For Coaches
Help your young athletes set, pursue and achieve their goals

Help your young athletes set, pursue and achieve their goals


By Sara Robinson, MA

When you hear the word goal, what comes to mind? In the world of sports, probably two things:

1) Scoring goals 

2) Setting and/or accomplishing goal

As a coach and/or a parent, it is likely that part of your role is helping athletes work toward accomplishing their goals.

Goal setting is a skill that can be developed; the more proficient someone becomes at being able to set and work toward goals, the more effectively they will be able to reach the goals they have set.

The following five guidelines – we’ll provide five more tips in a second installment next week – can be taught to young athletes to help them meet the goals they want to accomplish. (Plus, you can use the same techniques to set and accomplish goals in all aspects of your life, too.)

  1. Set SMART goals: Setting goals using SMART as a guideline makes it more likely that the goal will be achieved: SMART goals are specific, measurable, adjustable, realistic and time-based. For example, rather than simply saying, I want to be a better baseball player, the SMART version may be I want to improve the accuracy of my fastball by at least 10 percent by the end of the month.
  1. Set outcome and performance goals: Outcome goals compare your performance to others, such as wanting to beat an opponent, while performance goals have to do with improving on your own performance. Performance goals are more within the control of the individual and therefore more likely to be reached. By focusing on performance goals, an individual or team has a better chance of achieving the desired outcome.
  1. Set long-term, short-term and daily goals: If you are helping a young athlete work toward a big goal or a goal for the future (long-term goal), break it down into smaller, short-term goals for them (think of these as the steps to reach the long-term goal). Additionally, daily goals help athletes take steps toward their short-term goal, and their long-term goals on a regular basis.
  1. Create strategies to help the young athlete accomplish their goals: If the youngster’s goal is to be more consistent at free-throws, strategies might include spending an extra 10 minutes a day at the free-throw line, developing a pre-shot routine, and doing imagery to see successful free-throws. These strategies are concrete steps to take to make progress toward their goal, and can become their daily goals.
  1. Encourage parental support: Encourage your athletes to count on their parents to help them maintain their motivation. Parents, as well as coaches, are great members of a support network for athletes working on accomplishing goals. Parents play an important role through reminding them to work on their goals, helping them see how far they have come, and providing ongoing encouragement.  

Sara Robinson, MA, is a Mental Skills Coach with a Master’s Degree in Sport Psychology. She works with parents, coaches and athletes ages 8-18 to teach the mental skills necessary for sport and life. For more information visit her website at: or email her at

Setting Goals Outcome Performance Parental Support Short-term Goals Long-term Goals

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