Sports Coach Logo Sports Coach Training Principles Fitness Components



text Translator



site search facility





Goal Setting

Karlene Sugarman explains how to approach goal-setting with your team.

In sports, as well as in life, it is vital to set goals for yourself. They provide direction so that you can achieve the things that will bring you happiness and success. When setting goals, the succession of events goes like this: set a goal, have a detailed plan, commit to that plan, and then act. Sound easy? It can be if you take goal setting seriously and approach it systematically.


First, you need a long-term goal. A long-term goal is an objective statement about a specific achievement that can be measured. What is it the team wants to accomplish? Or, what is it I want to achieve? An example of this would be "to finish 50th or above at the end of the season," or "to have a fielding percentage of at least 94% at the end of the season." When most players are asked what their goal is they typically reply, "I want to win," "Play in the pros," or "Be the best." These statements tell you little about how to achieve this, and they do not direct your behaviour. The team, coaches and individual players need to have a long-term goal in mind. Approach your long-term goal incrementally - one game at a time, one practice at a time and one short-term goal at a time - otherwise, it may seem too overwhelming and out of reach. Place all your efforts and energy into achieving this goal. Keeping in mind, "What is it I need to do to attain my definitive goal?" If you are not sure of numbers, a suggestion is to look at the numbers from last year, as well as the numbers of the team that won the league/conference and make a realistic assessment that way. Coaches should help their athletes set team goals, as well as encourage them to set individual goals that coincide with the team's goals.

One problem that teams tend to have is that they set long-term goals at the beginning of the season, then never go back to see how they are doing, and they do not talk about their goals or strategies to get there. Former San Francisco 49er, Dr Jamie Williams says, "Every team in the league will say they want to win the Super Bowl, but the 49ers take steps and strategies to achieve that goal, positive strategies. All things are pointed in the direction of that goal, which is why they are there." There must be a consensus among the team regarding their goals, as well as an ongoing, periodic review and assessment of the goals so that they do not lose their effectiveness. Sometimes goals need to be adjusted along the way to keep them challenging, as well as realistic.

Then, it is important to set short-term and daily goals that lead up to the long-term goal. These become the stepping stones along the way. As you achieve each short-term goal, your self-confidence will grow, and you will be that much closer to the next one. Keep in mind, goal-setting plays an integral role in your achieving success, so it is essential to take the time to set some goals!

Identifying Goals

I have already talked about the importance of goal-setting, but you also need to be dedicated mentally and physically to achieving the goals you have set for yourself. Follow these practical tips to help you with that:

  1. Write down your goals: This is a significant step! Define what the results are that you desire. Once you know exactly where you are headed and what you expect to achieve, commit your objective to paper and verbalize it to someone (coach, teammate, parent and friend). This reinforces your sense of mission and devotion. Writing your goals down will help increase your dedication. Then, write down your progress with the goals to use as feedback and motivation.
  2. Develop specific strategies: Decide on the plan that will most efficiently accomplish your goals; i.e. the number of quality ground balls each practice, number of strikeouts for the next game, etc. Write it down and be specific. Remember, it is quality, not quantity! The path you define must be very clear-cut and precise.
  3. When devising your series of goals, use the divide and conquer rule. Divide monumental tasks into short-term goals. They will be more manageable and easier to reach; and, as you accomplish each one, you will enjoy positive reinforcement and a feeling of success.
  4. Prioritise your goals; do not try to do too many things at once. Assume responsibility for the goal you are working on at the moment - do not overwhelm yourself. Then, start working in an area where the slightest of improvement will be visible, this will help you stay committed to your goal setting.
  5. Once you set your goal you need to sit down and plan out how you are going to achieve it, mentally and physically. First, you need to realistically assess where you are now and take into consideration what your current capabilities are. Then, decide what your long-term goal is. Halfway between the two becomes your mid-season goal. From there, your mental and physical strategies/plans become the short-term goals that you work on daily.
  6. You must keep your goals in line with things you have control over. You can control your effort and the task you are working on; you cannot control other people or the situation around you. Focus only on things within your control; this way, you will be less susceptible to distractions.
  7. Keep a positive and healthy attitude about your sport. Remember, no one is perfect. We all have bad days but do not let that destroy or hamper your motivation. Setbacks are inevitable. Always keep in mind your goals and objectives. If you do this every day, at the end of the season you will be able to be proud of what you have done, knowing that you did something each day to help you reach your goals.
  8. Give credit where credit is due: Each day, congratulate yourself for completing the goal you set for that day (or the progress you have made on a specific goal). Enjoy the feeling of having taken another step towards your long-term goal.
  9. Own your goals: For you to have the desire to act, you must own your goals and be committed to them. Your goals need to be your own, either set only by you, or in collaboration with your coach. You know best what you want and need to do. From there, you need to internalise your goals so that they are a part of who you are, and where you want them to take you. Be passionate about your goals and be accountable for them. You must be consistent and follow through with your goal setting.
  10. Assess each new goal you make: Am I willing to do what it takes to reach the goals I have set for myself? Do my daily/short-term goals go succinctly with my mid-season and long-term goals? How much control do I have over overreaching my goals? Are there other ways of reaching my goals?

When setting your goals, keep these things in mind; and, do not forget . . . the journey of 1,000 miles begins with 1 step.

Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • SUGARMAN, K. (2005) Goal Setting. Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 19 / February), p. 1-3

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • SUGARMAN, K. (2005) Goal Setting [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Karlene is a Mental Training Consultant in California and works with athletes and teams teaching mental training techniques and team-building strategies. She works with athletes in various sports and has worked with the University of San Diego baseball team since 2000. She is a Professor in the Sport Psychology program at John F. Kennedy University.

Karlene is the author of the book, Winning the Mental Way: A practical guide to team building and mental training. She is a member of the Association of Applied Sports Psychology (AASP) and a member of IDEA Health & Fitness Association. She is also on the Board of Directors for the First Base Foundation.