Before moving to China, Renato Canova trained Kenyan marathon runners. Since he is an extraordinary coach, he not only knew how they should run, but also how they should think. If a marathon runner told him that he wanted to train to win the gold medal at the next Olympics, Canova shook his head. He would not train him, because the athlete’s goal was misplaced. Indeed, it was poorly thought out. How could he, Renato Canova, coach an athlete to achieve a goal that was totally out of their control?
The athlete might train very well and follow all the coach’s instructions, but at the Olympics he might still run against someone who trained even harder, or is simply better than him. “I can train a runner to run a marathon in two hours and ten seconds,” Canova says, “but I cannot train him to win gold.”
The point is that there is a big difference between performance objectives and performance goals. The performance goal is often out of our control. As such, it generates anxiety and is a waste of energy. The performance objective, on the other hand, is completely under the athlete’s control. If an athlete undergoes hours of training, eats correctly, gets enough rest and has enough talent, he will likely manage to reach his performance objectives.