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  • Writer's pictureEmily Robinson


Updated: Apr 16

When a fourth-grade quarterback steps onto an empty high school field, what does he see?What does he dream about? He sees himself throwing the winning touchdown in the State finals. He hears the roar of his hometown chanting his name. He feels the pride and love for his teammates and the game ooze from his pores. And he knows, without a shadow of a doubt, he’s going to be great. He undoubtedly has big dreams, but what makes this dream become a reality? What will separate him from all of the other young athletes who have big dreams? How can an athlete successfully embody their deepest aspirations of one day performing at the level they desire? The answer is a simple one: goal setting. Goal setting isn't just about dreaming, but about turning those dreams into tangible realities, one deliberate step at a time. The objective of this blog is to explain how to create specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely goals (also known as SMART goals) to help athletes turn their dreams into a reality, no matter how grandiose or insignificant they may seem. 

Understanding SMART Goals in Sports

SMART goals are a structured approach to goal setting that ensures goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. By following this framework, individuals can effectively define their goals, track progress, stay motivated, and ultimately achieve success in various aspects of their lives, whether it's personal growth, professional development, or athletic performance.

  1. Specific: Precision in Athletic Objectives

In athletics, precision is paramount for achieving success. Instead of shooting for a broad objective like "enhancing my performance," athletes benefit from setting more specific goals like "increase shooting accuracy by 10%." These detailed objectives offer athletes a distinct target to strive for, enabling them to concentrate their efforts and resources with precision.

  1. Measurable: Tracking Progress and Performance

Athletes rely on concrete evidence to gauge their athlete progression. For instance, rather than simply wanting to "become faster," they can set a more specific goal, such as "shaving off 0.5 seconds from their 100-meter sprint time." By establishing such measurable targets, athletes gain a tangible way to assess their development and fine-tune their training strategies accordingly, ensuring continuous improvement in their performance.

  1. Achievable: Realistic Targets for Athletic Success

Setting realistic goals is essential in sports to prevent burnout and maintain motivation. While it's important to challenge the athlete, goals should also be attainable given an athlete's abilities and resources. For instance, a high school basketball player may want to make the varsity team, but setting a goal to join the NBA next season would most likely be unrealistic. Achievable goals keep athletes focused and motivated as they work towards gradual progress and success, rather than disheartening them with a lack of results that an unrealistic goal would offer. 

  1. Relevant: Aligning Goals with Athletic Aspirations

Goals in sports should align with an athlete's overall objective and aspirations. If a tennis player has the goal of winning Wimbledon, they would prioritize training on grass courts and focus on improving their serve and volley skills. Relevant goals ensure that athletes invest their hard work, time and energy into things that contribute to their long-term success and fulfillment in their sport. Overall, goals should align with your values and long-term objectives. 

  1. Time-Bound: Setting Timelines for Athletic Achievement

Having deadlines and timelines for athletes is like having a coach cheering them on from the sidelines. It's what keeps them focused and driven to achieve their goals. When they set goals with specific timeframes, it adds a sense of urgency that keeps them disciplined in their training and preparation for their goal. For example, instead of just saying they want to "get better at agility," they might commit to doing agility drills three times a week for six weeks leading up to the season. These time-bound goals not only hold them accountable but also build up their momentum, which pushes them closer to success with each session.

Benefits of SMART Goals in Sports

When athletes set SMART goals - ones that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound - they're not just outlining their targets; they're painting a clear picture of their journey. These goals become like personal cheerleaders, motivating athletes to push past their boundaries and strive for greatness. And with the built-in accountability of SMART goals, athletes stay dedicated to their training, keeping a close eye on their progress every step of the way. They have the flexibility to adjust their goals as they go, celebrating every milestone achieved and using each victory as fuel to propel them even further in their athletic journey. The benefits of these SMART goals including, but certainly not limited to:

  • Enhanced performance and skill development

  • Increased motivation and mental toughness

  • Improved focus and concentration

  • Greater accountability and responsibility

Implementing SMART Goals in Sports

So now that you have a better understanding as to what SMART goals are and what the benefits of this kind of goal-setting, you may be wondering how to start creating your own. 

  1. Define your objective: Start by identifying what you want to achieve. Whether it's improving your speed, increasing your strength, or mastering a specific skill, be clear about your goal.

  2. Make it SMART: ensure that this goal you’ve created is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. 

  3. Write it down: Document your SMART goal in writing, including all the specific details and criteria. This could be in a training journal, on a goal-setting app, or even on a poster in your training space. Having a visual reminder as to what you’re working toward will help fuel you forward.

  4. Develop an action plan: Outline the steps and actions you need to take to work towards your goal. Break down your goal into smaller, manageable tasks and create a training schedule or plan to help you stay on track. Turn your macro-level goal into several micro-levels goals. 

  5. Monitor your progress: Regularly assess your performance and progress towards your goal. Keep track of your results, adjust your training as needed, and make sure to celebrate your achievements along the way.

  6. Reflect and adjust: Periodically review your progress toward your SMART goal. Reflect on what's working well and what could be improved, and be open and willing to adjust your goal or your approach as necessary to stay aligned with your athletic aspirations.

In the athletic world, SMART goals become our trusted companions, guiding us through the twists and turns of our athletic journey. With each step we take, fueled by the principles of specificity, measurability, achievability, relevance, and time-bound objectives, we draw closer to our dreams. Along the way, we discover a sense of purpose, fueled by our strong determination and passion for the game. As we celebrate every victory, big or small, we are reminded of the power behind setting SMART goals. So, continue to chase your dreams with passion, knowing that with each goal we set, we're one step closer to realizing our full potential on and off the field.

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