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  • Kristina Pfeffer, The Ballroom Coach

Is setting goals important??? -A guide for athletes and coaches on goal setting

When participating in sport, the main goal is often to win, and the everyone is doing everything they can to be in the perfect shape, have the best costume, the best make up, the most lessons, the coolest choreography….so it’s the little things that differentiates you from your competitor. This is why we are constantly looking for ways to get ahead of the competition. One of the ways to do this is to focus on the psychological aspect of dancing. One of the best places to start is to set clear goals. But is it enough to set a goal? And how do you set the right goals?

The definition of goal setting is something an individual is trying to achieve -the aim of an action. There are several benefits to setting goals, for example increased motivation, staying focused, enhance persistence and of course most important of all, reaching your goals! So we know that we need to set goals….But is any goal a good goal? It is really important to set the right goal as setting the wrong goal can have a negative effect! So let’s talk about goals…

There are three types of goals: Outcome goals, which focus on the outcome i.e. the result of a competition. An outcome goal always involves a comparison with other competitors. In dancing an outcome goal could for example be to become the national champion or making the final in a competition. The second type of goal is called Performance goals. Here the focus is on the end product of performance, but is not dependent on others. For example running a specific time. The last type is called process goals. These are focused on the process during performance. A process goal could be to maintain good connection with your partner through your entire choreography, or having more constructive practices. In general the athlete has greater control over performance and process goals, as they don’t involve comparison with others. But athletes should not just focus on one but set outcome, performance AND process goals.

Athletes tend to put a lot of focus on outcome goals. This can create anxiety during competitions but it can also increase motivation during times of practice. Maybe thinking “I want to be the world champion” is giving you great motivation at times where you need that extra push? This is why the key is to find out what works for YOU. his can be done by really examining how different goals makes you feel. Of course the best way to do this is to talk to a sport psychologist who can guide you in this process.

It is important to set both long and short-term goals. The long-term goals will be easier reached, and motivation will be more consistent, with short term goals included in your goal-setting plan. For example your goal can be that you want to be a world champion (outcome goal), to get to that goal you might need to enter a certain amount of competitions or it could even be psychological such as enjoying yourself more during competitions (performance goal). To keep your day-to-day focus you can set goals of for example improving certain technical skills, for example you might want to be faster, or have more straight legs in cha cha cha (process goal).

A great guide when setting any goal is to use the SMARTER technique. When you set a goal try to adhere to these principles.

  • S (be SPECIFIC about what you want to achieve)

  • M (make sure that you are able to MEASURE whether you achieved your goals)

  • A (if your goals are ATTAINABLE it will lead to the best performance. Moderately difficult goals will motivate you but not make you loose confidence).

  • R (use a teacher or coach to check that your goals are REALISTIC)

  • T (the goals must have a TIME line. They should be set to be reached at a certain time)

  • E (the goals must be EXCITING so that you feel motivated by the goal)

  • R (keep a RECORD of your goals to make sure you reach them and this will also increase adherence)

It is a great idea to set your goals together with your teacher, as that will ensure they are realistic for your current level. You can also set your goals together with your partner, and although you might have some shared goals, you don’t necessarily have to have the same exact goals. For example your process goal can be to improve your footwork in rumba but your partner’s goal can be to work on arm styling. Try to not be too focused on one competition but focus more on maybe a 3months period as a whole as one competition can have a bad result and the next day you might have the best one. If you have a variety of goals both outcome, performance and process goals then even if you don’t achieve your outcome goal you might still have achieved some of your other goals and had a partial success.

I hope you all reach the goals you set and enjoy the journey along the way. If you have enjoyed this article please share and like. If you would like more information about the research behind this article or for individual sport psychology sessions contact me on

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