Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Set Goals That Really Matter

As a coach, your role is significant in the lives of your athletes, and helping them establish realistic and meaningful goals, both as a team and as individuals, is a crucial aspect of a successful season. While athletes should take ownership of their goals, it’s essential to optimize those goals to prioritize their overall well-being rather than solely focusing on winning. Here, we’ll explore some simple steps to assist you in guiding your athletes to set goals that truly matter.

Understand how athletes are feeling

Before embarking on goal-setting, take a moment to consider what matters to your athletes. It’s easy to focus on goals that matter to you and your program, but understanding your athletes’ feelings and the pressures they may be dealing with is crucial. Pressures come from various directions, such as parents pushing for athletic scholarships, school administrators aiming to improve rankings, and teammates striving for victory. In the face of these pressures, initiate conversations that uncover what your athletes want and what truly matters to them.

Set goals that focus on athlete wellness

While aiming for national championships and titles can be enjoyable, athletic goals shouldn’t solely revolve around specific outcomes. It’s equally important to establish goals that prioritize the process, development, and overall wellness of your athletes. For instance, you can assist them in setting process goals for practices, encourage a team goal of getting 8 to 10 hours of sleep every night, and foster goals that promote an inclusive and healthy team culture.

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Set goals for the team as a team

Instead of presenting your own list of goals for the team, try engaging your athletes in a goal-setting exercise. By allowing them to set their own goals for the season, you give them ownership and foster a stronger emotional connection to the outcomes. Research from the Association for Applied Sports Psychology shows that when athletes set their own goals, they’re more likely to achieve them. Empower your team by involving them in the goal-setting process.

Help athletes set goals as individuals

While team goals are important, it’s equally crucial for each athlete to have their own set of personal goals that align with their values. These individual goals may contribute to the overarching team goal, but more importantly, they should focus on what matters to the athlete and what they can control. Ensure that individual goals are challenging yet realistic, while keeping the athlete’s wellness at the forefront. Process goals can strike a balance in this regard. For example, a swimmer might set process goals around improving their kick turns or a specific stroke. Regularly reflect on progress and adjust goals to adapt to changing circumstances.

Remember athletes will have different needs

Acknowledging that each athlete has different learning styles, needs, and abilities is essential. Some athletes may require additional support and attention to meet their process goals, while others may fare better with minimal involvement from you. Be aware that certain goals may highlight inequalities within the team. For instance, some athletes may struggle to meet goals that involve extra gym sessions due to part-time jobs. Goals and expectations should account for these unique circumstances. Encourage athletes to communicate their needs in order to thrive and succeed in achieving their goals.

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As a coach, you possess the ability to guide each athlete on your team in setting goals that foster a positive team culture and contribute to their development as healthy, happy individuals. To establish goals that truly matter, show your athletes that you genuinely care about them and their personal goals. Involve the team in setting goals for the season, and emphasize process goals that promote overall wellness.


Q: How can I ensure my athletes set goals that truly matter?

A: To ensure your athletes set meaningful goals, it’s crucial to understand their feelings and consider the pressures they may be facing. Engage in conversations that uncover what truly matters to each athlete. Encourage goals that prioritize process, development, and wellness, both as a team and as individuals.

Q: Should I set goals for the team, or should the athletes themselves set them?

A: It’s highly recommended to involve your athletes in the goal-setting process. Allowing them to set their own goals for the season fosters ownership and enhances their emotional connection to the outcomes. Research suggests that athletes are more likely to achieve goals they set for themselves.

Q: How can I cater to the different needs of my athletes?

A: Each athlete has unique learning styles, needs, and abilities. Some may require more support and attention to meet their goals, while others may thrive with minimal involvement. It’s important to be aware of these differences and adjust goals and expectations accordingly. Encourage open communication to address individual needs effectively.

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Setting goals that truly matter is crucial for coaches and athletes alike. By understanding your athletes’ feelings and involving them in the goal-setting process, you can foster a positive team culture and prioritize their overall well-being. Focus on goals that promote process, development, and wellness, both as a team and as individuals. Remember that each athlete has different needs and abilities, and adjust goals and expectations accordingly. With the right approach, you can help your athletes thrive and achieve meaningful success.

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