Setting realistic goals allows us to align our training towards a final result. Goals give us a tangible way to measure a our progress. Equally important is that you understand the type of goals you are setting so that they positively affect your performance. There are two types of goals: outcome and performance. I prefer that players concentrate on setting performance goals since they are the type you have more control over. Outcome goals are based on results and as you have probably experienced, they are not the type you have direct control over.
Players will have different performance goals, depending on their talent, their game, and what they need to work on to play up to their full potential. Once again, exactly what the specific performance goals are will differ for everyone, but they should be goals that help you to play your best tennis. Here are a few examples of typical performance goals:
I will take my time between points
I will stay in the “now” state, focusing on one point at a time
I will attack my opponents’ second serve
I will execute the inside-out patterns that I worked on in practice
I will engage only in positive self-talk
Outcome goals are also truly personal. They depend on what you want to accomplish with your tennis.
Achieve a top-10 ranking at the club
Win this match
Win this tournament
Get every first serve in
Beat Robert in the league match
So essentially if you are setting and achieving the correct performance goals, they should be helping you to achieve the outcome goals you desire. It does not work the other way around. In other words, reaching your performance goals will give you the best chance to play up to your potential and win.
Well … how do we set up goals?
First, we need to understand that goals are personal. Each player comes with different objectives. For players who compete in tournaments, we need to separate training goals from tournament goals. For players who just want to play the game on a decent recreational level, goals should be set to develop the technical and strategic aspects. I advise that you write down on paper two types of goals for yourself: Short-term and long-term goals.
These are the are goals that you will achieve in the near future (e.g., in a day, within a week, or possibly within a few months). These goals are the small steps towards long-term goals.
These are ones that you will achieve over a longer period of time (e.g., 9 months, one year, five years,etc.).
Some characteristics of your goals:
Make them measurable as you want to be able to quantify progress.
Make them challenging to keep motivated and to develop confidence
Identifying realistic goals should be the first step in setting up a training plan. It is recommended that you use the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting guide to create you specific goals:
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Realistic
T = Time bound