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How do I map out my goals for a sports season?

Goal setting is a vital technique for improving sport performance. After all, it is impossible to improve something if you do not know what you're working toward. There are a few important things to remember when setting goals: Make them SMART and focus on the process. SMART goals are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Timely. If you keep your goals SMART, you will be more likely to set process goals (e.g., "I want to improve ______ by doing _________."), as opposed to outcome goals (e.g., "I want to get better at ______.").

Start your map by evaluating where you are. What is going well, and what needs some work? When you've determined specific aspects of your game that you'd like to improve, you can begin mapping out how you might go about improving them. For example, a tennis player may determine that she needs to improve her serve because she is only hitting 50% of her first serves. She may set a goal to specifically practice her serve for a half an hour at the end of each practice session for the next month. Not only can she track her adherence to the goal, but she can also track the improvement in her serve. 

Another way to go about mapping out your goals for the season would be to work backwards from a large outcome goal you have for the end of the season (e.g., I want to win the state championship). Given that your goal is realistic, you should be able to work backwards in order to set goals that will get you there. Start by printing out a map, or a schedule, of your season and highlight the matches/games/tournaments you will need to win to get to the championship. You've likely just segmented your season into smaller mini-seasons, treat them as such. With your season broken down into more managable time-frames, determine some SMART goals for each mini-season. What aspects of your game can you work on? Should you be getting more sleep? Are you taking enough time to recharge? How will you stay healthy and prevent injuries?

Lastly, remember that your goals are not set in stone: You should continally re-evaluate them throughout the season. Also, many athletes that I work with find it difficult to set goals on their own. Seeking help from your coach, sport psychology consultant, or parent(s) might help you set goals and identify areas for improvement. 

Step 1: Take stock in what went well and what didn’t go well in your last season. What successes did you have last year? – List all of them, don’t be shy. Why do you think you succeeded? – There are no wrong answers here, from the dog- your new training partner, to the pretty pink shorts you will always race in, whatever you attribute your successes to, jot them down, this is a running list. What did you not obtain in your last season that you had hoped to accomplish? Honesty will get your closer to putting these goals back on the list for this year. Don’t give up, re-commit. Why do you think you fell short? Again, no wrong answers, if you believe that it’s because your wife/husband switched coffee brands, if it's true for you, write it down. What did you learn from the experience and how can you do better in this year? Here is where you can edit, synthesize all of what you have written above and integrate those answers together into this answer. In the above step you were listing, here you are processing.

Step 2: Establish your current baseline. Do a field test and figure out where you are TODAY- this is a very important piece of the puzzle, it is the first piece of data you will need to work towards your goals.

Step 3: Find a calendar and create a time line. Pick a goal race(s) and mark it on the calendar. Now work backwards and add some secondary races that will help prepare you for your ultimate objective. If your goal race is two weeks away, pick a few more goals throughout the year. Your goal race doesn’t have to be Dec 23, but nor should it be March 1- there’s a lot of year left after March. Secondary races should be spread out by 3-6 weeks to allow for ample recovery and a full build between events. Stacking too many races together can compromise the quality of your training sessions as you will have to focus on recovery between races instead of building fitness between events.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.