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Improving athletes’ confidence in sport using goal setting

If your goal is to travel to the moon, would you walk? Run? Cycle? Ride? Drive?

You can work hard all day long, but you will go nowhere with the wrong strategy.

Setting the right goal helps athlete perform with confidence

While it sounds like an obvious answer, it turns out that many athletes don’t know how to set their goals to gain confidence and achieve success. When their goal is too big, it ends up creating pressure on their performance instead. A cricketer came to see me with a seasonal goal of 500 runs. After 4 unsuccessful matches, he struggled to get back to his confident form. The first thing I asked him to do was to reset his goal because his current goal put too much pressure on his performance while removing his belief in his ability.

So what types of goal do you need to set for yourself? Being a professional athlete, you should set goals in 4 different areas:


Examples: Strength, Stamina, Speed and Suppleness


Examples: Emotional Control, Concentration, Self-Confidence, Communication


Examples: Spotting gaps in opposition defense, decision making from penalties


Examples: Placing kicks, Tackling, Rucking and Mauling

Here is an example of goal setting in athletics, canoeing, cycling, martial art sports:

setting physical, technical, tactical and mental goals to improve confidence

Within each of the 4 categories, there will be short-term, and long-term goal. The long-term goal answers questions about your “big – why” or the “Compelling reason” for wanting to be involved in sports. Things such as winning an Olympic goal medal, or winning the best player of the season are some of those goals.

Before you read further, ask yourself: “If you knew you could not fail, what would you dream of achieving?

From the big goal, we need to break it down into little accomplishments that we can achieve daily and weekly. These are called small goals. Why are small goals so important? Because they are the stepping stone to bring you one step closer to your ultimate goal.

Tip: If you can do lots of small goals every day, it will be a big boost of confidence. Because you know you have done everything possible to achieve your ultimate goal.

Watch this video on goal setting with Billy Mills when he won the 10,000m event in the Olympics using visualization and goal setting.

The next important thing is to understand the difference among outcome goal, performance goal and process goal.

3 types of goals that cricket athletes can use

Outcome goals are highly quantifiable and are based on result or ranking, such as: Win the gold medal, set the new national record, be in the top 11 for the next World Cup qualifier squad. Outcome goal is a direct competition between yourself and others, which can set the direction and focus for yourself.

In order to achieve outcome goals, athletes need to get their performance goal. This goal emphasizes improving personal performance or attaining a particular performance standard. Performance goals include specific timings / distances that when athletes achieve this, they automatically win the outcome goals. An example of performance goal is: clocking new personal best of 10.5 second, or win at least 2-4 of the opposition’s lineouts.

The last type of goal is process goal, which is the specific things that athletes need to do to achieve the desired outcome. These are day-to-day goals related to training such as: be able to make 20m spin passes with both right and left hand, run 6-8km a week to improve conditioning, stay back 15 minutes after each training to work on receiving of kicks.

Let’s have a look at a real-life example of an elite swimmer. Her outcome goal is to achieve national under 14 record in May 2009. In order to achieve that, she needs to achieve her performance goal of swimming 100m backstroke for less than 1:08.18. From this performance goal, she breaks down her goal into 3 stages. At each stage, there is a performance goal attached so she knows if she is on track toward her outcome goal.

Setting performance goal for swimmers

It is easy to just read this blog post and then do nothing about it. Therefore, I would like to invite you to do your goal setting to make sure that you fully understand what we are talking about. Let’s do the following 5 steps:

  • Step 1: Set a final outcome goal within a reasonable timeframe

  • Step 2: Work backward from this final outcome goal by setting a series of intermediate performance goals (e.g., stroke mechanics, conditioning, tactics, attacking skills and mental skills) to reach outcome goal

  • Step 3: set a series of short-term process goals that are needed to reach performance goals (i.e., timing, footwork, horizontal movement and vertical swing enhance stroke mechanics)

  • Step 4: Set daily process goals that will lead you toward the first intermediate outcome goal

  • Step 5: Work on these daily process goals and monitor your progress by logging them in a log or diary

  • Step 6: Repeat Steps 1 through 5 after every week or so, until you reach your final outcome.

It is crucial that you have some goals on paper before you move on to the next stage. (in the next post)


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