Most people are aware that athletes need to get goals in order to maximize their talents. However, not all goals are the same. Here are some tips to help athletes set simple and realistic goals that can assist them with improving their game performance and maximizing their ability.

Kinds of Goals
This discussion focuses on anticipating the most common goal setting errors and safeguarding against them. Goals are not the same thing as dreams, hopes and wishes. Instead, goals are specific, observable and behavioral. A specific time period needs to be attached to the goal for when it is supposed to be completed.

There are three main kinds of goals. Product goal focus on the outcome, such as being in the starting lineup. A process goal focuses on one’s performance, as well as factors that the athlete can directly control, such as running three 50-yard wind sprints three days a week after practice. A “do my best” goal, which might sound positive and altruistic but lacks details and specificity, is “I will try to lift some weights this week.”

As soon as athletes and coaches start to set goals that are measurable and observable with a specified completion date, they frequently experience increased excitement and motivation as they begin to successfully accomplish their goals.

Reasons why Athletes don’t accomplish their Goals
There are two main goal setting problems that are caused by this exuberance:

– Setting goals that are unrealistic based on the individual’s current performance level
– Setting way too many goals too fast

There isn’t any magic formula that tells you how many goals should be made for a specific period of time. However, I usually recommend that athletes focus on three or four goals maximum per week. This is referred to as the goal set.

The challenging thing is to make sure the goals you set are meaningful, motivating and relevant. You don’t want your goals to be a burden to your training regimen or control your entire athletic life. Instead, they should be guideposts for you and set high standards that are significant to you. They should be challenging yet realistic. You are the only one you can really determine what that might entail.

Realistic Goal Examples
If you are bench pressing 100 pounds currently, a goal for bench pressing 125 pounds in one week would be an example of an unrealistic goal. That is a 25 pound increase. However, it isn’t realistic to set a long-term goal of being able to bench press 125 pounds.

Probably the best way of going about setting effective goals is something like committing to “doing three sets with 10-12 repetitions at 100 pounds three days a week for four weeks in a row while using perfect form.” By consistently bench pressing every week and following the correct guidelines for strength training, the athlete will have the behavior completely under his or her control (unless there is illness or an injury) and help the individual get closer to achieving their ultimate goal of being able to bench press 125 pounds.

This is not a Sprint, it’s a Marathon
Similarly, if the goal you have is improving over last season’s free-throw shooting percentage, set a long term goal that is realistic, such as improving by 10 percent over a nine month time frame. Then create your “goal set” plan for achieving the ultimate goal.

You might make the specific commitment to shoot 100 extra free throws every week for the next three months. Alternatively, you could “goal set” so that you shoot as many free throws as necessary to make 50 shots two days every week after practice. These goals are both excellent ways of bringing you closer to accomplishing your long-term goal to improve your free-throw shooting percentage by 10 percent or more.

Less is More
Here, the key is to emphasize that it is much better to have a few quality goals and then commit to successfully accomplishing them than it is to come up with too many goals with the hope that some of them will be achieved.

Figure out what performance aspects are the most important for you as well as which skills you would like to focus on this week. After you have these determined, you can then create this week’s “goal set.”