Tuesday, 23 Jul 2024

Creating Strong Habits to Help Athletes Achieve Goals

Some athletes may have big goals, like winning, but they often lack the understanding of how to achieve them. Goal-setting and the development of daily habits are crucial in helping athletes reach their full potential. Let’s explore some expert advice from Frank L. Smoll, PhD, a sport psychologist and professor at the University of Washington, on how to teach athletes to create strong habits that will lead them to success.

Teach goal-setting basics

Before diving into habits, it’s important to teach athletes the fundamentals of goal-setting. Smoll emphasizes that this concept is often overlooked in younger grades. To establish a strong foundation, introduce young athletes to the concept of SMART goals – goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This approach provides a logical structure for goal achievement.

Consider the ABCs

When setting goals, it’s important to make them Achievable, Believable, and Commit-able. Smoll advises against broad goals, such as “losing weight,” as they tend to lack focus and commitment. Athletes should start with goals that they genuinely believe in, can realistically achieve, and are willing to commit to. Breaking down these goals into actionable steps is key.

Not all goals are created equal

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To motivate athletes, help them find something they genuinely want to achieve during the season. It doesn’t have to be directly related to their sport. Smoll suggests finding an outside goal if necessary. It could be as simple as reading more books or improving their grades. Accomplishing smaller goals can increase motivation and pave the way for bigger achievements.

Define those good habits

Once athletes have identified their SMART goals, it’s important to sit down with them and create a list of habits that will support those goals. This includes both practice-specific habits, like warming up properly, and healthy lifestyle habits, such as eating balanced meals, getting regular physical activity, and managing time effectively.

Show the importance of specific habits

Young athletes may not always understand how certain habits directly impact their training. Smoll recommends explaining the importance of these habits to convince athletes to incorporate them into their routines. For example, adequate sleep is crucial for optimal performance. By highlighting the benefits of adequate sleep and the risks of sleep deprivation, athletes can understand why it’s important to prioritize this habit.

Avoid external rewards

While it may be tempting to offer external rewards for achieving goals or sticking to healthy habits, Smoll warns against it. Extrinsic rewards, like money or material goods, can undermine an athlete’s internal motivation. The focus should be on the feeling of accomplishment and personal growth. Parents and coaches should encourage athletes to cultivate intrinsic motivation and a genuine passion for their sport.

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Chart progress

Repetition and tracking progress are key to habit formation. Smoll suggests implementing a simple performance evaluation system where athletes can track their daily objectives. This can include tasks like drinking a certain amount of water, arriving on time for practice, or engaging in a quick mindfulness routine. By keeping track of their progress, athletes can stay accountable and see the impact of their habits over time.


Q: How can I help my young athletes set achievable goals?
A: Introduce them to the concept of SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This framework provides structure and clarity to goal-setting.

Q: Can goals be non-sport related?
A: Absolutely! If athletes are struggling to find sport-related goals, suggest other areas of improvement, like reading more books or excelling academically. Small accomplishments can boost motivation for bigger goals.

Q: Should I use external rewards to motivate my athletes?
A: It’s best to avoid external rewards. Instead, focus on cultivating intrinsic motivation. Encourage athletes to find joy and satisfaction in their achievements without relying on external incentives.


By teaching young athletes how to set and achieve goals through the development of strong habits, we provide them with essential life skills. The combination of goal-setting, focused habits, and intrinsic motivation creates a powerful foundation for success in sports and beyond. With dedication and guidance, athletes can unlock their full potential and truly enjoy the journey towards their goals.

About Alpinetgheep:
Alpinetgheep is dedicated to supporting athletes in their pursuit of greatness. Through informative articles and expert advice, we aim to empower athletes to reach their goals and develop strong habits that lead to success. Join us on this exciting journey of growth and achievement.

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