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Goal Setting in Youth Sports

goals in youth sports

How to Help Young Athletes Develop a Growth Mindset

Christian Buck, a performance coach and author of The Sport of School, says it’s critical for young athletes–and students–to establish a long-term vision and goals that support it.

He teaches high schoolers how to create a vision and goals–in both sports and school.

Let’s say a student wants to go to an Ivy League college. That’s the vision. To get there, the student needs to set goals that allow him or her to attain that vision.

Here’s how Buck puts this idea to work in sports.

“I was coaching a high school track team and before the season started, we talked about what the goal is by the end of the season.”

The team members wanted to win the state championships. To achieve that main goal, or vision, they needed to establish smaller goals.

“They all wrote down their goals and every day I would remind them before a practice: What is your goal and at the end of practice, did you get closer to that goal?” That strategy helped focus the young athletes and by the end of the season, the team won the state championship for the first time in 51 years, he says.

While goal setting can help kids focus and feel motivated, it can also impose pressure and high expectations on kids.

Buck stresses that ultimately, the process is more important than the product, whether it’s the win, the stats or grades in school.

“I’m really about the intrinsic motivators,” he says. To help kids uncover their intrinsic motivators, he asks them what they like about sports. They may say they like working hard, or being part of a team. It’s important to focus on those motivators and not pile too many expectations on kids about scores or wins, he says.

Motivating kids is also about helping them embrace a growth mindset.

“The growth mindset says that the physical abilities or intellect we are born with can continuously be grown.” A fixed mindset, on the other hand, stifles motivation. Sports kids with a fixed mindset tend to tell themselves that they can’t get any better and so won’t try to improve.

Sports parents need to help kids establish goals, and also help them embrace a growth mindset, understanding that hard work can help them achieve their goals, he says.

Listen to the Ultimate Sports Parent Podcast:

Help Your Young Athletes Succeed

In The Ultimate Sports Parent 14-day CD program, you and your young athlete will learn how to cultivate confidence, focus, and composure in sports! Improve your sports parenting skills with this program.

The Ultimate Sports Parent

It’s difficult for sports parents to watch their kids under-perform in sports and lose self-esteem due to fear, doubt and tentativeness. It’s hard to stand idle and watch.

solutions are not obvious. However, you, as a parent, can learn how to
respond to your athletes’ fears, doubts, and frustrations. You can develop happy, successful kids who are “mentally tough” in sports – and life!

A child or teen athlete may possess all the talent in the world. But if he can’t “get his head in the game” and realize his potential, his performance will suffer and he will be unhappy.

What are Parents and Coaches saying?

“The Ultimate Sports Parent program is well designed to help parents and athletes come to terms with developing well rounded student athletes. This workbook will help give athletes and parents the competitive edge.”
~Mike Maveus, athlete & youth sports coach

“I just listened to The Ultimate Sports Parent CD program on a drive back from North Carolina. Every parent should be required to listen to it! I thought it was great.” Thank you.”
~Rita, Sports Parent

“Dr. Patrick Cohn and Lisa Cohn are to be congratulated! Together, they offer a wealth of knowledge, information, and practical mental tools for sports parents on the substantial “mental game” challenges and pressures facing today’s young athletes.”
~Marc D. Anderson, LCSW, MGCP, Mental Game Coach


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