Ask The Experts
Brick by brick

Brick by brick


By Ker’Shyra Myrick

Setting goals is a great idea for young athletes, as it helps them stay motivated and committed during the season, and build on skills, too.  

“Goal setting can help an athlete see the progress they are making,” said Dr. Kristen Dieffenbach, a Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC) with the Association for Applied Sport Psychology.

We spoke with Dr. Dieffenbach to get her take on the importance of goal setting in youth sports. Check out what she had to say:

SPORTINGKID LIVE: How important is goal setting in youth sports?

DIEFFENBACH: Goal setting should be from a developmental sports perspective. Goal setting can impact a child participating in youth sports in many ways. Goal setting can help an athlete see the progress they are making throughout the season, and it can help an athlete take ownership of the sport and/or position they are playing, especially if they have a say in what they want to accomplish. If goal setting is done well, it can connect the outcome a player wants and the process needed to get them there. Goal setting can also help kids develop not just in sports but in all things throughout their lives. When setting a goal, older athletes have the opportunity to look within themselves and say “Here is the outcome I want. How do I get there and how do I do the things necessary to get me there?” The more we can tie goal setting back to the activities that are being done, the easier it will be for the athlete to achieve their goals. I like to say that athletes have to add bricks to the wall – the bricks are the things you have to do, and the effort is the concrete that holds it all together.

SPORTINGKID LIVE: Should goals be individual or team oriented?

DIEFFENBACH: Both. There needs to be a collective goal for the team. Depending on the age group, it is important to acknowledge that all kids are not capable of coming up with a really big goal. Goals should be based around the kids on the team, not the idea of what the coach would like. A coach should not say they want to win a championship until they know who the kids on the team are. Once you set a team goal, and if there is a way to make sure athletes are involved just a little bit, then you can start to focus on individual goals. But this should only be one or two. This strategy can help the individual find their role in the team goal and emphasizes their contribution to the team goal. Coaches should focus on the individual investment first, and then they can start having the conversation of everyone on the team being important and that the contributions everyone makes to the team are how we get better as a team.

SPORTINGKID LIVE: What are some tips parents and coaches can give youth athletes when they are setting goals?

DIEFFENBACH: This really depends on where the kids are developmentally. For younger kids, it can be harder. Coaches and parents will need to give more guidance and have a conversation around the idea of the child’s effort and what they can do to continue to work hard and be resilient. Parents and coaches should give examples and then ask them to give their own. For older kids, ages 12 and up, parents and coaches should encourage them to think through the outcome they are trying to achieve, what they have to do to achieve that outcome, and the stepping stones they need to get there. Older athletes can take more ownership. Younger athletes need support when they do accomplish their goals like, “Wow, you did a really good job with that.” With older kids, you are going to ask questions like “How do you feel you work toward your goals?” instead of giving guidance. That way, they are not being told what to do, and the thought process gets them involved more because they start to think about what worked and what did not.

Goal Setting Performance Kristen Dieffenbach Psychology

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