Teach Your Athletes How to Set Goals

Most high school athletes don't know what they want to do after graduation. Help your athletes achieve more by teaching them how to set goals.


Most high school athletes don't know what they want to do after graduation. To help my athletes develop a plan, I often have them write down short-, medium- and long-term goals. Here are some guidelines I use:

  • Athletes should write three short-term performance and personal goals. Since not all high school athletes are sports-focused, it's important for coaches to help them achieve success both on and off the field.
  • Next are medium-term goals. These are usually in the three- to six-month range. Here, I usually ask my athletes to give a little more detail to get a better idea of what's going on in their minds.
  • Long-term goals for high school athletes are 10 months out or further. For long-term planning, I usually add outcome goals to personal and performance goals. Outcome goals focus on end-of-season results, like state rankings or personal records. These goals should align with personal and performance objectives, so athletes can properly balance work, school and sports.

Remind athletes that their goals should be both challenging and realistic. Goals that aren't difficult won't push athletes to improve, while goals that aren't realistic will only discourage them. For example, a tennis player who begins the year ranked 300 in the state shouldn't set attaining a number 1 ranking as a short- or medium-term goal. Instead, he or she should consider aiming for the top 100 as an achievable, yet challenging long-term goal. (Learn more about SMART goals.)

If you've never done it before, have your athletes put their short-, medium- and long-term goals on paper. It'll give them a clear path to success while helping you understand them better. Learn more about goal-setting for athletes.

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