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A.D.’s Corner: June 5, 2009

Improving Your Game Through Goal Setting

Every athlete wants to perform their best. However, wanting to and actually succeeding require careful planning.

Goal setting for athletes requires a number of rules that must be followed: The acronym SMART Goals is often used to help athletes set an order to their goals.

Rule number 1: Goal Setting for Athletes should be Specific. First, decide on a specific goal to meet. The more specific the better. For example, “I want to become a better free throw shooter,” is general and does not allow a player to focus too intently. Compare this goal to, “I want to increase my free throw shooting percentage from 40 to 60 percent by the end of the season.” The goal is now specific.

Rule number 2: Goals must be Measurable. If we take the example above, increasing your free throw percentage can be measured by keeping track of free throws made. Remember that “measurable” means you can count it or observe it. When you are tempted to write unmeasurable terms such as “more,” “less,” “average,” “limited,” and so on, stop and ask yourself, “Am I actually doing something that is the measurable content I need to identify my present level?”

Rule number 3: Goals must be Achievement oriented. Goals that lead to achieving something provide confidence-building feedback. For example, by increasing a free throw percentage to 60 percent, an athlete will know specifically how they have progressed and whether they have met a goal. This leads to greater self-confidence and improved performance.

Rule number 4: Goals must be Realistic. One reason many people don’t achieve their goals is the goals themselves, rather than a lack of follow- through. Instead of vowing to “get better” or “be a star,” try being more specific. “I want to improve my free throw shooting from 40 – 60 percent” this appears to be a realistic goal. A goal of shooting 70 percent may be unrealistic, especially if you are currently only at 40 percent. Instead, you might begin by allowing yourself to improve in small increments of maybe 5 percent per week.

Rule number 5: Goals must be Timed. Consider putting your goals on a calendar with specific results. Without a timetable, you may find it easy to delay taking the steps you need in order to improve your shooting. Put a little pressure on yourself, and look forward to a feeling of satisfaction when you reach the goals you’ve set for yourself.

Rule number 6: Set Performance, not Outcome Goals. This is very important. If you base your goals on personal performance or skills to be acquired, then you can keep control over the achievement of your goals and draw satisfaction from them. For example, if you set an outcome goal of being the MVP of the game, there are many factors out of your control such as injury or bad referee calls. If you set a performance goal of achieving a shooting percentage of 60 percent, then you can achieve the goal and can draw satisfaction and self-confidence from its achievement. Outcome goals can often include prizes, recognition, and awards. These goals have been shown to be less of a motivating factor long-term than internal performance goals.

Conclusion: Setting SMART Goals is an effective way to improve your sport performance. If you sit down and methodically follow these guidelines, your performance has an excellent chance of improving.

Dr. Silverman is the districtwide athletic coordinator for Glen Cove schools. He has a degree in sport and exercise psychology from Boston University. He has worked with high school to professional athletes on performance enhancement and has appeared on a number of sports programs discussing the topic of youth sports. He has a passion for making athletics the best possible experience it can be for all young athletes, as well as ensuring all youth have an opportunity to use sport as a learning tool about life and health. Dr. Silverman is a fitness buff who still is an avid ice hockey player.