goal setting in sport

Goal Setting in Sport – Athlete Goal Setting

Goal setting in sport is a vital part of every athlete’s training plan and overall performance outcome. Goal setting for athletes 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. This 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 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.

Athlete 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 goal setting to improve your chances of achieving them.


1. Goal setting in sports for athletes – process, performance, outcome

Goal setting in sport can lead an athlete to be solely focused on one thing…achieving the objective. However there are different types of goals to consider that are all important for successfully achieving any set goal.

Outcome goal in sport  

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 goal in sport

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 goal in sport

This is the execution applied during training 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.

Focusing on process and performance goals rather than outcome goals can help an athlete to control their actions, and ultimately, perform better.


2. Athletes should be ‘SMART’ when target setting in sport

Specific – the What, Where, When, How, Who and Why. Pinpointing a specific goal by answering these questions is important to know what you want to do, and how you’re going to do it.

Measurable – breakdown your goal into different elements so you can quantify your goal once you achieve it. Losing body fat is not measurable; adapting your diet for a sport 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 who need to hit a certain weight in a short amount of time so they can compete. 

3. Target 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 training goals may be set for an athlete by a 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 athlete 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’re in need of help and support then, if 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. Every athlete goes through a tough spell e.g. injury set-back, shock defeats, but having people around them is vital to keep on fighting and improving. Having people around them is vital to keep on fighting and improving.



What is the main purpose of goal setting for athletes?

Goal setting helps athletes outline the process required by breaking down the overall goal into smaller targets for a sustainable plan. This helps them and their coaches to make short, medium and long term goals according to the overall objective

Can athletes achieve success without setting goals?

It’s very unlikely. Athletes will work closely with their coach and support staff e.g. Nutritionist, to outline their goals and plans to achieve them, whilst monitoring progress to adapt accordingly. If an athlete doesn’t know every small thing he/she wants to achieve, he/she is unlikely to take the correct steps that will help them succeed.

What is a good example of goal setting in sports?

An athlete’s ultimate goal may be to win a key tournament. In order to achieve this, the athlete will need to improve areas of their game, so it’s setting progressive short-term goals to support this. For example, a golfer may need to work on their short/putting game, so in practice they will set realistic targets with their coach to reduce the number of misses, across certain distances/situations e.g. bunker shots, to improve their game. They may also notice a greater number of missed shots between holes 15-18, so improving their nutrition strategy to maintain energy levels could be another vital goal.

Should athletes set short-term and long-term goals in sport?

Athletes should set short-term goals as well as long-term goals. But, their main focus should be on achieving short-term goals. Achieving many short-term goals is the only way an athlete can achieve their long-term goals.

What is one goal that every athlete should have?

Winning is the one goal that every athlete should have. If you have no chance of winning, at least aim to be better than before

Does every athlete achieve success in the same way?

No, every athlete can pave a different path to success. But, every athlete needs to have the dedication to follow the path they have chosen.

Should every athlete set a goal to increase muscle mass?

No, increasing muscle mass will make you stronger and be more physical and that helps in many sports. There are some sports like rugby, boxing, MMA e.t.c. where you need to manage your muscle mass. In endurance sports like road cycling, marathon, e.t.c the extra muscle mass can negatively affect your performance.

What are the main reasons for athletes failing to meet their goals?

Athletes mostly fail when they set unrealistic goals. But, many athletes also fail because of a lack of dedication. Some unfortunate athletes fail because they didn’t have the right people around them to help them succeed.

Should athletes give up if they don’t meet their goals?

Successful athletes never accept defeat and always take every necessary measure to improve. Reflective practice is a fundamental technique to help them use poor performances and areas of weakness to focus on and improve, helping to set new short term goals

Can you succeed in a team sport by achieving individual goals?

Achieving your individual goals will improve your individual performance. This can positively influence your teammate’s performances by providing a better pass or making smarter movements to draw opponents away to free up your teammate. By doing certain things in training better may influence your teammates to focus on specific areas of their game, which ultimately makes a better team.

Sign up to my email list

* indicates required

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please check your spam/junk mail for my response, or add the domain webber-nutrition.co.uk as a trusted domain in your email settings.