Goal Setting for Sports Performance

With summer in full swing, players are either reflecting on the previous season, recharging for the upcoming season, or preparing for camps, showcases, tryouts, and even the Olympics or Olympic tryouts. What an exciting time to be an athlete, and a mental coach! I love helping athletes feel and perform their best and reach their goals. Therefore, let’s highlight the importance of Goal Setting to increase your Sports Performance.

As a former elite player and coach at university levels, I get this concept as a player, coach, and mental health and mental game professional. I would love to help coach you in these mental skills!
Before we dive into the solution, let’s evaluate some of the struggles of goal-setting. The theme I want to highlight is making sure goals are clear and specific. Below is a great resource by Sports Psychologist and Mental Performance Coach, Dr.Patrick Cohn (2021).

“For example, have you ever wondered why you might not reach one of your goals? Some athletes consistently miss the mark and fail to achieve their athletic dreams.  The reason is that those dreams are merely hopes, not goals (Cohn, 2021).
Think of this scenario; you are a swimmer who wants to make a national cut in the 100-yard freestyle. You know you have to break 46 seconds but are unsure of the exact time standard.
You are not even sure of the best race strategy for yourself. With no clarity, you have minimal direction in your training. Do you think the chances would be in your favor to make Nationals?
Hope lacks clarity.
A goal is clearly defined. Goals provide a very specific target. For example, a basketball player can set a goal to increase his free throw percentage from 85% to 87% for the season.
The goal identifies the starting point and the desired destination.  The goal can be measured and has a completion date (the end of the season). Hope lacks planning.
A goal has a detailed action plan.  A goal plan is a set of instructions or steps that, when acted upon, move you in the direction of your goal.  The plan could include taking 50 extra free throws after practice, 3 x per week, and working with your coach on technique. Hope lacks effort and relies on luck.
Goals require action every day, not just any action, but a focused effort in line with your goal plan. Goal plans are flexible and can change due to their lack of effectiveness or changing circumstances.
Therefore, goals require an assessment of progress and adjustments when necessary.
In our basketball example, a wrist injury can interrupt a player’s progress. Still, players could adjust their plan by replacing practice with rehab and adding visualization sessions to improve performance.
The following is an excellent example of practical goal setting and flexibility…
Steele Johnson is a six-time individual and eight-time synchro U.S. champion diver at the senior level. At the Olympic Games Rio 2016, Johnson earned a silver medal at his Olympic debut in 10-meter synchro with partner David Boudia.
Johnson continues to pursue his goals with focus, effort, and flexibility…
JOHNSON: “Just because my goals did not change doesn’t mean that my process of achieving those goals will be the same. 2020 brought a lot of adjustment that I believe helped me learn how to maintain focus in the midst of adversity.  It is important to have a plan of action, but it is even more important to hold that plan with an open hand.”
Achieving your goals requires a clear target, planning, focused effort, evaluation, and adjustment. If you neglect one area, you are drastically reducing your chances of accomplishing your goals.
Setting and Achieving Goals
Defining your goals is just the start of the process. The work begins after you have clearly stated your goals for your game.
Now the hard work… Goal getting!
After you clearly define your goal, it’s time to plan, act, evaluate, adjust (when necessary) and repeat. 
Think of each practice day as a day to strive for your goals. Set objectives each day to help you go after your goals. This step is often overlooked by athletes and is the reason most athletes don’t reach goals.
Setting and getting to your goals is an active and fluid process.”

As a former elite player and coach at university levels, I get this concept as a player, coach, and mental health and mental game professional. I would love to help coach you in these mental skills!

Share this post