How to Set Sports Goals You'll Actually Achieve

Examples of Realistic Goals

For example, if you are currently bench-pressing 100 pounds, it would be an unrealistic goal to bench-press 125 pounds (a 25-pound increase from your previous best) in one week's time. Let's say your long-term goal is to be able to bench-press 125 pounds, however.

Perhaps the best way to utilize effective goal setting is to make a commitment to "complete three sets of 10-12 repetitions three days per week at 100 pounds for the next four weeks, using perfect form." The process of bench-pressing consistently each week, following proper strength-training guidelines will be behavior completely under the athlete's control (barring injury or illness) and bring a person closer to reaching their ultimate goal.

It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Likewise, if your goal is to improve your free-throw shooting percentage over the last season, then establish a realistic long term goal of say, a 10 percent improvement in nine months and then devise a "goal set" plan to achieve that outcome.

Specifically, you may commit to shooting an extra 100 free throws each week for three months, or you may "goal set" to shoot however many free throws are required to make 50 after practice two days each week. Both of these goals would be excellent means to bring you closer to achieving your long-term goal of improved free-throw shooting percentage.

Less is More

The key point to emphasize is that it is better to design fewer, high-quality goals and commit to their successful accomplishment than to set too many goals and hope that several will be accomplished.

Decide what aspects of your performance are most important to you and which skills you want to focus on for a particular week. Once you've made that determination, you are then ready to create your weekly "goal sets."


Colleen Hacker Ph.D., is a Professor of Movement Studies and Wellness Education at Pacific Lutheran University, as well as consultant for the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team.

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