How to Help Your Athlete Set Goals in 2021

How many times have you heard your child say, “I want to throw a no-hitter” or “I want to hit a home run” or “next year I want to be on that team”? Athletes know what they want and where they want to be, but not necessarily how to get there. Each new year offers the incredible opportunity for you to support your child’s performance by helping them get clear on what it is that they truly want and create a path to achieve it. Today I want to share with you how you can help teach your child about SMART goal-setting so they are set up for an amazing 2021.

How to Help Your Athlete Set Goals in 2021

Research suggests that by the simple act of writing down your goals and revisiting them regularly, you are 45% more likely to achieve them.

So, Where do you start? The first step is to help them understand why goals are important. Goals are important for:

– Enhancing motivation and commitment.

– Helping you stay focused on what you want to improve

Assessing strengths and weaknesses, and

Keeping track of performance improvements and progress

Make this a fun process. Schedule a special goal-setting meal with your child of their favorite food and beverage and have fun markers, poster boards, post-its, and anything else that can get them excited about the process.

What Type of Goals Can You Set?

Goals may be set for a number of different things but here are some suggestions to get you started.

How to Help Your Athlete Set Goals in 2021

Outcome (wins, championships, scores, etc.) – to give you direction. Be careful to avoid setting expectations. Goals give direction, expectations add pressure. Use the phrase “It would be nice if I achieved ….” to help avoid this.

Performance (performance statistics) – strive for success and see growth in your skills

Practice (specific drills, certain time per week, quality of practice, extra lessons, etc.) – creates consistency so they can see progress and learn commitment

Mental Process – used to improve confidence, focus, trust, composure, pre-practice routine, etc.

Nutrition – eating, fluid intake, diet goals, etc.

Physical fitness goals – to improve strength, flexibility, stamina, and other fitness measures to improve the overall game and health

The most important thing to remember is that goals are meant to give direction and help your child see a path from where they are to where they want to be. Goals are not meant to make them feel like they are not where they ‘should’ be and they do not cause pressure or feelings of inadequacy. When your child shows excitement and energy in this process you know you are in that perfect balance.

Steps for Smart Goal-Setting

I take each of my clients through the goal-setting process. The steps in the goal-setting method I use are:

1) Set long-term/dream/season goals. Ask, “In 1 year (or by the end of the season), what do you want to accomplish …”. Have them take 10 minutes and jot down everything that comes to mind on a piece of paper. After they are finished brainstorming, have them go back and circle the most important ones (5-6 recommended). From this list, they will create their long-term goals and then ensure they are S.M.A.R.T (see below).

2) Set starting point. Ask, “Where are you today? If we know where we want to go but not where we are, we cannot make progress. This is sometimes a hard question to answer, especially if your child has been struggling with mental blocks or setbacks in their performance. Have them take a deep breath and try to assess their performance as objectively as possible (almost as a coach would perform a review). For each of the goals they identified in #1, go through this process.

3) Brainstorm what will need to happen to bridge the gap. Ask, “what can you do to get from where you are to your long-term goal?” Take one goal at a time and identify all of the ways they can get choser to achieving their goals. For example, if their goal was to hit a home run by the end of next season, they could work on arm strength, technique on their swing and stance, increased practice time where they set a goal for each hitting practice…

4)Create Milestones. Ask, “If you want to achieve X in 1 year, where do you need to be in 3 months?” (Then “in 1 month”). I call these intermediate (3 month) and short-term goals.

5) Set process goals. Ask, “what can you do this week to make progress on your goals. It is important that they prioritize 1 or 2 goals at this point so they can commit to their process goals. If they try to achieve too many at one time they may give up because the process feels too hard. Here you want them to set physical goals for practices and games AS WELL AS mental goals. Some examples of mental goals could be “commit to each play”, “be decisive”, “stay confident and trust my practice”.

Once they have their goals mapped out, they will be released from the pressure of feeling like “I am not where I need to be” and instead free to trust that the small actions they take today and this week are putting them on a path to achieve their biggest dreams.

Guidelines for setting SMART Goal-Setting.

As I work with my clients on smart goal-setting, we make sure that all of their long-term, 3-month, and 1-month goals are written in an effective way. The method I teach follows the SMART Goal-Setting standards. Each goal should be:

Specific: direct, detailed, and meaningful. (Ask, “Will I know when I achieve my goal?”) (ex. Instead of “I want to do better on my tumbling” write “I want to land my standing full consistently on the floor”)

Measurable: is able to be tracked (Ask, “Can I track my progress towards reaching my goal?”)

Attainable: realistic and you have the resources and tools you need. (Ask, “Do I have what I need (tools and current skill level) to move towards my goals?”)

Relevant: your goal needs to be important to you (Ask, “When I think about achieving my goal does it excite me?”)

Time-Bound: you have a specific date/time for accomplishment (Ask, “Do I have a target end-date for accomplishing my goal?”)

The most important thing to remember is that it is absolutely ok to pivot and make changes to goals when needed. A lot can happen in one year and it is absolutely ok and necessary to be flexible. Have the goals displayed somewhere where they can be viewed and revisited often. I recommend that my athletes sit down once per week to review their goals, track progress on where they are, and make a weekly plan for their process goals for the upcoming week.

The energy shift that comes with clarity around where you are headed and making a plan to actually achieve the things that are most important is GAME-CHANGING. Get ready for your athlete to have more energy and motivation at practices and games as they increase their confidence and passion for their sport.


SMART Goal-Setting

*FREE* guide put together for YOU! If you’d like a step-by-step to see how to put the goal-setting process into action, click here to get your free copy of my GOAL-SETTING ACTION GUIDE: Putting It All Together.

For more information on Tips to Encourage Your Athlete in the New Year, check out: 5 Ways to Encourage Your Child in 2021

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