Athletes are always setting new goals. Sadly, many fail to reach them due to unrealistic expectations and poor planning. Setting specific goals in measurable, observable terms will improve your chances of success.
Developmental sports psychologist Dr. Eva Monsma says, “Setting general goals, such as improving your shooting percentage in basketball, is easy, but it’s harder to know if you’re succeeding without specific criteria or directives.” She believes in setting goals that “you can quantify, in the sense that you know exactly how close you are to achieving the goal.”
Athletes must also give themselves deadlines for achieving their goals. “Asking players to improve their shooting percentage will be ineffective unless they have a specified date or event to work toward,” says Monsma. “Is this goal to be accomplished by the end of practice? The end of the week? By playoff time?” Establishing a clear timeline will keep you feeling the pressure to realize your goal.
Make your goals moderately difficult to attain in order to push yourself. Easy goals won’t force you to extend yourself and work harder. Overly difficult goals, on the other hand, will set you up for failure. Keeping your goals tough but reachable makes it more satisfying when you attain them.
Use written plans for both short- and long-term goals. They keep you on track and attuned to your progress. “Goals are ineffective if forgotten,” says Monsma. “Write them down, being as specific as possible.” Use a journal to identify categories of goals and to log improvements over pre-determined time periods. Tell your teammates and coaches about your goals so they can hold you accountable. Make your goals positive—e.g., “I will improve my passing abilities by passing to a teammate eight times during each scrimmage,” as opposed to “I will stop being a ball hog.”
Most important, internalize your goals. If you set the goal yourself, you will take it more seriously than one handed to you by a coach, parent or teammate. Decide what you want to improve in your game. Then make a plan with short-term milestones that get you closer to your long-term goals. Tell your peers and start working!