Written by: Charles Drinkwater

3. Set multiple short-term goals which lead the way for the long-term objective to be achieved. Both for training and for competition.

Setting an ultimate goal to strive for may show ambition and create an ideal image of what the athlete wishes to become. However it has been proven that to achieve this aim and maintain consistently high levels of performance and commitment to week-on-week there are short-term “stepping stone” goals set that are realistic, at the time, to meet. If there is a lack of short-term goals incorporated into the training schedule then the athlete is more likely to reduce effort.

Without small goals to focus on in training an athlete is prone to think along line of: “My important competition is 8 months away. I do not need to train hard now yet… I will start training properly next week…”

What should be noted however, is that the short-term goals need to be clearly explained to the athlete and the link to how the short-term objective will help work towards the main objective has to be understood both by coaches and athletes in order to be most effective. If there is no common understanding then, it has also been shown, the mentioned positive effects of a short-term goal will most likely fail to manifest themselves to similar levels of decline as if there were no short-term goals at all.

Athletes have been shown in multiple observations and studies to respond well to continuous and regular feedback and dialogue between them and their coach. In one study athletes highlighted a lack of time spent with the coach to get quality detailed feedback on how they performed may be a factor to consider when seeking to increase performance.

“[Breaking records] is really special […] I’m really happy, but the problem is you don’t get anything for best starts apart from numbers […] The only thing we are interested in is what we get in the summer and that is not done yet.” (Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool FC Manager) in January 2020 after Liverpool have beaten Tottenham and have broken the record for best points total up to that point in a season → short-term goal of winning the match achieved, long-term goal→ win the league is not done yet and so focus needs to be maintained)

4. Is the goal adaptable to change?

Over the course of a season there are factors that will be difficult to control and may lead to the training plan being disrupted. Most common factors that fall under this category are illness and injuries which both will understandably have a negative impact on performance and may make the original goal set, before the injury or illness, hard to obtain.

Therefore when setting objectives, there has to be some “riggle room” there so to speak for the target threshold be reset to a realistic target depending on the level being performed at presently.

The benefits of having flexible goals are limited to just situations of injuries or illnesses. Studies have shown that athlete/ team morale is better improved when, during a training session, an objective is set a little harder after the athlete has achieved the original boundary and morale actually decreased significantly if the objective actually had to be made easier.

This comes back to the point made earlier that it is vital for psychological motivation, for the difficulty level to not be set too difficult as the athlete may not react well if the difficulty has to be decreased in reaction to their present performance.


This article seeks to highlight how important goal-setting has proved to be in unleashing peak performance while also recommending some important points to focus on when setting both short-term and long-term goals such as consistent positive communication between athletes and coaches and setting goals that are realistically achievable yet still challenging.

I hope that this article successfully underlines the absolute need to avoid general goals that lack clarity. Give yourself a clear target to aim for and you will achieve it with a step-by-step plan. Effective goal-setting needs to be well thought out. Take your time when drawing up your plan and you will then have a higher probability of have a plan in front of you that will keep you motivated and driven throughout the whole season.

If you would like to read more about goal-setting then feel free to read the articles below that were used as points of reference in this article.

If you would like a starters guide to help set the goals please find worksheets on the Wouw Academy website that will ask you the relevant questions to help you set your appropriate short-term and long-term targets.

Good luck and may all of your objectives be achieved!

Me with my cycling team of young riders on a training ride getting them prepared for the road season one pedal stroke at a time.

Articles for further reading

  • Healy, L., Tincknell-Smith, A., & Ntoumanis, N. (2018). Goal Setting in Sport and Performance. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190236557.013.152
  • Weinberg, R. (2013). Goal Setting in Sport and Exercise: Research and Practical Applications. Revista Da Educação Física/UEM, 24(2). https://doi.org/10.4025/reveducfis.v24i2.17524
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