Teach Young Athletes to Set Goals

Youth Coach
All of our dreams can come true—if we have the courage to pursue them.   —
Walt Disney

One of the most commonly overlooked skills in youth sports is goal setting. Many youth coaches stress fundamentals, teamwork and sportsmanship, but leave themselves little time to teach young athletes how to set goals. Take the time to show your athletes how to set goals for themselves, and you'll be teaching them life skills like motivation, initiative, perseverance and commitment.

The following is a 15-minute exercise designed to teach your young athletes how to set and follow through on goals. Before you begin, find a paper, pencils and green and red markers.

Step 1) What Do You Want To Accomplish?

First, ask your athletes what they want to achieve. Don't try to dissuade them from their goals, no matter how outlandish they are. This step is designed to teach athletes that it's important to have a clear aim. This is often called the outcome goal.

Have your athletes write the Step 1 question in the top left box in pencil, then answer it directly underneath in green marker. The athletes should write down each step so they can take ownership of each aspect of the goal setting process.

Step 2) Why Do You Want This?

Next, ask your athletes why they want to pursue their goal. As a parent or coach, you know young athletes change their minds often. By answering this question, your athletes will begin to develop stronger resolve to stick with their outcome goal. This question should increase their motivation.

Have your athletes write this question in pencil in the top right box. Below, with their green marker, have them list the reasons they are motivated to meet their goal.

Step 3) What Will You Do?

Now, ask your athletes what they'll do to achieve their goals. Before you offer suggestions, let them tell you what they think. Their positive answers may surprise you. If your athletes get stuck, ask questions that lead to a correct response. For example, you may ask, "Do you think it's better to eat vegetables or candy bars?" Figuring out the answers for themselves will continue to give them ownership of the process. This part of the goal setting process is called action steps.

Have your athletes write this question in pencil in the second left box and list the appropriate actions directly below the question in green marker.

Step 4) What Does Not Help You?

Ask your athletes about obstacles in their way. This is an important step because it teaches athletes that certain actions are counter-productive. This question teaches them to identify and avoid obstacles.

Athletes should use pencil to write this question in the second right box and use red marker to list obstacles directly underneath it.

Step 5) Statement and Signature

Writing and signing a summary statement is the final step toward helping your athletes take ownership of their goals. The statement shows commitment to performing the positive actions (green) and avoiding the negative actions (red).

Have your athletes use pencil to write the following statement in the bottom box: "Everything in green will help me achieve what I want. Everything in red will not help me achieve what I want. My day should be filled with items that are green. My day should not be filled with items that are red." With green marker, the athletes should sign the sheet.

Step 6) Tape to Wall

The last step is simple: have your athletes tape the paper to a wall they pass daily. When young athletes place their goal charts in plain sight, they're reminded that goals do not go away the next day. Each time the athlete views his or her goal sheet, he or she learns discipline.

See an sample goal chart below. You may not have a degree in kids' sports psychology, but this simple exercise will help you teach your athletes how to set goals that help them succeed on the playing field and, more importantly, in life.

Goal-Setting Sheet for Young Athletes

What do you want to accomplish? 


I want to play first base

I want to hit a home run



Why do you want this? 


I want to help my team win

It seems cool

What will you do? 

(Action Steps)

I will attend every practice

I will eat vegetables



What does not help you? 


Play Video Games

Eat Candy bars

Everything in green will help me achieve what I want. Everything in red will 

not help me achieve what I want. My day should be filled with items that

are green.  My day should not be filled with items that are red.





M. Alexander Kuhn M. Alexander Kuhn - M. Alexander Kuhn is the founder of Kuhn Solutions Group (Bridgeville, Pa.), an organization focused on athletic peak performance. Through his series, "The Athlete System," Kuhn has worked with teams and individuals who have gone on to win state championships, earn athletic scholarships and qualify fo
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