No matter what you’re doing, if you don’t have a way of tracking your progress, how will you know what works and doesn’t work? How will you be able to appreciate how far you’ve come or how will you even know when you’ve achieved something?

Most people focus their time working on throws or running laps at the track and there’s no question both of those will help improve your game. But if you’re not tracking that improvement, how can you expect to keep getting better?

There are 2 important points here, both of which I will cover in more detail in following posts.

However, I first want to lay the groundwork for why I feel it’s so important to set goals and to track progress.

In relation to goals there are team goals and personal goals. I think it’s incredibly important to sit down as a team and figure out what those goals. You don’t have to share your goals with your teammates but if you do, they can help hold you accountable and help support you in working towards your personal goals. And if everyone is in it together, there will be more chance of the team goals happening as well.

Let’s look at some specific examples. Let’s say you play on a club team and your team decides that the team’s goal is to win the USA Ultimate Championships. What is your team is ranked 15th in the country and winning isn’t realistic? What if instead, the team goal was to beat seed? So that if your team finished 12th, you would have achieved your goal? And the next year, set the same goal and if you finish 8th, you achieved your goal. Each year, you can improve on your ranking with the same goal and be happy each time. But if you set your goal as an end goal, as an outcome and if you don’t reach that outcome, then you’ll look back and be disappointed, what’s the point in that?

Same with a personal goal. What if you set your personal goal to be the best player on the team? How can you measure that? Why not set a more measurable goal like: “To have a tournament where I don’t drop a single disc.” That is measurable, it’s attainable and you can work towards that.

You may have heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals. The acronym stands for Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic and Timely. I think it’s a good structure with which to set goals but I think the most important thing to realize here is that goals should help keep you moving forward. If you set a really lofty goal and it’s all or nothing, what happens if you don’t achieve that goal? If I go to a competition for disc sports and my goal is to break a world record and although I don’t break the record, I end up winning the competition, should I really be disappointed? Of course not. But it was how I framed that competition and what my desired outcome was.

A good rule of thumb to follow is that each goal should be a 20% improvement on where you are at now. For example, let’s say you have an average pull of 60 yards. Your goal should be to increase that to 70 yards roughly. If your goal was to increase it from 60 to 80 or 90, that would be a huge gain and would take a lot of work and before you ever put in that much work, you might give up. But, if you set your goal as a smaller gain, you will reach it more quickly and then you can set a new goal to go from 70 t0 85. That is a much more realistic gain.

How about tracking progress? There is progress at the gym which is easy to track and you can work with your trainer on that. You can also track your progress in throwing distance. This is important because if you want to have an accurate full field huck, then the longer you are able to throw an ultimate disc, the more consistent your hucks will be. For example, if I can throw an ultimate disc 130 yards, then my 70 yard huck should be pretty accurate since it won’t take as much effort to throw 70 yards. But, if my longest throw is only 80 yards, then my 70 yard huck won’t be very consistent since I’ll be putting all of my power into that throw and there will be more variance on where it ends up. You can also track your own stats like # of drops and throwaways. Stephen Winters is doing a lot of work right now on gathering stats during Spring League ultimate in Calgary and has shared some of his thoughts with us in his latest post “The Season of Ultimate Stats – Part 1.” For example, if I know what in a given game, I had 3 drops and in the next game I had 2 drops and the 3rd game I had 1 drop, that could mean I’m getting better. But, I would have to look at how many times I touched the disc because I may in fact just be getting the disc less. A good way to track your progress as a player is during the course of a season and to compare tournaments. In any given tournament, depending on the skill of your team, you will probably be playing teams you can beat and teams who can beat you. Based on this, looking over a series of tournaments, you can reasonably assume that you had roughly the same amount of play time and so if you compare drops/throwaways from one tournament to the next, you should be able to gauge your improvement in a rough sense. Enough to know if there is something you need to work on. And a point here is that you could be improving in a physical sense but that your mental game might not be, which would account for an increased number of drops. I believe that a skill like catching is mostly mental so while it’s important to look at the numbers, it’s also useful to look at what is going on in your life and how that could affect your game.

In my upcoming posts, I will provide some worksheets you can download, fill in with your goals and put up on your wall to see how you’re progressing. I will also help you learn how to track progress. If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t count.

Do you set goals? Do you track progress? How do you keep yourself on track?

Written by Ultimate Rob

Rob McLeod is a disc sports competitor, a 13 time World Record holder (including 6 Guinness World Records), 10-time World Champion, 2 time Quadruped title holder and currently holds the Canadian Distance Record. He created in 2009.