Goal Setting

One of the most valuable life lessons that sports can teach our kids is the concept of how to set, pursue and achieve goals, and how to deal with the times when we fall short of our goals.

    100 Point Exercise

    Positive Sport Parents can help their kids learn the lessons of goal-setting right from the start of the season.  The experts at Positive Coaching Alliance recommend the 100 Point Exercise Tool as a great way to kick off this discussion.  

    Goal Setting 100 Point Exercise Youth sportsYou and your children each have 100 points to allocate to various goals for the upcoming season. Goals could be things like having fun, improving fitness, making new friends, winning, and learning new skills. You may want to suggest some of these categories to your children, but also you’re your kids to come up with their own categories.

    Separately, you and your children write down how you allocate your 100 points and when you are finished you then share them with each other. You might be surprised at the similarities and differences. For example, you may learn how much emphasis your child places on winning, and that may lead to a discussion about keeping wins and losses in perspective.

    Consider drilling-down on topics to really understand what your kids are thinking.  For example, if you are discussing the topic of winning, you can ask, “How do you feel when you win?” and “How do you feel when you lose?” and -- most importantly in terms of teaching an impactful life lesson – “What are some ways we can work on to help you better cope with a loss or other setback?”

    What we like best about this exercise is the amount and type of conversation it can create between you and your child.  As Positive Sport Parent, you’re leveraging the enthusiasm your kids have for sports to really dig in on some important topics.

    What Types of Goals to Set

    With the 100-Point Exercise in hand, you and your child can now craft specific goals for the season.  . Some will be quantitative and others qualitative. For example, “I’d like to end the season with at least one new friend” or “My goal is to come away from each game feeling like I had the most fun I possibly could.”

    As a Positive Sport Parent, try to emphasize goals that pertain to the “life lessons” aspects of sports. Chances are that players and coaches will establish their own goals for sports performance, such as improving skills or achieving certain statistics. And while you may be involved in helping your children pursue those goals -- say, in backyard practices -- you are irreplaceable as a source of guidance in processing the life lessons available through sports.

    Setting these goals with your child gives you something to return to throughout the season. When you debrief a practice or a game, do not forget to ask “Did you have fun?” or “Which of your teammates are starting to feel like friends?”

    That approach reminds your children that there is more to sports than just wins, losses and statistics, which may be important in encouraging them to stay with a sport and continue trying their hardest even if their scoreboard results are less than desired. As long as your children see progress toward some of the goals they set before the season started, they should have some feeling of success and view the experience as worthwhile and enjoyable.

    Staying Focused On Pursuing and Achieving Goals

    Positive Sport Parents can help kids stay focused on pursuing – and ultimately achieving – the goals they have set for themselves for the season.  As you watch your child work hard against these goals, you may need to offer tremendous encouragement in the face of disappointing results: “It must have hurt you to miss that shot, but remember  you are the kind of person who keeps trying. That attitude and some more practice will help you toward your goals.”

    When you stay focused on the goals that your child set out for the season, so too will they stay focused and put the proper context on the ups-and-downs of the season.

    Celebrate Success

    At the end of the season, pull out that 100-Point Exercise Sheet and remind your athlete that, regardless of the win-loss record, they achieved their goals that they set out for themselves.  The learned a new skill, they made a new friend, they had fun during the season.  Celebrate the success and talk about where they may have fell short and how their effort measured up against their goals.  

    It is one of the greatest feelings in the world to work hard and achieve a goal. It can be a horrible feeling to work hard and fall short. Helping your children experience and navigate this range of emotions is among the most important things you will do as a Positive Sport Parent. And, as long as you continually communicate with your children throughout the process from goal-setting to goal-achieving (or not), you are using the youth sports experience to teach your children critical life lessons.

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In an effort to benefit millions of youth athletes, parents and coaches, this article is among a series created exclusively for partners in the Liberty Mutual Insurance Play Positive program powered by Positive Coaching Alliance.

©2014 Liberty Mutual Insurance and Positive Coaching Alliance. All rights reserved. This material may not be distributed without express written permission. Any reproduction in whole or part by and individuals or organizations will be held liable for copyright infringement to the full extent of the law.

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