jump - I could work on these."
The provincial volleyball coordinator sent Graham home with a 20 cm card and a piece of chalk. His instructions: jump as high as possible and put a chalk mark on the graduated card.
Every day, Graham worked in the gym, practising passing against a wall and doing weight training to boost his leg strength. Then he'd go to the garage and jump as high as he could, trying to mark the centimetre card a little higher. When he did, he cut off the bottom at the mark and mail the sliver to the coordinator.
In six months, the card was gone. Graham's vertical jump had increased by 20 cms.
That early success eventually led to a spot on Canada's Olympic volleyball team from 1975-79. Later, as a coach, Graham would work with the University of Victoria women's team before moving to Saskatoon. Here, he took Saskatchewan provincial teams and the U of S volleyball team to four national championships. These included the Canada Games in 1987 and the 1988 CIAU national.
For Graham, his experience in high school illustrates what must go into effective goal setting. There must be a plan. There must be accountability - the "mail back" part. And there must be field testing to gauge the results in the real world.
Without these elements, Graham says many efforts are doomed. An example is the New Year's rush at local gyms.
"Many people, after starting a training program, will drop out within three weeks," he says.
Success comes best with accountability - something as simple as finding a training partner.
"If you know there's a person showing up to meet you, it's very hard to stay home."
His interest in goal setting is reflected in his PhD dissertation, which examines two different models in terms of emotional impact on athletes 13 to 18 years old. The practical application of this research could lead to more effective coaching, and to young athletes' getting more from the sports they play.
He explains that sport must be about more than winning, for the simple reason there will always be more losers than winners.
"From a self-concept perspective, it's disastrous to regulate purely from a win-lose perspective. Coaching should aim to foster self-improvement in children, not a win-lose mentality."
Goal-setting is an important part of Graham's business, Graham Consulting. Here, he works to rehabilitate injured workers referred through Worker's Compensation. He also works with athletes through the Saskatchewan Sport Science program.
The business was borne of some personal goal setting - to build himself a job. While he was completing his studies, his wife, Anne Marie, was becoming established in her career as a physical therapist. She's now a partner at Bourassa Brousseau Mackie Graham and Associates.
The Grahams decided to settle in Saskatoon permanently, which narrowed Tom's prospects to the U of S, if he were to stay in academia. Goals were adjusted to meet the new situation.
Another facet of goal setting, he says, is to recognize that some things are too big to handle alone. Tom describes his PhD as "a real bear" of a project, one he couldn't have done without support from his own home team.
- Michael Robin
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