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Goal Setting

What is goal setting?

Goals are defined as realistic and measurable desired outcomes [1] or what an individual is trying to accomplish [2]. Taking that further, goal setting can be defined as the act of creating realistic and challenging goals to increase motivation [3, 4] and direct training. 

Goal setting has the potential to elevate performances as it pushes individuals towards a specific level of achievement. Going through the process of goal setting allows individuals to lay out a step-by-step plan to accomplish almost anything. Saying "I want to earn a million dollars," as great as that is, doesn't show how that will happen. You won't make a million dollars over night or in one step. To achieve that goal, it is best to work backwards and break it down. Having step one of making $1K and saying specifically how that will be done makes a far-fetched goal seem within reach through the smaller steps or short-term goals.

For a printable pamphlet on goal setting, click below!

The 3 Types & Levels

The three types of goals are outcome, performance, and process, each goal referencing a specific point in competition. Outcome goals are set standards that center on a specific quantity or quality of performance [5], such as the result of a contest between teams. Performance goals focus on improvements based on one’s own performance standards in reference to past performances [6]. Process goals specify the behaviors and procedures an athlete will engage in during performances [6]. Each type works together to reach the end goal. Process and performance type goals help to breakdown the outcome goal and have more of a motivational aspect to do well than an outcome goal alone.

The three levels of goals are daily, short-term, and long-term. These levels are put in place to motivate individuals to do the work each and everyday on their journey to a major personal achievement. Daily goals refer to what someone can do right now, today, and each day to help them along their way. An example of a daily goal for a marathoner might be to drink 75 ounces of water and get 8 hours of sleep at night. These seemingly simple goals will assist them in their short-term goal of following the training plan each week and month. Being able to stick with the training plan allows the individual have a successful qualifying marathon time 6 months down the road, all leading to their long-term goal of being an olympic athlete and representing their country.

For a worksheet and prompt to assist with team/athlete goal setting, click below!

Goal Setting in Strength & Conditioning

As a strength & conditioning coach, you have more influence over athletes than you know. Yes, you are another coach and part of the support staff, but you also have a unique perspective as you see the athletes more often than most others. Throughout this additional time, you learn how each athlete ticks, you learn their habits. As athletes spend more time with you, trust is gained. Using this time and trust to instill mental conditioning will allow athletes to be more successful in and out of competition. 

When applying goal setting to strength and conditioning, it is important to note that each athlete will have different goals and it is best to guide them into setting their own, rather than setting goals for them. Being that you know the athlete, you can push the athlete to set challenging goals. Challenging but attainable goals have greater motivational properties than easier goals that do not take much extra focus and effort. The self-efficacy gained from personal goal setting in sports may also transfer to other aspects of the athlete's life, such as in academics [7, 8] and injury rehabilitation [9]. 

The Skills


Goal Setting: Resources

[1] Roberts, G. C., & Kristiansen, E. (2013). Motivation and goal setting. In S. J. Hanrahan & M. B. Andersen (Eds.), Routledge handbook of applied sport psychology: a comprehensive guide for students and practitioners (pp. 490–499). Routledge. 
[2] Locke, E. A., Shaw, K. N., Saari, L. M., & Latham, G. P. (1980). Goal setting and task performance: 1969-1980. PsycEXTRA Dataset. 
[3] Radcliffe, J. N., Comfort, P., & Fawcett, T. (2013). The perception of psychology and the frequency of psychological strategies used by strength and conditioning practitioners. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27(4), 1136–1146.
[4] Mellalieu, S. D., & Shearer, D. (2012). Mental skills training and strength and conditioning. In D. Tod & D. Lavallee (Eds.), The psychology of strength and conditioning (pp. 1–37). Routledge. 
[5] Winters, D., & Latham, G. P. (1996). The effect of learning versus outcome goals on a simple versus a complex task. Group & Organization Management, 21(2), 236–250.
[6] Kieran, K. M., & Hardy, L. (1997). Effects of different types of goals on processes that support performance. The Sport Psychologist, 11(3), 277–293.
[7] Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (1985). The application of goal setting to sports. Journal of Sport Psychology, 7(3), 205–222. 
[8] Ginns, P., Martin, A. J., Durksen, T. L., Burns, E. C., & Pope, A. (2018). Personal best (PB) goal-setting enhances arithmetical problem-solving. The Australian Educational Researcher, 45(4), 533–551. 
[9] Brinkman, C., Baez, S. E., Genoese, F., & Hoch, J. M. (2020). Use of goal setting to enhance self-efficacy after sports-related injury: a critically appraised topic. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 29(4), 498–502.

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