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Exploring the psychological aspects of sport injury
Exploring the psychological aspects of sport injury

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2.1 Effective goal setting

Obviously, the goals you set need to be appropriate – goals that are unrealistic can have a negative impact on motivation. In the next activity you will examine some principles of effective goal setting.

Activity 2 Goal setting in practice

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Watch the video below which looks at goal setting in sport and then answer the questions that follow. watch?v=MeChdwU-53E [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

Video transcript

  1. Look at the following examples of goals set by our case study Lois. Decide whether each of Lois’s goals (a, b and c) is a process, performance or outcome goal:
    • a.Goal: to return to the track by September
    • b.Goal: to increase my personal best on calf raises
    • c.Goal: to focus on staying high on my toes as I run.
  2. What is SMARTER? Using SMARTER, try to improve the wording of the goal below, set for our case study Travis:

    Goal: to improve fitness.

  3. Why do you think it is important to set both short-term and long-term goals?
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  1. Lois’s goals can be categorised as follows:
    • a.outcome goal,
    • b.performance goal,
    • c.process goal.
  2. SMARTER is an acronym which reminds us of key goal setting principles (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely, evaluated and rewarded). You may already be familiar with it or the shorter SMART version, or you may be familiar with a slightly different version.

    Travis’s goal doesn’t adhere to the SMARTER principles. For example, it is not very specific – what aspect of fitness? The goal would be improved by adding a more specific component of fitness such as strength. You could get even more specific by stating which muscle groups or exercises. To make the goal measurable you could add the target weight or repetitions. The target weight or repetitions would need to be realistic (attainable) and the exercises would need to be relevant to Travis’s rehabilitation.

    The goal could also be enhanced by setting a realistic timeframe for its achievement (timely). The goal should be evaluated so that progress can be seen and a reward for achievement may motivate Travis. An adjusted goal might read something like:

    Goal: to improve upper body strength on the bench press exercise to 60kg in six weeks.

  3. Ultimately the key goal for most athletes is a return to sports performance at pre-injury levels. However, for some athletes this ultimate goal can seem too distant. which is why it is important to set both short-term and long-term goals. A long-term goal to return to sport needs to be supported by a series of short-term goals that lead to this ultimate goal. These can be thought of as stepping stones towards the ultimate goal, each of which gives the athlete something to focus on that is tangible. These shorter-term goals can be broken down into smaller and smaller sub-goals.

Injury rehabilitation can be unpredictable – this can sometimes make goal setting a difficult task, and at times goals won’t be achieved. In these situations, it is important that you try to frame positively in order to maximise the individual’s motivation and positive attitude towards rehabilitation. Therefore, it is recommended that where necessary you focus on the degree of goal attainment rather than absolute attainment. For example, if an individual hasn’t fully achieved a goal you might emphasise the progress made towards it instead – focusing on the improvement from last time rather than the failure to achieve the target.

Next you’ll look at the role of social support in sport injury rehabilitation.