Goal setting is a vital part of every athlete’s training plan and overall performance outcome. The goal setting process varies from athlete to athlete and will likely change throughout the year to suit a particular season. Nutrition and training programmes will also be different for each athlete even though the desired outcome may be the same. Goal setting for athletes will be tailored to the individual’s body composition, training levels specific to that time of year, and personal preferences.
An athlete’s body is designed for performance in their chosen sport and this may require improvements in body composition relating to increases in muscle mass and/or reductions in body fat levels. Other performance goals for athletes may include endurance, explosive speed and strength, technical or mental skills.
On the other hand, an athlete may currently be injured or undergone surgery, therefore recovery and rehabilitation is another key period for every athlete with specific training and nutritional requirements, and also psychological support during these difficult times.
Goal setting can be quite easy…it’s achieving them which can be hard.
Here are a few things to remember when it comes to setting goals for athletes to improve their chances of achieving them.
1. Goal setting in sports for athletes – process, performance, outcome
Goal setting can lead an athlete to be solely focused on one thing…achieving the objective. However, there are different types of goal setting in sports to consider that are all important for successfully achieving any set goal.
Outcome goals for athletes
These are the focal point for a competition in which an athlete may set sights on winning a tournament. This is the overall goal and can only be achieved with the successful application of the following 2 goals. Andy Murray’s outcome goal this summer is likely to win Wimbledon for the third time.
Performance goals for athletes
It is the specific performance-related objectives tracked by various statistics in order to achieve the outcome goal. One area of performance that Andy Murray may need to improve on is his serving and needs to achieve a better first-serve success rate. He may therefore set a performance goal in the training of hitting 90% first serves in, to better his current average 80% success rate.
Process goals for athletes
This is the execution applied after setting training goals to improve performance. With the performance goal to improve the serving success rate by 10%, the process could be to apply to the same routine and technique for every serve, therefore making it more likely to consistently serve accurately.
Goal setting for athletes should focus on process and performance goals rather than outcome goals to help an athlete control their actions, and ultimately, perform better.
2. Be ‘SMART’ when setting athletic goals
Specific – the What, Where, When, How, Who and Why. Pinpointing a specific athletic goal by answering these questions is important to know what you want to do, and how you’re going to do it.
Measurable – breakdown goals for athletes into different elements so you can quantify your goal once you achieve it. Losing body fat is not measurable; adapting your diet so you eat less by cutting out a daily chocolate bar, focusing meals around lean protein foods and vegetables, and training for an extra 10 mins each session, is.
Attainable – is your goal realistic? Are you asking too much of yourself? Setting sights too high and failing to achieve your goal can have a negative impact.
Relevant – is the goal relevant to you and will this help you improve your performance?
Timely – if you have a competition coming up and need to be at your peak then what time-frame do you have? This typically applies to make-weight athletes. The goal setting in sports they compete in involves hitting a certain weight in a short amount of time so they can compete.
3. Goal setting for athletes should be meaningful
Any goal that you focus on should be important to you and nobody else. This will help you to maintain motivation and be more likely to succeed.
On the other hand, the task of setting training goals for an athlete may be done by their coach to help them augment performance and develop as an individual. Although this has not directly been set by you, it should be something you agree with and is equally important for you to achieve this goal, as ultimately it challenges you to be a better athlete.
4. Seek help for your goal setting process
You’re never alone. Don’t think you have to do something on your own, especially if you’re an athlete. If you require help and support for setting goals in sports and it’s not already available to you, then seeking help from professionals in a variety of sports science fields can be valuable.
Not only is it important to consult a professional if needed, but sometimes the best people to go to are your friends and family. Goal setting for athletes is especially important when they go through a tough spell e.g., injury set-back, shock defeats. Having people around them is vital to keep on fighting and improving.