Achieving goals not only boosts your child’s self-esteem and builds confidence, it also develops that ‘can-do’ attitude and builds independence as they quickly come to realise that the success of a goal is dependent on their actions. Not forgetting goal setting is also an important life skill!
Knowing where to start can be a bit daunting and you can help your young athlete make a start on this journey with 5 key steps:
1. Let Them Choose The Goal
It is crucial that THEY choose the goal so they own it and by them choosing will increase their chances of success. Some children will still set goals that they think will please their parents so be sure to tell them its their choice and that you will stand by them.
You can help by prompting with questions such as:
- “If you knew you could never fail what would you want to achieve?”
- “How would you feel if you achieved it?”
- “Why is it so important for you to achieve that?”
- “What do you think you need to do to achieve it and who can help?” (this will also help create the steps).
They either come up with the goals themselves or if you do come up with them together they MUST think that it’s a good idea.
2. Keep It Simple
They don’t want to be overwhelmed, make sure they keep their goals simple that can be achieved with a few steps. They can add more goals later but start like this to get them going. Tell them to work on one goal at a time to prevent them being overwhelmed.
For example - instead of the goal being they want to win their next big competition, begin with a goal that perhaps improves a certain technique that they feel they are weaker on. For example, with Swimming the goal may be to ‘improve my streamline off the wall’.
3. Help Break Down Their Goal Into Smaller Steps
This is really important as it gives a reality to them achieving their goal. Have only 3 to 4 steps to reach the goal, if this can’t be done then the goal is not specific enough or too big so start again.
For example, to break down the streamline goal above your child's steps may be as follows:
A. Commit to attending [insert amount] training sessions each week.
B. Ask my coach what I specifically need to do to improve my technique.
C. Focus on these aspects of my streamline push off during each and every single warm up.
D. Work on this skill at the end of hard sets when I'm tired and commit to practicing, practicing and practicing over and over again.
4. Review Progress
It’s important to have a deadline to the goal to give accountability and prevent boredom. By them writing in their training log and recording how much they are working on this skill will really help when reviewing progress (the check in pages towards the end of the Journal is where they can record this).
Feedback from the coach and you as a parent is also very important. The added advantage of you being involved in goal setting is that you know what they are working towards so you can see if improvements are being made (but remember to not add pressure, they still have to own it and be self-motivated to achieve it).
5. Reward Achievement
Don’t forget to celebrate the achievement whatever it may be (but not McD’s – nutrition info will be coming soon!) and of course the greatest reward is their next competition when they can put it into practice and reap rewards of their hard work.
What if they start to lack motivation and want to give up?
Here are the questions you can ask to help them:
- “Can you honestly say that you have put as much effort in as possible?” (this may be hard for them to admit but it’s a good one to address to really see if they were committed to the goal in the first place).
- “Was the goal too big in the first place?” Perhaps it’s time to be more realistic and set a slightly easier goal (however remain confident that the bigger goal will be more of a medium to longer term goal that they can still achieve if they work hard)
- “What were the reasons you wanted to achieve the goal in the first place and how will it make you feel if you achieve it?” By asking them this again may re-build the emotions within to give them fire and determination that may have subsided.
Important - Perhaps it is more of a case that they haven’t achieved it ‘yet’ but they have still improved. Celebrate this improvement and do your best to build their self-esteem.
If after all this they still lack motivation and want to give up, tell them it’s ok, they tried their best and when ready find a new goal to focus on. Help them decide on something that they can more realistically achieve (remember step 2 above, keep it simple).