Setting Goals In Youth Sports
Do you ever talk about goals with your kids? I believe that part of our job as parents is to help our kids create some goals, focus on those goals, help them achieve their goals, and then help them deal with the disappointment of not reaching their goals, if that be the case.
Goal Setting With Kids
The first goal should probably be school. Each kid could focus on their schoolwork, improve their grades, and get their homework done early. A second goal could be that they work on their relationships – especially with their parents and their brothers and sisters. And maybe a third goal could be about sports. Which is what I want to talk about today.
Even though I’ve got a doctor and a veterinarian as two goals in my family, it seems like usually when I ask a kid what he/she wants to do when they get older, a typical answer is
“Be a professional athlete.”
Sure, some kids will end up being professional athletes, but the odds are slim. Most kids won’t be playing organized sports past the age of 12. Very few high school athletes will ever play NCAA Division I sports and almost none of those will ever play professionally. But knowing this doesn’t mean we should squash our kid’s dreams, because dreaming is what they’re supposed to be doing! As parents, it’s our duty to let our kids dream, and then help them maximize their potential.
When I was a kid, I played all the sports — basketball, baseball, soccer, football, tennis, etc. Even though basketball was my favorite, playing in the NBA was never really one of my goals. My goals were a little simpler. Without even knowing it, I sort of broke down my goals into much easier steps.
I remember in 5th grade simply wanting to be as good as one of the 6th graders. I remember wanting to start on the 7th and 8th grade team as a 7th grader. I remember as a 9th grader, just wanting to dress out for the varsity game. I remember in 10th grade, wanting to be as good as our senior point guard. And I remember wanting to win the state tournament my senior year.
Now, how many of those goals I actually accomplished isn’t that important for now, but the point is, I had goals.
Looking back, I realize that there are a few rules that you need to follow when wanting to accomplish a goal. You need to know what you are trying to accomplish. The goal needs to be specific, measurable, and have a time limit. You need to know why you want to reach the goal, and then you need to lay out a real, manageable plan on how to accomplish that goal.
Being great at anything requires a plan. And the plan should always start with small goals that ultimately lead to larger goals. A kid needs to lay-out a plan for practice, competition, and study of their sport. Realizing that the way you practice is the way you’ll play, parents need to make sure their kids are practicing the right fundamentals. If you only play your sport during the team practice (which is usually once a week), then you won’t ever reach your potential. If your child plays an instrument, then he needs to practice between lessons, right? “Pistol” Pete Maravich (one of the greatest basketball players of all time), practiced daily, because he knew if he didn’t, some other kid would get better than him. He had a plan, and it was to be the best. And he was going to get there by practicing every day.
So, take some time and help your kid set small, measurable, and achievable goals. Help him lay-out a path on how the goals will be accomplished. Help keep him accountable. And then watch and see what happens.
In closing, let’s quickly discuss how to teach our kids to deal with disappointment. For instance, if your child gets cut from the basketball team, how do you help him handle that?
Well first, not reaching every single goal should never diminish the benefits of dreaming, setting goals, and working to accomplish those goals. It’s important to never forget all the benefits of playing sports – including teamwork, good sportsmanship, developing good motor skills, learning to win and to lose, and the friendships that are created along the way.
Most of our kids will figure out that they won’t be a professional athlete, but if we can help them set small, achievable goals, practice proper fundamentals, and write out a specific plan on how to accomplish their goals, all of them will benefit. And who knows, maybe some will actually be able to fulfill their dreams, and play in the NBA.