Dr. Dan Gould discusses using goal setting in youth sports.
Smart goals are goals that are specific, they're measurable, they're action-oriented, they're realistic and ones that have a target time. When we look at smart goals, the first letter of the word smart is S, and that means specific goals. Too many of us just say I want to get better, I want to do well. Well, that's not a specific goal. A specific goal is I want to make eight out of ten follow shots. I want to improve my first serve percentage by 10%, so it's a very specific aspect. Secondly, goals want to be measurable, and that kind of ties to the specific, it's not just doing well, but it's something you can count, so I want to get so many baskets in on my follow shot. I want to improve a percentage, I want to lower my swimming or my running time, so you want to make sure you can measure your goals. Third, your goals need to be action-oriented. When you set your goals, I want to improve my follow shooting by shooting ten extra shots after every practice. That tells me what the action is that's going to help me achieve that goal. Now, goals also need to be R, realistic, that is, you could set goals that you could never achieve if you're hitting 3 or 10 follow shots now, you could say you want to hit ten out of ten next week. That's probably not going to happen. So you need to be realistic with your goals. Somebody once said, "Your goals want to stretch you like a rubber band but not snap back or break." So you want to make them just difficult enough to challenge you, but they still need to be realistic. Finally, goals that are effective have a target date. I want to improve my free throw percentage in four weeks to six out of ten shots. It tells me a time that I'm aiming for to achieve that goal by. It's important to know that there are three types of goals that you can set in sport and in general. These are outcome goals, what we call performance goals and process goals. Now outcome goals are like winning, it's like beating somebody, it's like in a race and I'm trying to beat you to the finish line. Performance goals, that's improving relative to your own previous best. Run a faster time, shoot a lower score in golf, increase your free throw percentage or make more first serves. Process goals don't focus on beating somebody or improving times. They focus on the little things that you need to do to perform well. For example, if you're a hitter in baseball or softball, keeping your eye on the ball, or if you're a runner, keeping your arms relaxed when running the final turn of a race.