Setting Goals the Best Way for Your Athlete | Q&A with Coach Rebecca

Today’s Topic: Setting Goals the Best Way for Your Athlete


About Me

Welcome to Q&A with Coach Rebecca. I’m Rebecca Smith, the founder and director of Complete Performance Coaching, a full service sports psychology coaching company that provides one-on-one coaches for young athletes through Skype or FaceTime, as well as a complete online mental toughness training center at the Perform Happy community where athletes of all ages are welcome to come and increase confidence, get over fear, and become the athlete that they have the potential to become. I hope you will join us there if that’s something that interests you.

Today, I’m going to answer question from one of those members. Actually, a couple of members, because we’ve got this fabulous community. That’s why we call it a community and not just a training center, of parents, and athletes. They are walking this journey of peak performance, or at least trying to.

They ask me questions all the time. I come on and I share some of those with you guys so that you can get the benefit of those responses. Today we’re talking about goals. We’ve got an A plus member here. Her daughter is on it. She does all the things. She watches the training. She does what I suggest, but she’s starting to have this issue where she is feeling just really down on herself a lot of the time because she’s setting goals and not able to reach them. That’s what I’m going to talk about today.

This mom asks,

Q: I wanted to see if I can get your help on some goal setting for my daughter. She’s very good at making goals and going after them. I’m afraid that she doesn’t know exactly how to set the goals appropriately so that she’s able to achieve them and see success.



For those of you guys who are familiar with my Overcoming Fear course and some of the competence-building programs, it’s all about success. It’s all about success and progress. If you are feeling like you’re failing over, and over, and over, it’s not going to motivate you and it’s not going to build your confidence.

But, there’s this thing that we perfectionist do, is that we feel like it’s all or nothing, you know? If I don’t perfectly nail exactly what I’m supposed to be doing, or what I think I’m supposed to be doing, I feel like a failure. We have a hard time finding the gray area palatable between didn’t do it and didn’t.

Maybe you didn’t all the way there, but how far did you get? A lot of the time people leave that as they look at the glass half empty, that, “Well, I didn’t reach it, so therefore I failed,” instead of going, “Oh my gosh. I got halfway there. Look at how far I came today.”

S.M.A.R.T Goals

She’s doing a good job of setting what I call SMART goals, and SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Adjustable, Realistic, or sometimes I sub in Risky because I like for them to be kind of big, scary goals, and the T stands for Timed.

For example, this girl’s doing a great job of saying, “I’m going to make five Yurchenko vault drills into the pit by Friday.” That’s super specific. You can look back on Friday and go, “Did I do it or did I not do it?” That’s how I recommend you set them because you want to make sure that you can look back and know did I accomplish my goal or did I not accomplish my goal. If it’s like, “Get better at vault,” then it’s wishy washy, and it doesn’t really point your effort in a very specific direction.

Things Don’t Always Go Our Way

She’s doing a great job setting the goals. That already is huge, because a lot of the time people don’t even really know how to set the right kind of goal. But, here’s the catch, her idea of how practice is going to go and what the coach’s ideas are not always the same. She said she’s talked to her about controllables. We talk about what you can control and what you can’t control. Obviously, when you set a goal, you’re hoping that things are all going to go your way.

Other teammates are going no problem and moving through what we call baby steps. She needs more time with the step she’s on, but if she can’t make her goal, she comes home feeling bad. Then, because the coaches don’t always work on what she’s got on her goal sheet, if that one day where she can work on it turns bad, she misses her goal and she feels like she failed.

Mom goes on to say,

Q: I feel like she’s really trying to make progress, but the uncontrollables are so abundant that it’s wearing her down. How do we set goals that are attainable and progressive without going “too slow” in her opinion, or feeling like every night is a failure.

*P.S. is there such thing as too many goals? I feel like she has a book here, sticky there, paper sheet somewhere else, etc.



Amazing question, mom, which is why I brought it here. I’m sure a lot of kids can relate to this. A lot of adults can relate to this. A lot of perfectionists actually stop setting goals because you don’t want to fall short. I talked to plenty of kids in my one-on-one practice. I’m like, “What’s your dream?” And they’re like, “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe go … ” They have these little, tiny, maybe-ish, wishy washy, sort of short-term goals that they can kind of share with me. I’m like, “Okay, you’re afraid of setting goals because you’re afraid of failing.” They’re like “Yeah, pretty much.”

Setting Goals that Don’t Satisfy When Reached

I’ve been there, because there’s a couple of downsides to setting goals. You can reach your goal and still not be happy because the goal, like the outward things in life, are not the things that make you happy. I can vouch for that.

I had a period in life where I was kind of off my passion, off course. Life looked really good, but it didn’t feel good, and I wasn’t on the right track. Even though, yeah, I was knocking goals off left and right, I felt very empty. Then, I got back onto my, you know, “I want to work with kids. I want to do sports psychology. That’s not for me. Yeah, okay, I can create this nice-looking life, but that doesn’t fill my heart and soul.” I had to get on at that path.

Setting Goals Are Not Enough to Make Us Happy

Goals in and of themselves are not enough to make us happy. A lot of the time when we set goals, we expect when I reach my goal then I’ll be happy. Okay, so there’s a couple of flaws in that thinking. First of all, you might not reach your goal, because life happens, which we’ll talk about here, or you might reach your goal and you might not be happy, so then there’s other stuff going on.

We can’t put all our eggs in the goal basket, but you guys who are members know that I am a huge fan of goals. I like to have a 90-day goal, like a vision or an overarching goal. We look back on my previous 90 days, see what’s flowing, what’s flopping, what’s thriving, what’s struggling, and we go in and reflect.

Then, set a new intention for my next 90 days. If you guys want to download that, I have a little, like a format that I use for that. You can go to here and grab that 90-day goal action planner. Grab that. Then, you can do your own reflecting.

Vision Boards Go a Long Way

I also have a big, beautiful vision board right above my desk that has pictures of nice-looking house, and a pool, and a beautiful bathroom. But then, those are just a couple of pictures. Then, I also have things like trust, and feeling good, and pure happiness, and best friends. It’s this thing that inspires me.

It would be really cool to have a pool. And guess what, you guys? I put this pool on my vision board a year and a half ago, and as of next month, I will have a pool. These things subconsciously keep you moving in a certain direction.

I love to be able to look back at old vision boards and go, “Oh my gosh. I did that.” One of them, something appealed to me in a magazine that said, “The graduate.” At this point, I was a college dropout and was like, “Why would I put that on my board?” and I did. And guess what?

If you heard my podcast last time, or my Facebook live video last time, I talked about my process to going back and getting my master’s degree, but it started with this weird little cutout on my vision board. That started with a goal.

Give Yourself Permission to Dream

I put this out, and then it just it kind of like lines me up in a direction that I’m like, “Well, what would that be like to take one class,” you know? Or, “Gosh, how would one end up with a swimming pool?” You know, those sorts of things just start to kind of swim around like, “What might it be like to compete level 10 gymnastics, or go to that college, or whatever it is.”

You give yourself permission to dream. Then, things kind of start lining up. But, it’s not enough to be like, “I want things” or, “I want outcomes,” because there’s got to be something filling your heart up in the meantime so that you can stay the path and stay the course.

Setting Goals Keep you Focused

The thing about goals is that it’s not actually about reaching the goals that is the point. It’s not the reason why I have you guys post goals every week. It’s because it funnels your focus, and your energy, and your motivation, and your effort in a certain direction. If you are trying to make five vaults this week, and your coach is not taking you to vault, you’re more likely to go, “Hey, coach. Can you we go to vault?” They might say, “No,” right? But, you’re more likely to do the things that are going to get you there. You might go, “Hey, while we’re doing floor, could I do a couple of vault drills right here, because it’s right where the setup is?”

It gets you lined up with that intention. You will have a better chance of reaching it. It doesn’t necessarily that you’re going to. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to have the exact white farmhouse that’s on my vision board, but it does get me thinking about, “What can I do that’ll move me in that direction? Today, what little thing can I do? Can I ask the coach? All right, coach said no. I tried my best. Maybe I’ll visualize for today. I’ll visualize five. I’ll do something that can get me moving in that direction. I will tumble on floor with the intention of getting my punching stronger so that I can go and punch the board better tomorrow.”

Whatever it is, it gets you thinking about it, and it gets you moving in that direction.

Setting Goals the Best Way for Your AthleteProgress is Success

All I want for any of you guys is progress. That’s what we want, because progress is success if you train yourself to look at it that way. If you feel like getting halfway to a goal is a failure, you are so selling yourself short. If you feel like getting halfway to a goal is major, awesome progress, then you go back the next day charged up and ready to keep making more progress forward.

Also, the A in SMART is for adjustable for a reason. Meaning if life intervenes, if you get sick, if your coach is an a mood, if you don’t get to go to that event today, if whatever, you can go, “All right. Today’s Wednesday. I still have five to get. It’s not looking good. How about I aim for three? Or, maybe I can switch my focus to XYZ.”

You could also say, “Hey, coach. Are we going to go to vault in the next couple of days? I’m just curious. I’m trying to kind of plan out my goals for the week.” I don’t know a single coach who would be like, “Goals? You shouldn’t be worried about that.” I mean, maybe. Who knows?

There are a lot of wild and crazy coaches out there. But if they’re like, “Oh, you have a goal to get to vault? Hey, maybe we can try to go there tomorrow.” A lot of the time it comes down to speaking up and saying, “You know, I’ve got this goal of getting this. Can you help me with that? Or would that be possible this week?” If they go, “No, we’re not going to get there,” then you’re like, “Okay, then I’m going to move my timeline out an extra week so then I can have a better chance of getting it.”

Learn How to Get Flexible

Back to perfectionism, flexibility is not our strong suit for those of you who are like, “I really want to please. I really want to do well. I really want to be perfect. I want to get every goal I ever set.” That’s part of the training, is learning how to be flexible. Something that I’ve had to do personally is switch from to-do lists to wish lists.

I used to write these big, long lists of all the things I wanted to get done. I would never get through even half of it and I would feel like a failure. You guys are getting that that’s a pattern here. Now, every time I write a list of things to do, I write a wish list. You know, if the universe wants to line up in such a way that I can get done, fabulous. If not, I will assume that I’ve done the best I could, because I put my effort into it and it is what it is.

Brain Dump!

What I do is I start my day with what I call a brain dumb, like all the things I’d love to do today. I dump it all out on a piece of paper. Then, I pull out my calendar, and I look, like, “All right, it’s nine AM. I got five clients. I have three windows of time. What can I get done today?” Then, I go, “Oh, realistically, I can get done like two of these things in my insanely long list.”

I write a little wish list, and I go, “At 9:30 I’ll do this. At 12 I’ll do that. At two I’ll do this.” And do I finish it every single time? No, but I’m not mad at myself because my goal, my overarching goal is to be a grateful servant, you know, to really do good work and be of service. If I’ve done that, then I accept myself that day.

Accept Yourself No Matter What

You know what? Even if I haven’t, even if I’ve been a totally impatient pain in the butt to my husband, and really short with my kid. Even me in the worst form, I still accept myself at the end of the day, because it’s something I have to do. Before you can set any goals or any intentions, you have to have that underlying goal of, “Even if I don’t get my goals, I will accept myself no matter what.”

It might be extra, extra hard for some people because we really want to impress. We really want to not disappoint others. We really don’t want to disappoint ourselves, but you have to have that as your underlying foundation, is I accept myself and I love myself no matter what. With that in mind, here’s my wish list.

Here’s what I’d love to get done this week that I’m going to focus my effort on, I’m going to focus my motivation on, I’m going to walk in that direction. I’m going to praise myself for progress. My parents are going to praise all my progress, too. Even if I feel like I failed, they’re going to say, “Hey, look how far you came. Look, you worked really hard out there and I’m proud of you.” Then, you’re going to go to sleep, wake up, and try it again.

Don’t Worry About the Outcome

It’s not about the outcome that makes you happy, it’s being able to go, “You know what? I was a good person today. I was of service today. I helped people today. Therefore, I’m good. Everything’s good. I’m good no matter what. And if I reach a goal, awesome. All the better.” So, that, there’s a lot about kind of what I touched on is in the most recent course I’m putting together, which is from anxiety to confidence.

For those of you who attend the weekly live trainings in the community, those are still in the training room as past trainings as we’ve been working through a whole series. There are two trainings on goal setting in there that if you haven’t checked them out, go do it, for those of you who are members, because it talks a lot about a more in depth overview on what I just talked about today.

For those of you guys who have questions, you can reach me at If you want to get in on the fun and join the community, you can visit here. Check it out. Again, if you want that free download, the 90-day goal planner, you can go to, and I will see you back here next week. Thanks for joining me.

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