Tag Archives: goal setting

Goal-Setting for Athletes

5 Sep

Goal-Setting[1]The fall sports season is upon us, which means the winter sports season is just around the corner, and winter sports athletes should be actively preparing for the coming season (especially those not involved in a fall sport).  Improving sport-specific skills and strength and conditioning should be priorities for basketball players, swimmers, and wrestlers.

All four of my children are basketball players.  They all play other sports, as well, but basketball is the “common denominator.”  Prior to any season, I always encourage them to sit down and develop written goals for the upcoming season — team goals and individual goals; performance-related goals and effort-related goals.  I think goal setting is important to any endeavor, not just sports.  Personal, academic, athletic, and professional goals — along with appropriate action planning — help to facilitate a successful outcome.

Here’s an example of what individual goal setting might look like for a basketball player:


Use your SPEED and QUICKNESS to your advantage


  • Take away opponent’s dominant hand
  • Interrupt passing lanes
  • Jam cutters
  • Box out and rebound


  • Change SPEED and DIRECTION
  • ATTACK the basket
  • TAKE open shots
  • Knock down shots
    • Field goals, free throws, layups
  • Use reverse layup and spin move, situationally
  • Shoot pull-up and step-back jump shots when you have the opportunity
  • Look for offensive rebound and put-back opportunities

This example is, by no means, intended to be all-inclusive.  It’s just a template and, perhaps a starting point — something to get you thinking and started.

It’s important to have a realistic understanding of your strengths and areas for improvement — to know where you are today, relative to your goal, and where you want to be tomorrow.  The time and effort it takes to invest in your self-development and self-improvement is up to you.


Your thoughts?

Think Like an Athlete

5 May

article1[1]Being an athlete is about more than just strength, speed, agility, and athleticism (although the development of those characteristics is certainly important).  It even goes beyond the genetics and “natural” ability with which you have been blessed.

Being an athlete is also about how you think; how you practice; how you talk (especially self-talk); how you act; and how you dream.

Being an athlete is about setting challenging goals — and working hard toward the achievement of those goals, every day.

Being an athlete is about realizing your long-term objectives and having the discipline to stick to your plan.

Being an athlete means being aware that there will be obstacles along the way, and having the mental toughness to overcome adversity.

Being an athlete involves visualizing yourself succeeding, and positive, encouraging self-talk, along the way.

Being an athlete requires a commitment to constantly improve upon your performance.

Being an athlete means focusing on improving you, and not comparing yourself with others — being better today than you were yesterday.

Here’s a great read from Huffington Post titled, 8 Ways to Think Like an Athlete.  The article does a nice job of expanding upon some of the thoughts discussed above.  If you are — or aspire to be — an athlete, it’s a “must-read.”  And it doesn’t just apply to athletics.  The same principles can be applied to school, work, and life.


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6 Ways to Get Stronger

12 Feb

195193724_640[1]Every athlete can improve his or her performance by getting stronger.  Whether your sport involves running, jumping, hitting, throwing, or kicking, strength training can help you do it better.  Your sport-specific skills aren’t going to be enough if you’re the weakest, slowest player on the court or field.

Here are 6 ways to get stronger:

  1.  Get in the weight room.  I know this one sounds like a “no-brainer,” but I also know a lot of athletes who aren’t getting their work done in the weight room (you know who you are).  Strength training is not about having time to workout, it’s about making time.  Conditioning, and playing and practicing your sport, are not enough.  In order to get stronger, you’ve got to lift, push, and pull heavy “stuff.”  As I mentioned in last week’s article, you won’t get stronger by grinding out 3 set of 10 reps.  Building strength and power – for most exercises – requires that you work with a weight that challenges you for 4-6 repetitions per set.
  2. Set a goal.  What do you want to accomplish?  Maybe you want to run faster or jump higher.  Perhaps you want to throw, hit, and/or kick with more force or velocity.  Setting a goal for yourself is the first step.  You have to know where you want to go before embarking upon your journey.
  3. Have a plan.  Once you determine your goal, it’s time to develop a plan.  Your plan should include action steps that lead you from point A (the present) to point B (your goal), including exercises, repetitions, sets, intensity, volume, and frequency.  Make sure your plan is SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound).  And remember, your action steps must be consistent with your goal.
  4. Work your entire body.  Forget about “body part” training, working only certain parts of your body on specific days.  You should train like to work, play… and live.  That means it’s important to work all your major muscle groups, every time you workout.  Your body is meant to work as a functional, interconnected unit.  Make sure your training is functional, and reflects the demands of your sport, by training movements and not just muscles.
  5. Rest and refuel.  Every time you workout, you break down muscle.  Allowing yourself some time (48 hours is a good gauge) to recover, following your workout, helps your muscles to rebuild and recover in preparation for your next bout of strength training.  Nutrition – including post-workout nutrition — is important.  Active individuals should aim for 0.6-0.8 grams of protein, per pound of body weight, per day, including 20-30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of strength training.  Athletes may need as much as one gram of protein, per pound of body weight, per day.
  6. Get some help.  Consider enlisting the help of a reputable, qualified, and experienced certified strength training professional, at least to get you started.  He or she can guide and instruct you through exercise selection, proper form and technique, appropriate sets and repetitions, injury prevention strategies, nutrition guidelines, provide motivation, and more.


Your thoughts?

It’s Not Gonna Happen Overnight

17 Jan

There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going.” – Beverly Sills

My mom used to say that if something is worth having (or doing), it’s worth working for.  The problem for many people is that, while they are enamored with the idea of having more than they currently have, they are not willing to commit themselves to the process required to get there.

What do you want to “have”?  Do you want to get stronger and faster?  Do you want to improve your grade point average?  Do you want to improve your free throw shooting percentage?  Do you want to become a better public speaker?

Regardless of your aspirations, one thing is certain: It’s going to require some time, effort, commitment, and dedication.  Improvement requires change, and change requires action and effort.

Have a plan.  Understand what it is you want to accomplish and, if necessary, consult with someone who has more experience and expertise than you.  They can help you develop the action steps required to begin working toward your goal.

Work your plan.  As John Wooden said, “Nothing will work unless you do.”  It won’t matter how good your plan is if you don’t commit yourself to it.  You’ve got to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Be patient.  Reconcile yourself with the fact that improvement is going to take some time.  Some days will be better than others, but it’s important to stay positive and work through adversity.  Do what you can do, on a daily basis, and be consistent.

Re-evaluate.  Action planning should build in progress checks at regular intervals to ensure that you are on track, and that your action steps are consistent with your desired results.

It’s never crowded along the extra mile.” – Wayne Dyer


Your thoughts?

Summer Fitness Made Easy

26 Jun

0803-summer-fitness_vg[1]Summer is a great time of year (the best, in my opinion), because it’s easy to improve your fitness without making wholesale changes to your routine.  Here are some tips for an active, healthy  — and fit — summer:

  • Get outside.  Walk. Run. Bike. Hike. Enjoy the warm weather. When it gets too hot, take advantage of the early morning and evening hours, when temperatures are more reasonable.
  • Be efficient in the gym. Get in; get your work done; get out.
  • Sleep in on the weekend. It can be difficult to get 7-8 hours every night during the week. Use the weekend to get a full, restorative night of sleep.
  • Eliminate excuses. Can’t get to the gym? Workout at home. Don’t have a lot of time? 10 minutes of concentrated activity is better than none at all.
  • Try a warm weather activity. Find something you enjoy and do more of it while the weather allows.
  • Workout with a friend. You’re more likely to stay on task with a partner.
  • Make more stops at roadside stands for fresh fruits and delicious summer vegetables.
  • Try a new stretch. Use a stretch band (rope or towel) to gently assist in pulling a muscle a little farther than your body would ordinarily allow.
  • Challenge yourself. Gradually and progressively increase the intensity of your workout — weight, reps, sets, reduced rest intervals, etc.
  • Set goals. A combination of short- and long-term goals is important to your success. An end-of-summer (or mid-summer) goal sets your motivation in motion and helps define direction and purpose.
  • Create a summer playlist. A new playlist can boost your motivation when you’re starting a new exercise routine. Keeping your music fresh can help keep your training fun.
  • Beat the heat. Stay hydrated, take frequent water breaks, and avoid midday workouts.
  • Pack a jump rope for your summer vacation.
  • Don’t overdo it. Take some time to recover and regenerate.


Your thoughts?

How Do You Motivate Yourself?

6 Mar

12307969-standard[2]“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford

Before you can accomplish anything, you’ve got to believe you can. And before you can believe in your ability, you have to develop a strong level of personal motivation.

The first step in motivating yourself is understanding what you want and why you want it. If this is less than clear, it will be difficult to maintain a high level of self-motivation. Goal setting is an important part of this process. It will help to provide direction and purpose. Once you set a goal, the next step is figuring out how you’re going to accomplish it.

Action planning is the bridge between goal-setting and accomplishment.  You need to create a plan that is aligned with your goals.

Get started… stop procrastinating. The thought of change can seem overwhelming, but taking that first step is necessary and gratifying.  The key to overcoming procrastination is to focus on the process rather than on the outcomes — shift your focus from the outcome to your immediate efforts.  Success will come once you have mastered the process of acting in the moment.  .

Long-term planning can help to make your goal more attainable. Quantum change doesn’t occur overnight, so “chunk down” your goal by setting incremental achievement points along the way — and then celebrate those small victories. Setting checkpoints along the way will also allow you to adjust your approach or strategy, if necessary.

Change usually involves changing your habits.  Initially, it takes a lot of motivation to make a change in your habits, but you can do it with discipline.  Although it’s easier said than done, you need to replace your bad habits with better habits.

Improve your self-esteem by taking responsibility for your actions, developing your strengths, and eliminating negative influences.

Build self-confidence by facing your fears, recalling past successes, building upon small successes, and creating a supportive environment.  Reinforce positive behavior and goal-attainment, and keep the momentum going.


Your thoughts?

Consistency is the Key

25 Feb

Consistency[1]I have a few clients who show up to train, sporadically, and are puzzled as to why they don’t seem to make any real progress.  I’ll see them maybe once or twice over the span of weeks or months.  Some of them think their exercise selection is the problem.  They want to try all kinds of different modes of exercise (which is not necessarily a bad thing), but they don’t stick with any of them on a regular basis.

The reality is, you don’t have to take an extreme or fanatical approach in the weight room to be productive.  Same goes for your speed training and diet.  Establish a goal, create a plan, ensure that your plan is aligned with your goal, and commit to it on a regular basis.  I realize that’s easier said than done, but the process itself is not complicated.

Strength and Conditioning

Research shows that strength training two days per week — about 30 minutes per session — can help individuals build strength, power, muscle mass, and endurance.  Focus on exercises that work large and multiple muscle groups like the squat, deadlift, bench press, and row.  As a rule, choose free weights over machines.  Free-weight exercises generally require more balance and stability to perform, increasing the intensity level and degree of difficulty.

Speed and Agility

Strength training plays a key role in the development of speed and agility (remember, speed and agility is largely impacted by the amount of force you can generate against the ground; stronger legs generate greater force).  You can be more efficient with high-intensity interval training (HIIT), regardless of your mode of cardio training (run, bike, elliptical, treadmill, etc.).  Try this 10-minute approach: go hard (aggressive pace) for 30 seconds, and easy (very light pace) for 90 seconds.  Repeat four more times.

Diet and Nutrition

Follow the 80/20 rule.  Adhere to your diet and nutrition plan, strictly, 80% of the time.  Allow yourself a “cheat” meal every fifth day.  I’ve read about a physician who recommends 10% discretionary calories, every day, for his patients.  For example, on a 2,000 calorie per day diet, you could eat 200 calories worth of whatever you want, every day — but only 200 calories — as long as you stick to your plan for the other 1,800 calories.  This plan allows his patients to reward themselves for “good” behavior (positive reinforcement).


Your thoughts?

Don’t Just Work Hard, Work Smart

13 Feb

work-smart[1]“More is better” is a philosophy that applies to a lot of different situations.  When it comes to strength training, though, more (reps, sets, days) is not necessarily better.  As a matter of fact, research indicates that more can be associated with a diminishing return.  Don’t gauge the effectiveness of your exercise routine by the amount of time you spend in the weight room.  Instead, take a closer look at what you accomplish — in both the short- and long-term.  Effort is important… you’ve got to work hard.  But hard work without a purposeful plan won’t get you very far.

What is Your Goal?

First of all, have a goal.  There are several different reasons for strength training.  Most people who workout want to realize improvement in one or more of the following areas:

  • Strength
  • Power
  • Speed
  • Agility
  • Athleticism
  • Hypertrophy (size)
  • Endurance
  • General fitness
  • Weight management

It’s important to understand what you want to accomplish, since different strategies are necessary to achieve different results.  A strength and conditioning professional can help you sort out things like exercise selection, intensity level, sets, repetitions, rest intervals, and days per week.  Make sure to align your plan with your goal(s).

Commit Your Plan to Writing

Once you’ve decided on the plan/strategy that’s right for you, put it on paper (or, I guess, in your smart phone).  Create a workout chart to track your activity and progress.  Refer to them frequently.

Be Aggressive but Realistic

You should challenge/push yourself a little more with each subsequent workout — add a little more weight, one or two more reps, or the speed at which you progress through the exercise.  Don’t allow yourself to plateau.  Your body will adapt to your current level of activity, so variety and progression is the key.


Don’t leave your workout for when you “have” time.  You’ve got to make time for strength training.  Treat it as you would any other appointment or priority — schedule it in advance.


Your thoughts?

By Failing to Prepare, You Are Preparing to Fail

8 Feb

smb_081022_gjw_practice[1]“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

Successful performance requires purposeful preparation.  This is true in school, sports, business, and life.  As an athlete, your preparation should be year-round, and include sport-specific skill development (for example, basketball ball-handling and shooting); strength and conditioning; and nutrition.

Sport-Specific Skill Development

The first step toward improvement is gaining an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses (I like to refer to them as “areas of opportunity”).  If you have access to video footage of your games, watch it — video doesn’t lie.  Sit down with your coach and have a discussion about what he or she thinks you do well and the areas in which you can improve.  Your goal should be to become a better all-around (complete) player.  The more you can contribute — on both sides of the ball — the greater your value to your team.  You want to be an asset to your team when you’re on the field or court… not a liability.  Don’t get caught up comparing yourself to teammates and/or opponents.  Focus on self-improvement — be better today than you were yesterday.

Strength and Conditioning

Improvements in strength, speed, agility, and athleticism can only benefit you as an athlete.  A strength and conditioning professional can help you develop a plan that is tailored to your needs and goals as an athlete.  Your strength and conditioning plan should be periodized, with phases to address the off-season, pre-season, and in-season.  Generally, as your sport-specific activity increases, your strength and conditioning activity should decrease (taper), and vice-versa.  Your strength and conditioning plan should also be progressive, gradually increasing in intensity over time to ensure improvement.  Don’t take the in-season phase off — it’s important to maintain what you’ve developed!


Learn how to fuel your body for optimum performance.  You can refer to several of my previous blog posts that discuss the importance of breakfast, pre- and post-workout nutrition, and sports performance nutrition.  Don’t underestimate the impact proper nutrition can make — it can affect your metabolism, energy level, and mental focus.

Goal Setting

It’s important to set some challenging but attainable (realistic) goals.  You’re probably not going to go from being a 50% free-throw shooter to an 80% shooter, overnight.  It’s fine for your ultimate goal to be 80%, but set incremental goals along the way.  Develop a plan (in writing) that incorporates lots of purposeful practice and repetition.  Decide how you will measure success, then align your plan with — and channel your efforts toward — your goal.


Your thoughts?

Strive for Perfection, Settle for Excellence

1 Feb

jordan-shoot-mr-basketball-basquete-blog-brasil[1]Hall of Fame NFL Coach (and Cleveland area native), Don Shula, is credited with the quote, “Strive for perfection, settle for excellence.”  Ironically, it was Shula’s 1972 Miami Dolphins that, to this day, lay claim to the NFL’s only “perfect” (unbeaten championship) season.

Brian Littrell said, “Shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Michael Jordan famously asserted that, although he didn’t make every shot he took, he intended to — his goal was to make every shot — even though his career field goal percentage was just below 50%.

Perfection — at least in the long-term — is unattainable.  You may get 100% of the points on a particular test or quiz, but it’s unlikely you’ll do it for an entire grading period.  Similarly, you may have a game in which you make 100% of your free throws or have no turnovers, but it’s next to impossible to maintain that pace for an entire season.

The point is this: AIM HIGH!  If you set your goals at the highest level and fall short, you’ll still be performing at a high level.  Your work, practice, and preparation should be done with an eye on perfection, regardless of the venue — personal, professional, academic, or athletic.  There’s no shame in not being perfect, but don’t settle for mediocrity.  Keep working toward that perfect score, assignment, or game.


Your thoughts?

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