By: Nicholas Boon 

It’s mid-January, and it’s a safe bet that most of you have already broken some “new year’s resolution” you made just a few short weeks ago.  That is, if you made a resolution at all.  But don’t worry – you’re not alone.  You are part of the vast majority of adults who, plain and simple, suck at goal setting.

This is due in part to a lack of understanding of what a GOOD goal actually looks like.  Some people aim too high, some too low.  Some go to vague, others don’t set a deadline. The SMART Goal setting formula helps overcome these issues – providing a clear structure and setting detailed parameters for which to measure success (or failure).  Read more on how to Set SMART Goals.

Another mistake people succumb to is setting goals based on what we think we SHOULD do, as opposed to what we actually WANT to do.  It is all too easy for external influences to guide our personal development – but this is a recipe for disaster.  Not only are these expectations often unrealistic, but they lack a personal or intrinsic motivation to get the job done.

Finally, people may become too focused on the OUTCOME of the goal.  The nature of goal setting prompts many people to compare their future “ideal self” with their current “less-than-ideal self”.  This not only hurts self-confidence, but can trap us in an endless (and unfulfilling) cycle of one goal after another.  As cheesy as it may sound, the value really comes from the experience.
But kids are a completely different story!

Thanks to a healthy mix of innocence and optimism, most kids are immune to these common “adult” mistakes.  This not only makes goal setting with your young athletes more fun, but provides the opportunity to instill positive goal setting habits for life.

So in the spirit of this “new year’s resolution” season, here are 8 of our favorite tips for setting goals with youth athletes:
#1 Start with One
For younger athletes especially, start with one simple goal. Adding too many goals on top of one another can be distracting, and dilutes the impact of a single, priority goal.
#2 Let the Athlete Pick
The best way for a young athlete to commit themselves is to let them pick their goal themselves! It really doesn’t matter if it seems unrealistic or outside-the-box – the beauty of childhood is the freedom to both shoot for the stars AND make mistakes.
#3 Avoid Adult Influence
On that same note, ensure the athlete isn’t picking a goal they think you (or their parents) want to hear. For the child to be motivated and the process to be enjoyable, the goal really has to come from within.
#4 Start With Why
Once the young athlete has identified their goal, help them to tease out WHY it is important to them. If they are able to explain why they chose it, they will develop a deeper connection to the goal which will strengthen their resolve to succeed.
#5 Add Actionable Steps
Coming up with the perfect accomplishment is one thing, but the true value in goal setting is determining a plan for success. Spend time with young athletes to discuss what steps they might take to reach their goal.
#6 Identify Obstacles
On the flip-side, it is just as important to highlight the challenges associated with a goal. Identifying hurdles or counter-productive behaviours will prepare athletes early for the inevitable obstacles they will face down the road.
#7 Monitor Progress
As a coach, monitor the progress that kids are making towards their goals. If an athlete is making great headway, let them know how well they are doing!  If an athlete is struggling, find ways to work with them so they see development of their own.
#8 Stick with SMART Goals
Finally – when in doubt – refer back to the SMART Goals method. While the nuances of measurability and timeliness of goals may be lost on some younger athletes, it is always important for coaches to use the SMART Goal method as their frame of reference.

What goals are you and your athletes setting this season?  Let us know how you plan to accomplish them in the comments section below!

Source: Steve Nash Youth Basketball Blog
Subscribe to Email Newsletter
Share this article to...