Olympic Weightlifting Resource

Goal Setting to Improve Sport Performance
Goal setting seems to be something obvious for an athlete but there are right and wrong ways to go about setting goals. Setting goals the wrong way can stall performance, lead to frustration, burnout, and possibly quitting the sport altogether. Below are guidelines on how to set goals and improve athletic performance.

Specific numerical goals are much more effective in changing behavior then general goals or no goals at all. For example, I want to snatch 120kg instead of I will do better in the snatch than the last time. Or another example would be I want to be faster. Well, that's great but how much faster, if you run a 13.3 you should say I want to run a 12.8. Remember to put numbers with your goals that will help you achieve them.

Set a moderately difficult goal. Research has shown that a moderately difficult goal will help improve performance more so than an easy goal. However, the goal shouldn't be too difficult and beyond the ability of the athlete. The goal should be just enough to push the athlete beyond their current progress, but not beyond themselves that they get discouraged and down when they fail to make it.

Many athletes are great at setting a huge long term goal that they want to accomplish but get discouraged when they compare their current progress to the long term goal. It is best to set both short and long term goals. If an athlete wants to snatch 180kg, but they are at 90kg they will burn themselves out quickly comparing themselves to the goal of a 180kg snatch. What is better is to keep the 180kg snatch goal and add in, this month I will add 5kg to my snatch. The goals can be broken down even further. The long term can be 180kg snatch and there can be monthly goals and yearly goals until that long term goal of a 180kg snatch is reached. The athlete needs that short term goal to provide the emotional encouragement of breaking goals and seeing progress. Think of it as climbing a ladder, the athlete wants to be at the top, but needs to take each step one at a time before they reach the top.

Similarly an athlete should set not only an outcome goal (trying to win a competition), but also performance goals. One thing that many individuals are guilty of is focusing too much on outcome goals. Outcome goals can provide great motivation and boost validation however, they are not the end all be all of goals and performance and process goals should be set. Outcome goals are not always controllable either. For instance, a lifter in their previous competition lifted 110kg in clean and jerk and in their next competition did a 125kg clean and jerk instead. That's a great improvement, but if he is going against seasoned veterans with more experience chances are the veterans will win instead. Instead of feeling bad about losing the competition the lifter should feel good because they were able to surpass their old clean and jerk and set a new personal best. An athlete may give up on goal setting if they constantly set outcome goals and don't meet them exactly. For instance, if they set an outcome to win every competition and don't, they may figure, "this goal setting doesn't work," and give up completely. That is why performance goals should be set. If an athlete totals 220kg in a competition then they should set their next competition total goal to 235kg or something along those lines.

Setting process goals along with outcome and performance goals will also help athletes improve performance. An example of a process goal could be something as simple as making sure to keep the arms locked during the snatch or getting a good dip in the jerk. Outcome helps with short term motivation to inspire the athlete to compete, performance goals will help show the athlete they are making progress in their career, and process goals will help an athlete make sure they are doing things right to enable a higher level of performance. So really every goal has a purpose, but many people and athletes only look at the outcome goal when in reality all three aspects should be looked at and evaluated to improve performance.

Many athletes also just set goals for competitions, but really more time is spent practicing than doing competitions. Don't forget about practice it's just important. Set a goal to finish every exercise or to really get in tune when it comes to those 90% back squats.

Another huge aspect of goal setting is setting positive goals. Some think they are setting positive goals but in reality they are not. For instance, everyone knows a person that says something like "I won't bend my arms during the triple extension" and what do they do...They bend their arms!! Another example for other sports would be "Don't fumble the ball" and they fumble, likewise "Don't miss the free throw" and they miss the free throw. I'm sure many people can relate to this in some aspect of sports or life. Remember to frame your goal setting in a positive way.

Two other factors when it comes to goal setting are setting dates for the goal and writing the goal down. By setting a target date the athlete will be remind of how there is a time frame and a sense of urgency to their goal. It also might motivate athletes that have a hard time pushing themselves and getting into the right gear, so to speak. Writing the goal down will make sure the athlete remembers it and can change it if circumstances arise that alter progress.

The athlete should also be surrounded by people that support his goals, not only outcome, but performance and process goals. It's crucial to be surrounded by people that support the sport and the goals and efforts of the athletes.

Using the aforementioned tips will help athletes and coaches establish goals that are more effective in raising sport performance than just setting a goal.