In nature, most systems are goal-directed. They are constructed and organized to accomplish a goal.
The goal comes first and the necessary processes come second.
Consider various physiological systems. They are organized to accomplish a goal. The available structures are organized in a systematic manner that allows for the goal to be achieved, or if necessary, those structures adapt over time to fulfill the required function.
An important concept to consider is that many systems are redundant or degenerate. The same goal can be achieved in multiple ways using multiple aspects of the same system. This highlights that the process doesn’t matter. The process can, should, and will be altered to accomplish a clearly defined goal.
As coaches, we focus too much on dictating the process of what it takes to swim fast (high elbow, etc..) while paying too little attention in practice on creating clearly defined task goals, the completion of which results in the learning of effective processes.
At the end, goal achievement matters, not the nature of the process.
When viewing a list of Olympic Champions, there are no notes like great catch, high VO2max, etc... They won and that’s what matters, not how they did it.
We have all heard how important it is to focus on the process and not the goal. I am not contradicting that concept. I am actually validating it. We should be continuing to work through the process as means to achieve an end, with that end dictating the effectiveness of the means employed.
The focus is still on the process. However, the process is not defined. The goal is defined and the swimmer must learn how to best accomplish that goal through an effective process.
As coaches, our focus should be on creating tasks in practice that require swimmers to learn the critical aspects of an effective process, over and over in many different contexts. If they do that consistently in training, swimmers will have accumulated a skill set that allows them to achieve the ultimate goal, fast swimming in championship competition.
By focusing more on what needs to happen and create tasks that require swimmers to figure out how achieve those goals, we can get to where we need to go, directly. Task GOALS matter and they provide the framework for what can be achieved. Set this up correctly and the details take care of themselves.
How can we better design tasks in practice that have clearly-defined goals, the consistent achievement of which will result in improved performance over time?