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Goal setting for success

The practice of goal setting is widely acknowledged throughout the sporting industry.

Setting goals helps to give athletes a psychological edge, particularly at elite level where the mental aspect can be the difference between success and failure - winning and losing.

Goal setting is principally a mental training tool that can be used to increase an individual’s commitment to a personal achievement or aim, through short, medium and long-term goals.

Goals can be broken down into three categories:-

Process goals - aspects a player should be concentrating on when carrying out a specific skill.

Performance goals- helping an athlete make improvements over a period of time

Outcome goals - specific results in competition

Goal setting is not just for the elite player. It is important for all players to understand the reasons and benefits of the process.

Athletes often don’t see the value in setting goals, considering them boring and too time consuming. Writing down goals does not need to be a chore – encourage starting with smaller goals and build from there.

Another fundamental mistake is that players often set themselves the wrong types of goals and fail before they start. Education is key to the process and it is imperative that coaches highlight the value of goal setting for their players to help them achieve optimal performance.

How to help players set goals

Each player will have a different personal aim or need in achieving their goals. Coaches can offer vital support to collectively outline a football plan on which to focus.

Goal setting in sport is a much more valuable process than merely stating, “I want to improve my game”. Coaches can support players to set realistic, relevant and measurable goals.

In order to get the best out of the goal setting strategy, many athletes and coaches follow the SMART approach:

Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Time based

The SMART acronym identifies five key aspects for achieving goals. These prompts help to ensure all areas are focused on the individual.


Specific - A defensive player to win over 90% of their challenges throughout a 90-minute match. An attacking player to make 10-15 runs or attempts on goal throughout a 90-minute match.

Measurable - How many goals or assists scored throughout the season. How many saves or challenges a goalkeeper or defender has made.

Attainable - Ensuring the goal which is set for the athlete is achievable, starting with small tasks to gain confidence in the process and then start to make larger goals.

Realistic - This is key and very important to discuss with the athlete individually. Each athlete is different and will have varied strengths and weaknesses. The player will need to decide on their goals and agree that they are realistic targets for them to achieve.

Time based - Define goals into timeframes – for the season as well as shorter timeframes specific to the athlete.

And of course, goal setting can also be instrumental for coaches. has further reading on the goal setting topic.


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