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Caitlin Brinkman, Shelby E. Baez, Francesca Genoese and Johanna M. Hoch

Multiple cognitive behavioral interventions have been developed to increase self-efficacy, 6 but an intervention that is frequently utilized in rehabilitation after sports-related injury is goal setting. 7 However, only a limited amount of literature has explored the use of goal setting as an

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Kim Poag and Edward McAuley

Whereas the success of goal setting is well documented in the industrial-organizational literature (Locke & Latham, 1990), the empirical efforts to determine its effectiveness in sport settings have met with minimal success, and no studies exist that document the role played by goals in successful adherence to exercise regimens. We examined the relationships among goals, efficacy, and exercise behavior in the context of community conditioning classes. Female participants' goal efficacy was predictive of perceived goal achievement at the end of the program, and exercise self-efficacy was significantly related to subsequent intensity but not frequency of exercise participation. Moreover, a proposed interaction between exercise importance and self-efficacy failed to account for further variation in physical activity participation. The results are discussed in terms of the physical activity history of the sample and the roles played by goals and efficacy at diverse stages of the exercise process.

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Edwin A. Locke and Gary P. Latham

Studies of goal setting both in organizations and the laboratory have found that (a) specific, difficult goals lead to better performance than vague or easy goals; (b) short-term goals can facilitate the achievement of long-term goals; (c) goals affect performance by affecting effort, persistence, and direction of attention, and by motivating strategy development; (d) feedback regarding progress is necessary for goal setting to work; and (e) goals must be accepted if they are to affect performance. The implications of these findings for athletics are discussed. Ten hypotheses, based on previous research, are offered regarding the effects of goal setting in sports. In addition, suggestions are made regarding the following: setting goals for both practice and game situations; setting goals for different elements of athletic skill as well as for strength and stamina; using goals to increase self-confidence; using short-term goals to help attain long-term performance goals; improving performance by increasing task difficulty independently of goal difficulty; and obtaining goal acceptance and commitment in sports.

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Howard K. Hall and Anthony T.J. Byrne

Recent empirical evidence (Weinberg, Bruya, & Jackson, 1985) has brought into question whether the positive beneficial effects of goal setting found in organizational settings are directly generalizable to the domain of sport. This investigation attempted to determine whether increased control over powerful extraneous variables influencing motivation would enable goal-setting effects to be observed in sport settings, and second, it examined the utility of either flexible subject-set subgoals or rigid experimenter subgoals as adjuncts to long-term goals. Forty-three males and 11 females were randomly assigned by class to one of four experimental conditions. Following baseline trial under do best instructions, subjects performed three trials on an endurance task under their assigned experimental conditions. A 4 × 3 (Goal Group × Trials) ANCOVA with repeated measures on the last factor and baseline performance as the covariate indicated that groups holding subgoals performed significantly better than those with do best instructions, whereas performance for those with only long-term goals approached significance. These findings clearly demonstrate a need to further understand the process of goal setting if it is to be successfully applied as an intervention technique to enhance motivation and sport performance.

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Barbara E. Pierce and Damon Burton

The purpose of this investigation was to assess how goal-setting styles influenced the effectiveness of a season-long goal-setting program for gymnastics. Participants were 25 female junior high school gymnasts, ages 12-14. Goalsetting styles were assessed clinically by team coaches and empirically by combined goal-orientation and gymnastics-competence scores. Goal-setting style results were generally consistent with model predictions. None of the failure-oriented (FO) gymnasts competed in one event for all meets. Performance and, to a lesser degree, cognitive findings for the three remaining goalsetting style groups supported model predictions. Performance-oriented (PO) gymnasts significantly improved performance over time, whereas success-oriented (SO) gymnasts experienced a slight performance decrement. MANOVA results also revealed goal-setting style differences on postseason program evaluations, with PO gymnasts having the most favorable ratings of goal-setting training (GST) program effectiveness.

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Robert Weinberg, Joanne Butt and Betsy Knight

The purpose of this investigation was to assess the perceptions of coaches regarding the process of goal setting using a qualitative methodology. Participants were eight male and six female high school coaches from Midwest United States representing both team and individual sports. Results revealed that coaches employed goal setting extensively for both individual and team goals in practice and competition. In addition, many interesting findings emerged including (a) coaches tended to set both long- and short-term goals; (b) coaches only inconsistently wrote down their goals; (c) goals were both dictated by coaches and set in collaboration with players; (d) the primary function of goals was to provide direction and focus; and (e) physical, psychological, and external barriers impeded goal attainment. These findings are discussed in relation to the current empirical/theoretical goal-setting literature and suggestions for best practice by sport psychology researchers are offered.

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Robert Weinberg, Thomas Stitcher and Peggy Richardson

The purpose of the present investigation was to determine the effects of a specific goal-setting program on physical performance over the course of a competitive athletic season. Subjects were 24 members of an NCAA Division III men’s lacrosse team who were matched on ability and playing position and then randomly assigned to either a goal-setting or do-your-best control group. The experimenter met with each athlete at the beginning of the season to provide goals, as well as during the season to reevaluate the goals, if necessary. Performance was measured on offensive assists, offensive ground balls, defensive ground balls, and defensive clears. Manipulation checks revealed that players accepted their goals, felt their goals were realistic, and tried hard to reach their goals. Although statistical tests indicated no significant performance differences, the magnitude, direction, and consistency of the differences in favor of the goal group offers some support for the effectiveness of specific goals across an athletic season.

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Robert Weinberg, Dave Yukelson, Damon Burton and Daniel Weigand

The purpose of this investigation was to explore Olympic athletes’ perceptions concerning the frequency and effectiveness of goal setting strategies as well as goal preferences and barriers to achieving these goals. Participants were 185 male and 143 female Olympic athletes from a variety sports. Each athlete completed a questionnaire detailing their perceptions, use, and effectiveness of a number of different goal-setting strategies. Factor analysis revealed four similar factors for goal effectiveness and goal frequency and two distinct factors for goal barriers. Descriptive results revealed that all of the Olympic athletes practiced some type of goal setting to help enhance performance, and they found their goals to be highly effective. Athletes also reported that improving overall performance, winning, and having fun were the three most important goals. In addition, setting difficult goals that were somewhat above the level at which they perform was the most preferred level of goal difficulty. Future directions for research are offered including exploration of developmental differences and variations in coach versus athlete perceptions.

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Catarina Sousa, Ronald E. Smith and Jaume Cruz

Coach Effectiveness Training (CET) has been shown to have positive effects on a range of outcome variables, especially in young athletes (Smith & Smoll, 2005). Based on CET principles, and coupled with behavioral feedback, an individualized goal-setting intervention was developed and assessed using a replicated case study approach. Outcome variables included observed, athlete-perceived, and coach-perceived behaviors measured before the intervention and late in the season, as well as coaches’ evaluations of the intervention. Four soccer coaches selected three target behaviors that they wished to improve after viewing videotaped behavioral feedback. Behavioral assessment revealed that two of the coaches achieved positive changes on all three of their targeted behaviors. A third coach improved on two of the three targeted behaviors. The fourth coach did not achieve any of the established goals. We conclude that this approach is sufficiently promising to warrant additional research, and we discuss strengths and limitations of the study.

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Matthew Smith and Christina Lee

This study examined the facilitatory effect of goal setting in physical performance. Three potential mechanisms that may mediate this effect are described: increases in time spent practicing, promotion of effective training strategies, and increases in commitment resulting from public goal setting. Students (N=51) performed a novel task under one of three conditions: public goal setting, private goal setting, and no goal setting. Goals selected, time spent practicing, strategies used during practice, and actual performance were assessed. Subjects in the two goal-setting groups showed better performance than those in the control-group; those in the public goal-setting group spent the most time in practice, but this was not reflected in better performance. Test performance was predicted by baseline performance and by the goal set; practice time, training strategy, and public goal setting did not account for further variance in performance. Although this study failed to find a mediating effect for these three mechanisms, the results must be interpreted with caution.