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Goal-Setting for Athletes in 2021: The 4-Step Goal Ladder

Updated: Mar 1, 2022


Student-athletes often get told that setting goals is important. However, that often feels easier said than done, especially when you’re not quite sure what makes a good goal or how to set them. If this is true for you, we are here to help with a goal-setting tool our team loves: it’s called ‘The Goal Ladder.’ In just four simple steps, here’s how you can create your own goal ladder to reach your full potential.

What is a Goal Ladder?

A goal ladder is a tool that helps you set smaller goals that lead up to one bigger goal. Each rung on the ladder represents a sub-goal that allows you to step up closer to your big goal and helps you break your big goal into more manageable, smaller milestones. We have found the Goal Ladder is helpful for student-athletes because it helps with:

  • Motivation: reaching the smaller goals will keep you motivated for the next one.

  • Confidence: completing a small goal builds confidence that you can complete the next one.

  • Attainability: the big goal feels less intimidating when you break it into smaller milestones.

How to Create Your Goal Ladder

  • Step 1: Identify the main goal that you are trying to achieve. Make sure it is a SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/ Relevant, Timely (for a quick explanation of SMART goals, watch this video). Once identified, put this goal on the top rung of your ladder.

Example Step 1

  • Step 2: Think about 2-3 smaller goals that will help you achieve your big goal. They can be as small as setting an alarm or filling out your calendar; they can also be slightly bigger focusing on specific skills or smaller versions of your bigger goal. Add these to the rungs of your ladder.

Example Step 2

  • Step 3: Sometimes there are outside influences or unexpected changes that make you have to adjust your rungs. All of this is okay and it is okay if a rung “gets broken”; this is not failure, it is a learning opportunity. It is important to think of these before they happen, so you are prepared. So, think of 2-3 things that could break a rung on your ladder and 2-3 ways that you can fix your rungs if they get broken. Write both of these down next to your ladder.

Example Step 3

  • Step 4: Put your goal ladder in a place that you will look at it each day: on your wall, set it as your screensaver on your phone/computer, in your locker, etc. When you look at it everyday, make a note about your progress and when you complete a rung, you can cross it off! If you feel comfortable, you can also share your goal with your coach, teammate, friend, etc. to serve as a helpful accountability partner.

Bonus Tip: Your goal ladder should feel personalized to you so have fun with decorating and adding personal touches to it that give you a little extra energy to step up on each rung to the top!

Here's another example Goal Ladder with all 4 steps completed

Key Takeaways

Creating a goal-ladder is one way to help reach your big goals by breaking them down into smaller, more manageable goals that lead to your big goal. Goal ladders are also important because you can plan for possible outcomes and how you can overcome them.

If you’d like to learn more about how to use a Goal Ladder and set goals for success, MyHuddle coaches are standing by and excited to work with you. Click here to get started or text our team at 424-352-0003.

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