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Goal Setting for Athletes

Every Training Plan Needs to be based on  Obtaining Specific Goals
    Individual athletes and members of a sport teams are always seeking ways to improve performance to enhance the potential of winning. Goal setting has proven to be one of the more reliable ways to improve their success. Goal setting can be a way of improving motivation and helping athletes to enhance performance if a appropriately set goal can be achieved as this represents a victory and shows athletes that they on a path towards continued success.

   There are two basic goal structure with each having a distinct orientation:

  • The first is performance based goal orientation. Athletes who use a performance based orientation generally have a positive, optimistic outlook. They define success as learning, improving, and mastering new tasks. They have a strong belief in their ability to learn and improve. They also are willing to invest time, energy, and resources  to achieve their goal.
  • The second is an outcome based goal orientation. Such and individual is strongly focused on how others see them, and have less concern skill development and overcoming challenges. These athletes view success or failure based on their perception of their social status. They identify winning with a positive social standing compared to other athletes.

    Some coaches and athletes lack knowledge of how to go about setting systematically goals. A major barrier of effective goal setting is the failure of the coach to periodically review the athletes progress toward achieving their goals and, if necessary, revise goals, to facilitate the progress to reach the goals.

   A measurable goal is one that is quantifiable and allows both coaches and athletes to understand whether they remain on track and are progressing toward the goal. Goals must be documented to track progress or regression. This provides an opportunity for the coach to take steps to increase the athletes level of commitment to achieving the goal. If an athlete is injured, it may be necessary to adjust a goal or goals, but they should not be dismissed. In fact, it is even more important to define the athlete's goals to keep them positively motivated.

    Short term goals provide more motivation for athletes since their youthful perspective is firmly grounded in the present. They do not share the long term perspective of a coach. Discussing short-term, measurable goals helps to keep athletes motivated without overwhelming them with the larger process of achieving a long-term goal. Short-term goals that offer an opportunity for success on a weekly basis is a positive motivator.

Effective goal setting requires that each goal has an effective method of evaluation.
     Timed sprints can be a valuable tool. Performance of strength based weight training exercises provide another easy to verifiable tool. The monitoring and evaluation of progress helps to motivate the athlete to remain on track to achieve their short and long-term goals.

    The coach's role in goal setting, both for teams and individuals, requires them to keep up with the latest research related to goal setting. Coaches should strive to collaborate with their athletes to set their short and long-term goals. Athletes who feel they are part of the process and much more likely to buy into spending the time and energy to achieve the goals that are both realistic and relevant to the athlete. Once goals are in place, time must be scheduled to measure and evaluate the progress toward achieving the goals and making sure athletes are on track to meet them. If the goal setting process is to work successfully, coaches must assume an important role in their implementation by the use of motivating tool designed for each individual.

    The web site Mind  provides an excellent overview of the topics and issues associated with goal setting for athletes.

Goal Setting Sports Psychology, Imagery & Simulation – Mind Tools  Mind tools features fundamental sports psychology tools which help you control your mind and body to give optimum sporting performance. The following are direct links to their articles:

Goal Setting for Motivation and Self-Confidence

Imagery & Simulation - Practicing in Your Mind

Focus & Flow - How to Achieve Perfect Concentration

Tools of Sports Psychology:

Getting Into Sport Psychology by Barbara T. Waite, Ph.D.

Recommended Reading:

Setting Goals in Sports Setting goals for sport skill development accelerates the learning process. Athletes are focused and committed to achieving specific goals.

Goal Setting Sports Psychology, Imagery & Simulation – Mind Tools   Mind tools features fundamental sports psychology tools which help you control your mind and body to give optimum sporting performance.

PDF Setting Goals in Sport and Life For Watching Sporting Events with Children. Setting Goals in Sport and Life. Watching a sports event can be a valuable learning experience for young people.

Effective Goal Setting | The Sport Digest Businesses, individuals, and sports teams have sought out many ways to improve performance. Goal setting is one way for groups or individuals to attempt to improve their success.


Goal-setting  Problems with goal-setting research in sports - and their solutions. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 13, 311-316.

Motivation and Goal-Setting for Exercise - Sports Medicine  How to set realistic fitness goals that will help you stay motivated and keep you exercising consistently through the years.

The Application of Goal Setting to Sports Ten hypotheses, based on previous research, are offered regarding the effects of goal setting in sports.

Goal Setting in Sports Aug. 31, 2006 ... When you look at the use and need of goal setting throughout athletics, you can see many differences across different levels;

Importance of Goal-Setting in Sports Importance of Goal-Setting in Sports. Setting goals in sports is important, as it encourages you to continue to improve and gives you a standard measurement

Goal Setting for Motivation and Self Confidence     

Goal Setting
Goal Setting Principles
Common Errors in Goal Setting    by Dr. Colleen Hacker


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:

Psychological Problems and Solutions
Alcohol Abuse
Drug Abuse
Caffeine Use
Nicotine Use
Response to Stressors
Learning to be Helpless
Depression and Elation
Eating Disorders
Learning Disorders
Stress and Anxiety
Athlete Motivation
Flow/Peak Performance
Focus & Concentration
Goals and Objectives
Goal Setting
Personal Sabotage
Self Fulfilling Prophecy

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credit is given for the source of the materials.

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