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Anne Pankhust shares her top tips for goal-setting.

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As coaches, we’ve all set goals for ourselves and our athletes or teams. Anne Pankhurst shares her top tips for goal setting below:

  1. Goal setting is an important part of progressing participants in sport. Goals give participants objectives or targets and set challenges: achieving goals is a very satisfying process.
  1. The age of the participant is not a barrier to setting goals: it just means that young participants need shorter time frames for their goals because projecting into the future is difficult for them.
  1. Goals and dreams are not the same thing! Goals are the outcomes of conscious decision making and have a process built in to make sure they happen. You can never be sure a dream will be more than a dream, but dreams are still good things to have.
  1. The goal-setting process must involve the participant for whom the goals are being set, and in the case of junior participants, it is a good idea for parents to be part of the goal-setting process too.
  1. High-quality goals have several important characteristics: they are specific, realistic and achievable for the participant; able to be measured; and have a timeline.
  1. The timelines for goals are usually short term, medium term and long term. It depends on the age of the participant how long each of these is. For example, a short-term goal for an eight-year-old could be ‘this lesson’ and a long-term one be ‘by the end of this school term’. For a 20-year-old, a long-term goal could be ‘in four years’ and a short-term one be ‘in two months’. In other words, time frames are those that mean something to the participants.
  1. For young participants who are still growing and maturing, performance or process goals are preferable: in other words, the goals are linked to the development of skills that indicate the participant is making progress. Outcome goals are about competitive results, rankings, league positions and ratings; these are more suitable for older, adult participants.
  1. Goals should be written down and put somewhere where they can be seen: research says that being reminded of our goals on a regular basis means we are more likely to achieve them.
  1. Goals should not be set in stone: things happen and goals might need to be adapted or changed because of faster or slower progress or injury.

10. Goals should be reviewed on a regular basis and goal setting should be part of every participant’s programme. After all, if you don’t know what you are trying to achieve, how do you know when you’ve done it?

About the Author

Anne Pankhurst, until recently, worked as Manager of Coaching Education for the United States Tennis Association. Working with national and high-performance coaches, and young talented players, she provided them with information and resources to help develop future champions. Prior to working in the US, Anne was the Coach Education Director for the Lawn Tennis Association.

Anne is the author of three tennis coaching books and has written many articles on tennis coaching and the development of young athletes. In addition, she works as a technical editor for coach education resources, the most recent being sports coach UK’s An Introduction to the FUNdamentals of Movement.

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