The SMART method for setting goals in sport

Do you set goals in your sport? Is it something you’ve thought about doing but not sure where to start? Or maybe you’ve set goals in the past but you haven’t quite reached them. In this short blog we discuss a popular goal-setting technique.


In the 1960’s researchers Dr Edwin Locke and Dr Gary Latham discovered that clear goals along with feedback motivated employees to perform better at work. Further research found that setting specific and challenging goals had a greater impact on performance than easier to achieve goals. Locke and Latham went on to suggest a useful framework for setting goals based on five key points.


Locke and Latham identified the following points to consider when setting your goals:

  1. Clarity – make your goals specific and measurable so that you’re absolutely clear on what it is you want to achieve and how you’ll measure your success
  2. Challenge – set goals that push your personal boundaries, goals that are achievable, but that stretch your current performance
  3. Commitment – consider how likely you are to be committed to your goal, what will drive you to achieve it, does it excite you enough to warrant your full commitment to strive towards it?
  4. Feedback – consider how often you’ll review your goals so that you can effectively measure progress
  5. Task complexity – try to keep things simple, but where there is a high degree of task complexity, allow yourself more time to achieve your goals


A simple but effective way to construct your goals bearing in mind the above key points is to use the ‘SMART’ framework:


What we know from goal-setting research in sport is that goals influence performance in four distinct ways:

  • they help to direct our attention on what’s most important
  • they help to mobilise our efforts and help to drive us in the direction of performance improvement
  • they help to enhance our persistence i.e. keep going in the face of adversity
  • they help us to develop new learning strategies i.e. finding out ways to overcome problems


  • Write your goals down – Create something visual so that you can see what you are working towards each day, week, month year. This also helps from a feedback point of view; you can easily see how you are progressing towards your goals.
  • Set goals for Practice and Competition – goals can be used for the different environments that you operate in as an athlete e.g. football; practice and competition goals in relation to shooting accuracy
  • Set individual and team goals – if you’re part of a team, think about how your own personal goals align with your team goals
  • Re-evaluate your goals – if you find yourself not quite achieving your goals in the timeframe that you set yourself, don’t be afraid to re-evaluate them and adapt them if necessary

Want some support with setting effective goals? Get in touch to find out how we can help.

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