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Goal Setting for Athletes

Goal Setting for Athletes

Setting goals is critical to your success as athletes in both sports and life.  It’s important that you stay committed to evaluating and changing your goals when needed. You should create and monitor goals for practice and competitions or games.

Younger athletes’ goals may simply be to have fun, make friends or learn to run faster. As you get older, your goals can be more specific and more focused on improving your performance.

It’s important to remember that goals should not become expectations that weigh you down. In other words, it’s one thing to have a goal and work toward it and evaluate it often. In this case, you keep in mind that goals can and should change. It’s another thing—and not as healthy—to place high expectations on you, such as “I HAVE to make 10 shots today.”

You need to set challenging and appropriate goals, but without the heavy burden of strict expectations. Why are expectations so harmful to goal-setting? First, you set yourself up for a win/lose situation. You either achieve your expectations or you fail to achieve your expectations. Second, if you don’t achieve these expectations, it’s easy to question your ability.

Essentially, when you establish rigid, high expectations you set yourself up for failure before you even start.  If you don’t meet these expectations you’ll feel as if you are failing to meet your goals. This can cause you to become frustrated with your progress. We don’t want that to happen!

We’ve talked about how important it is to know HOW to establish goals. It’s also important—and maybe not always easy–to figure out what your goals are. Your goals should be specific and measurable. They should include a timeline. They should match your abilities. And they should be challenging.

What’s more the goals should be stated in positive terms. For example, you might say, “I’m going to improve my defense.” That’s a positive statement. A negative statement would be “I’m going to stop messing up on defense.”

Your goals should focus on process and performance, rather than on outcomes—things like scoring a certain number of points.

Consider these things when setting goals:

o   A goal should identify a specific action or event that will take place.

o   A goal and its benefits should be quantifiable. That means you should be able to say how many hours you’ll work on a goal—and what you’ll get from it.

o   A goal should be attainable given available resources.

o   A goal should require you to stretch some, but ensure that you will likely be successful.

o   A goal should state the time period in which it will be accomplished. For example, “I’ll achieve this goal in two months.” Again, remember that you can change such goals!


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  2. My son plays for a 03 travel hockey team (12 years old). They are ranked very high in the state as well as nationally. We have some big tournament coming up and the coach is speaking to the boys about expectations for the remainder of the season. Him and I discussed and seem to disagree on an appropriate team expectation. The coaches believe that the boys have the capabilities to win the rest of the games on their schedule, including league and state championships. Should that be their expectation? or a goal? If they have the capabilities to win the rest of their games, and the expectation should be that the boys play up to their highest capabilities, then isn’t it reasonable that their expectations be to win the rest of their games? Splitting hairs?

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