Smarter Goals for Smarter Development

Only a couple months, and it’s a safe bet that most of you have already broken your “new year’s resolution”. That is, if you made a resolution at all. But don’t worry – you’re not alone. Plain and simple, the vast majority of adults suck at goal setting.

This is due in part to a misunderstanding of what a good goal actually looks like. Some people aim too high, others too low. Some goals are undefined, others are unrealistic, and others may simply be unimportant.

Weird as it may seem, goal setting is actually a skill in itself. Often the most successful individuals, professionally and personally, get there on the backs of good goals. Goal setting keeps people focused, productive, motivated, and in a state of constant improvement. This is how someone climbs the corporate ladder, finds a good work-life balance, or makes that elite basketball team.

Some of us were lucky enough to have parents, teachers, or coaches who help build good goal setting habits when we were younger. Some of us weren’t so lucky. Wouldn’t you want your kids and athletes to be in the lucky group?

We sincerely encourage parents and coaches to help young athletes set and achieve goals, both in sport and other areas of life. Even if you don’t consider yourself a goal-oriented individual, working with a young athlete is your chance to make that change.

The SMART Goal formula helps provide a clear structure and parameters to measure the success and progress of goals – so even true beginners can hit the ground running. And thanks to the simplicity and meaning of the acronym itself, SMART Goals resonate as well with kids as they do with adults. SMART Goals are…

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timed

Specific

The more specific your goal, the better chance you have of accomplishing it. Specificity improves focus, which in turn improves the commitment to a particular goal. Try use the 5 W’s & H (who, what, where, when, why, and how) to help define your goal with more specificity.

A general goal might be “improve ball-handling”. Instead, a specific goal would be “practice ball-handling for 5-minutes a day”.

Measurable 

An immeasurable goal is a pointless goal. If you can’t objectively measure your success, how can you determine that you actually achieved success? Concrete criteria acts as a measuring stick, helping you stay motivated and on track for bigger/longer goals.

An immeasurable goal might be “make more free-throws”. Instead, a measurable goal would be “make 80% of free-throws this year”.

Achievable

Most goals are achievable with enough time and hard work dedicated to that goal – don’t forget this. But it is also important to recognize the dangers of unattainable goals. Repeatedly setting (and working towards) goals that are simply impossible can hurt self-image, motivation, and overall development when those goals are stalled.

An unattainable goal might be “don’t miss a shot”. Instead, an achievable goal would be “make all open lay-ups”.

Relevant

The relevance of a goal is regularly ignored. People like setting goals they can easily achieve, instead of goals that actually push their development. Don’t set goals for the sake of meeting goals; set goals that will actually have an impact on your development.

An irrelevant goal might be “make a half-court shot”. Instead, a relevant goal would be “make 5 three-point shots in a row”.

Timed

Finally, goals should be time sensitive. This is arguably the most important SMART Goal element, but thankfully our lives offer plenty of natural time markers. Without a deadline, goals can be easily forgotten or pushed aside for other (likely suspect) priorities.

An un-timed goal might be “assist a basket to every teammate”. Instead, a timed goal would be “assist a basket to every teammate this season”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANick Boon is the Coordinator of Youth Development for Canada Basketball. Nick holds degrees in Physical Education & Health and Sport Business Management, and is a long-time and overly-obsessed basketball coach, player, and fan.

What other goal-setting tricks do you use yourself, or with your athletes? Let us know in the comments below!

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