With this season’s amazing alpine ski racing performances so fresh in everyone’s minds, a lot of young ski racers – and their parents – will be dreaming of podium finishes. Dreaming
can be a powerful motivator, but with it must come the process
of goal setting that is so fundamental to the development of
any young athlete.
The theory behind effective goal setting
is that it teaches athletes specific,
measurable, achievable tangibles by which
they can thrive. Goal setting helps athletes
work toward their own objectives, which
makes it a personal process and extremely
individual. As a coach, you can teach
achievement behavior to young racers –
and it all starts with close examination of
what they want to accomplish.
Athletes must be mature enough to be
honest with themselves and others, and
be able to look at themselves realistically,
before formal goal setting will be effective.
In my experience, children have the
necessary developmental capacities by
about age 13. Before then, in order to be
successful when they have matured, the
foundational skill of “focusing on what
you can control” must be taught. Put
simply, the only two things any athlete
can control is their attitude and their
effort. This concept must be understood
by younger students in order for more
mature goal setting to be useful.
It’s important to teach kids to focus
on what they can control – attitude and
effort have naturally occurring positive
by-products, as well as naturally-occurring
consequences, i.e., poor performance.
Athletes know when they let themselves
down. As their coach, your job is to
help them set a course for correction by
redirecting goals as needed and keeping
the focus on the individual athletes’ wants
Formal goal setting should be taught in
stages and incorporated with sensitivity
to the developmental maturity of each
athlete. Individualized goal meetings,
Prior to these meetings you’ll want to
work to provide a safe environment built
on a foundation of trust and respect.
The athlete will then be able to share
personal thoughts and take chances when
planning his or her goals.
Fluidity On And Off The Snow
The structure of the actual meeting
and process must be fluid. Again, you
are dealing with individuals who have
By Dave Lyon
Use Goal Setting to Teach Achievement
Behavior in Young Athletes
By focusing on the elements of performance they can control, junior racers —
such as Spencer Barclay, pictured here — help set themselves up for success.