The Learning Process
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Establishing Goals for Athletes

Goals should be specific, observable and measurable.
       Setting general goals are hard to evaluate unless there are specific criteria associated with the goal. A measurable goal that can be quantified allows the athlete to track how close they are to achieving that goal.

      Observable goals can be measured and are specific in a specific date a minimum will be met. Goals are
 ineffective without having a specified date or event to work towards. Well stated goals should be timely and even have a series of bench marks at intervals leading up to the final date.

Do not start out attempting to climb Mt. Everest
       Do not establish an extremely high level of difficulty that only a few athletes would be realistic expected to achieve. Moderately difficult goals are better than easy or very difficult goals because it pushes all athletes to work hard and extend themselves in order to meet the goals. There is more satisfaction gained when the goals are attained.

Put it in writing
      Establish written goals and regularly monitor the individual progress of each athlete. Goals are ineffective unless stated as specifically as possible. Each athlete should keep a journal and go over the progress on a regular basis with their trainer. Some coaches prefer to use a publicly posted chart of each athlete's process. This may be effective in a team environment, but not when individual athletes are concerned.

Examples are of a free skater

Goal Type Poorly written goals Rewritten and improved goals
Process Specific mechanical skill  Focus on flexibility of performing a spiral
Performance Improve spin Increase number of revolutions in a centered upright spin
Outcome Improve take off and correctly landing a specific jump
Improve the consistent performance of a specific jump from "O" score to an average of +1  for series of 10 continuous jump executions

         The long term planing goals should be comprised of shorter and more immediate goals that will result in achieving the long range plan.

Training for the ultimate competitive performance
       Consistence in a competition setting is obtained as a result of practices that simulate the desired  competition performance It is important that the athlete and the coach recognize the reasoning behind the training procedure in preparation to peak for each competition.

       Practice goals should match competition performance goals as often as possible. The athlete's attitude and motivation established during practices essentially will carry through to the actual competition. For example, arriving on time ready to practice, entering warm-up with enthusiasm and following their training plan demonstrates their desire to succeed.  Practice goals should involve the use of mental skills such as imagery which can help with skill learning, strategies, presentation and working through competitive anxiety.

       Every athlete should feel that they are in control (self-determined) of their goals. This approach helps to ensuring that athletes accept and internalize their training goals. When an athlete sets their own goals, they are more likely to internalize them. If a coach sets the goals for athletes, the athlete is less likely to act on the goals if the coach is not present at the training session.

Different strokes for different folks
       There are personality and individual differences in every individual. There isn't a "one size fits all" approach for setting goals. The individual personality characteristics of each athlete determines the effect- iveness of goal setting. Some athletes are ego oriented (compares their performance to that of others) and others are task oriented (compares her performance to herself). This is an important consideration on how and to what extent each individual internalizes goals.

       When athletes define success as beating others, they lose control over the outcome. Ego oriented athletes have a tendency to set unrealistically high or low goals. This allows them to have an excuse if their goals are not attained. Task oriented athletes set goals about doing their best and achieving an improvement in their performance is a successful experience that they can saver. 

Being positive beats being negative and down on yourself
       Setting positive goals establishes a completely different attitude in an individual Set goals in positive terms by focusing on behaviors that are desired. This can help athletes focus on their success.

       Establish a goal achievement strategy – There is a substantial difference between setting goals and identifying a strategy to accomplish the goals. 

       The ideal training environment is one in which the majority of the other athletes support similar goals – Warning, there are always a few sackers that responsible athletes will avoid attempts to join them in breaking training rules. 

       Individual performance goals should involve areas that are weak performance areas and focus on technique or strategies involved to strengthen those weak areas over the course of a season. 

Adapted from Goal Setting for Synchronized Skaters and Coaches:
Self determining what you can achieve!" that appeared in Synchronized
Skating Magazine
, May, 2007 by Eva V. Monsma, Ph.D. University of
South Carolina

Establishing goals creates a pathway to success
       Setting goals and objectives creates a path for figure skaters to follow to master the skills that are necessary to be successful. Goals and objectives are an effective motivational technique that boosts skill learning as well as performance in competition.

       Ice skaters tend to be more focused and committed to training when goals are clearly established and they know unquestionably when they have achieved them.

Figure Skating Goals
       There are three different types of goals coaches can establish to help athletes develop the skills to be successful as an athlete:

  • Outcome goals are those that compare the performances of athletes with those of other athletes. For example, qualify at regional to enter sectional championships.
  • Performance goals are used to improve an athlete's individual performance. For example, tracking total points scored based on event summary sheets .
Process goals are used to improve the execution of a specific skill. For example, landing fully rotated jumps on a secure edge on a bent knee, with full free leg extension, and erect upper body.

Establishing Goals

  • Set realistic, yet challenging goals. More difficult goals lead to better results than easy goals.
  • Coaches and parents must be very specific about their expectations of what the skater can accomplish in a given timeline. Specific goals are more effective than do-your-best goals or no goals.

  • Goals must be meaningful to the skater. He/she must understand the relevance of goals so they are motivated to achieve them. This is especially true of teenagers who may be challenging authority figures at home, work, and school.

  • Identify the target skills that an athlete needs to develop, the conditions under which the athlete is to perform these skills, and the reward for achieving the goal. For example, completion of 90% of attempted multi-revolution jumps that are fully rotated and landed on a secure one foot landing will be rewarded by incorporating the jump into their competition program.

  • Offer constructive feedback and be precise about the progress. 

  • It is very important that each skater participates in the goal setting process and provides input back to their coach on how they perceive their progress. Better results are achieved using this approach than assigning goals without the involvement of the skater.

  • Adjust goals to accommodate individual differences, such as age, gender, physical attributes, abilities, stage of learning, past experience, or other pertinent qualities.

Tracking Progress
  • Establish base line for skaters at the start of each season in different areas -
    • Jumps
    • Spins
    • Footwork sequences
    • Transitions
    • Special items (i.e. spread eagles, spirals, pivots, hydroplaning, etc.).
  • Track scores from fitness or sport skill tests as an objective measure of how how off-ice training is progressing.

  • Track progress of testing. Review actual test sheet comments.

  • Track placement and summary sheets of IJS events.

Recommended Reading:

Principles of Sports Training

Mental Training

The Process of Learning


Goal Setting   Good goal setting gives a skater an “edge” in three areas: Direction, Feedback, and
Support.  Many skaters achieve some success without using formal goal setting, but virtually every great athlete who consistently succeeds, uses some form of goal setting. Using goal setting is as necessary as having a coach.

Goal Setting Tips for figure skaters, dancers, etc.  Setting goals for performance athletes! What is a goal? A goal is simply a stepping stone to a greater accomplishment or dream. Your dreams can become a reality with a clear vision, a plan, perseverance, and luck.

Principles of Effective Goal Setting   This article is adapted from Goal Setting for Synchronized Skaters and Coaches: Determine for yourself what you believe you can achieve and are willing to expend the effort to accomplish!

Your Responsibilities as a Skating Parent    This page should help you do much more than survive your child's skating experience.  Helping your child set performance goals.

How to Set Realistic Goals for Yourself for individuals who have never previously taken the time.  You may want to become a world champion ice skater; however, is this a realistic goal?

Sports Psychology Degree information  An extensive list of Sports Psychology programs broken down by campus as well as detailed information about the degree and possible career choices.

The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

Learning Considerations
PDF  Attentional Focus
PDF  Spatial Disorientation
PDF  Effects of Mood on Performance
PDF  Confidence through Motivation
PDF  Transfer of Learning Issues

All materials are copy protected. 
The limited use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
credit is given for the source of the materials.

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