The Application of Goal Setting to Sports

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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  • 1 University of Maryland
  • | 2 University of Washington
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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.

The authors would like to thank Dr. Terence R. Mitchell for his helpful comments on this paper.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Edwin A. Locke, College of Business & Management, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742.

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