Goal-Oriented Training: Five Keys to Athletic Success

May 1, 2008 | Featured in the May 2008 Issue

Athletes are known for their willingness to use unconventional training techniques, products and substances to improve their performance, from drinking pickle juice to prevent muscle cramps to far more serious and potentially deadly measures like using steroids. The search will likely never end to secure that elusive edge over an opponent. However, one simple and fundamental approach is often overlooked: goal-setting. Below are five goal-setting keys to help ensure that your long-term training plan is as effective as possible.

Before developing any training or conditioning plan, decide exactly what you hope to do. Write down your goals and share them with a training partner, a coach, your teammates—or even post them on your locker as a sure-fire way to be held accountable for working toward them. However, just slopping down a few non-specific goals like “play harder” or “get better every day” will make it difficult to track your progress.  Instead, identify at least two of the following “SMART” principles when goal-setting: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

Specific
When specifying goals, use who, what, when, where, why and which-type statements. For instance, modify “get better every day” to “shoot 100 free throws each morning” or “catch 50 passes at least three times per week after practice.” This will allow you to know when you’ve reached your goal and will keep your accountability person on track with what you’re doing.

Measurable

Make your goal specific so it can be easily measured. A goal such as “win the conference championship” may seem simple, but it’s easily measured, because you either win or you don’t. Goals like improving your 40-yard dash time or vertical leap are also easy to measure. Replace a goal such as “become a better teammate” with an action-oriented objective like “lead a film session for the junior varsity team once a month.”

Attainable and Realistic
It’s easy to scribble down a few goals, but unless the goals are realistically attainable, they may do more harm than good. A prime example was when I worked with the ’99 Arizona Wildcats football program. The year prior, the team had its most successful season in school history, finishing with a 12-1 record and ranking fourth in the polls. Consequently, as we entered the season, goals were high: go undefeated, claim the Pac-10 title and ultimately win the National Championship. While these goals were rather lofty, most players seemed to think they were completely attainable; but the Wildcats failed to accomplish them throughout the season, ending with a 5-6 record. Missed goals did little more than serve as powerful reminders of what had not been accomplished. Looking back, it was clear that although many players returned in ’99, those who didn’t had been instrumental to our success in ’98. We bought into the hype and failed to recognize some glaring weaknesses that needed to be cured. It would have been wiser to shoot for something like “go undefeated at home” rather than “go undefeated.”

While it’s great to aim high, it’s also important to avoid setting yourself up for the disappointment associated with failing to attain a goal. Goals shouldn’t be easy, but they shouldn’t be impossible, either.

Timely
Avoid using terms like “some day” or “sometime.” You may find it easier to break down goals into seasons, months, weeks or even days. By making your goal timely, you ensure there’s a deadline that you’re working toward. Without a deadline, it’s tempting to put work off, which can lead to boredom. Set a date, and work toward it.

Dr. Toby Brooks is a certified athletic trainer, certified strength and conditioning specialist, certified performance enhancement specialist and a youth conditioning specialist. He has more than 10 years of experience training athletes at the NFL, NCAA Division I, AF2, international and professional baseball, junior college and high school levels. He’s also president and co-founder of Born Athletic, Inc. [www.bornathletic.com]

Topics: GOALS
Must See
Derrick Rose Explains How He Stays Positive Derrick Rose Explains How He Stays Positive
Views: 7,228,261
Why You Should Never Doubt Colin Kaepernick Why You Should Never Doubt Colin Kaepernick
Views: 24,751,840
Skylar Diggins Attacks the Off-Season On and Off the Court Skylar Diggins Attacks the Off-Season On and Off the Court
Views: 8,081,467

Featured Videos

Kevin Love's In-Season Basketball Workout Kevin Love's In-Season Basketball Workout Views: 1,016,699
A Day in the Life With Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce A Day in the Life With Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce Views: 15,631
Path to the Pros 2015: Shaq Thompson Path to the Pros 2015: Shaq Thompson Views: 70,687
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Two-Ball Dribbling Drill With John Wall Two-Ball Dribbling Drill With John Wall
Views: 3,362,717
Paul Rabil's Box Jumps Paul Rabil's Box Jumps
Views: 851,362
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,576,773
Dribbling Drills for Tighter Handles Dribbling Drills for Tighter Handles
Views: 4,333,085
Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill
Views: 9,499,111

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
5 New Looks to Check Out on Opening Day

5 New Looks to Check Out on Opening Day

Preparation Nation: Santa Monica Vikings

Preparation Nation: Santa Monica Vikings

Preparation Nation: Pulaski Academy Bruins

Preparation Nation: Pulaski Academy Bruins

Preparation Nation: Carter Cowboys

Preparation Nation: Carter Cowboys

Southlake Carroll Personifies Enduring State of Texas Football

Southlake Carroll Personifies Enduring State of Texas Football

How Getting Cut Taught Me The Meaning of Hard Work

How Getting Cut Taught Me The Meaning of Hard Work

Losing Fat: How to Stay Focused During the Holidays

Losing Fat: How to Stay Focused During the Holidays

8 Star Athletes Who Had to Walk On to Their College Teams

8 Star Athletes Who Had to Walk On to Their College Teams

WATCH: How 3 College Football Teams Make Workouts a Blast

WATCH: How 3 College Football Teams Make Workouts a Blast

5 NFL Players Who Were Never Supposed to Win Starting Jobs

5 NFL Players Who Were Never Supposed to Win Starting Jobs

Video Documents Man's Journey to 600-Pound Squat

Video Documents Man's Journey to 600-Pound Squat

Why Coaching Is More Important Than You Think

Why Coaching Is More Important Than You Think

How to Motivate Athletes to Train on Their Own

How to Motivate Athletes to Train on Their Own

Preparation Nation: Bishop Gorman Basketball

Preparation Nation: Bishop Gorman Basketball

10 Ways to Earn More Playing Time This Season

10 Ways to Earn More Playing Time This Season

Preparing for AAU Season: What You Need to Know

Preparing for AAU Season: What You Need to Know

How to Learn Pull-Ups (Or Anything Else for That Matter)

How to Learn Pull-Ups (Or Anything Else for That Matter)

What's the Most Effective Coaching Style?

What's the Most Effective Coaching Style?

3 Personality Traits for Creating a Winning Team Culture

3 Personality Traits for Creating a Winning Team Culture

6 Skinny Pro Athletes Who Dominate Their Sport

6 Skinny Pro Athletes Who Dominate Their Sport

Craig Breslows Path From the Ivy League to the Big Leagues

Craig Breslow

Preparation Nation: Sierra Canyon Basketball

Preparation Nation: Sierra Canyon Basketball

Franco Harriss Immaculate Reception is a #WinFromWithin

Franco Harris

4 Excuses Elite Athletes Never Make

4 Excuses Elite Athletes Never Make

SURVIVING SEALFIT: Finding the Silver Lining

SURVIVING SEALFIT: Finding the Silver Lining

Become Task-Oriented and Good Outcomes Will Follow

Become Task-Oriented and Good Outcomes Will Follow

Preparation Nation: Crespi Carmelite Celts

Preparation Nation: Crespi Carmelite Celts

7 Inspirational Athletes and Coaches Who Stand Tall

7 Inspirational Athletes and Coaches Who Stand Tall

The Reebok ZPump Fusion Is Like a Mold for Your Foot

The Reebok ZPump Fusion Is Like a Mold for Your Foot

Why You Need to Play Your Own Game

Why You Need to Play Your Own Game

Workout Motivation: Principles for Training Like a Champion

Workout Motivation: Principles for Training Like a Champion

5 Turkey Bowl Pre-Game Pep Talks, Cheers and Chants

5 Turkey Bowl Pre-Game Pep Talks, Cheers and Chants

The Hustle Stat: Aspects of Your Game that Catch the NBA's Eye

The Hustle Stat: Aspects of Your Game that Catch the NBA's Eye

Travis Kelce Could Be the Next Big Thing in the NFL

Travis Kelce Could Be the Next Big Thing in the NFL

7 Reasons to See When the Game Stands Tall

7 Reasons to See

How to Stick to Your New Year's Resolutions

How to Stick to Your New Year's Resolutions

How to Be a Quiet Leader

How to Be a Quiet Leader

Preparation Nation: Servite Friars

Preparation Nation: Servite Friars

YardBarker