For Coaches
Make goal setting work for your young athletes

Make goal setting work for your young athletes


By Sara Robinson, MA

Goal setting helps direct attention, mobilize effort, increase persistence and help with the development and execution of strategies that lead to goal achievement.

Additionally, as an athlete learns how to set goals effectively, he or she will not only become more likely to reach their goals on the field, but their confidence will likely increase as well.

When setting goals the likelihood of accomplishing them increases if the principles covered below are followed. Here are five goal-setting tips to use with your young athletes and click HERE for five additional tips.

Set positive goals: Have players set goals around what they want to do, rather than what they do not want to do, or what they are trying to avoid. For example, rather than “I don’t want to walk batters,” try “I will focus on finding the strike zone.” This way, they have information about what they want to accomplish, rather than what they are trying to avoid.

Write the goals down: Putting goals down on paper makes it more likely the young athlete will work on those goals, but make sure they put them somewhere where they will see them often: on their bulletin board at home, on a note card on the inside of their sports bag, on their mirror at home, the home screen of their phone, etc.

Evaluate progress: Take time on a regular basis to assess their progress with their goal. You may find they are making more progress than expected, or possibly not. Goals and strategies can be adjusted to help them continue to move forward. Coaches can encourage this by setting aside time each week or month to check in.

Progress is not always linear: Even if goals are set using the above guidelines, that does not mean athletes will progress in a forward pattern from start to finish. There may be unexpected set-backs or times where progress stalls. This is all normal, and if an athlete runs into challenges, look for a possible solution rather than allowing the athlete to become frustrated that he or she got stuck. The important thing is that there is overall forward movement toward their goals.

Have fun: The above guidelines give you a better chance of helping athletes reaching their goals. Remind your players that they are in control of the goals, and how they accomplish them. Even though it will take hard work and dedication work with them to enjoy the process and to feel good about how far they go in reaching those goals.

Sara Robinson, MA, is a Mental Skills Coach with a Master’s Degree in Sport Psychology. She works with parents, coaches and athletes ages 8-18 to teach the mental skills necessary for sport and life. For more information visit or email her at

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