Goal Setting


Head Coach Guide – Goal Setting

Goal Setting  - Smart goal setting for young swimmers

Encouraging young swimmers to learn goal setting will help in life not just in sport. In swimming, learning to set clear targets, helps to prioritize and manage expectations helps improve performance, confidence, and increases motivation.

Providing continuous focus and direction through goal setting will also help in other aspects of their life, such as exams. Goal setting could also help you as parents when trying to establish a morning routine for young swimmer, for example.

When setting goals, it’s important to have long, medium and short term goals, so that it’s possible to hit targets along the way.

Suggest your child works backwards from their long term goal, such as Qualifying for Nationals in 2020 or achieving 3 A levels A-C, to figure out the steps they need to make it happen.

If the long term goal is qualifying for Nationals in 2020, consider what you need to do each day, each week and each month to ensure you achieve the goal.

This goal setting is often called SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely.

  1. Specific – Make sure each goal is both clear and well defined i.e. ‘I want to break a minute for my 100m Butterfly by January 2020, rather than just ‘I want to get faster’.
  2. Measurable – Be sure to include times and dates, so that you can measure whether goals have been met and what progress has been made.
  3. Attainable – Each goal that gets set should be challenging, but realistic.
  4. Relevant – Every short-term goal should fit in with the end goal or dream, and should act as stepping stones to success.
  5. Timely – Put a deadline on your goal. Make it clear exactly when the goal is aiming to be accomplished.


It’s really important that when you set a goal, you write it down and write it somewhere you will see it regularly(stick it on  the fridge door). This will not only help with motivation and focus, but also will help to celebrate successes and achievements.

Writing down the goal will also act as a reminder to say yes to the things that will help in achieving the goal and turning down anything that may hamper success.

Let’s think about goal setting for swimmers at Staines Swimming Club.

The first aim in terms of swimming performance is to qualify for Middlesex County Championships. Do we really know what your best events and distances are as a young developing swimmer, no so this is specific to each season or time period when you set your goals. Qualification times change like this year so goals for many swimmers have to be re-set. For more mature swimmers your pathway in terms for stroke and distance will be a lot clearer so set challenging but realistic goals.

You need to look at specific’s or “process” goals, such as improving a skill or component of a race such as a turn or start, part of a stroke that the coach reminds you to do correctly or better which will in turn lead to you achieving your overall goal.

This approach can be used to analyze a race regardless of the time you may have posted, you may have had a fantastic start, a really good turn looking at your performance with a different perspective will help you draw the positives from the experience as we can’t always swim personal bests however hard we try.

If you achieve your goal(s) then look at setting a new ones, re-adjust the boundaries, goal setting can occur at any time not just for the next season. Think about how you are going to improve to achieve your goals. Are you going to increase your training volume, intensity, do extra physical training at school or add another land training session, do sit ups at home to improve your core strength? There are lots of goals and targets that you can set yourself but also think about how you are going to achieve them and think about progression will you improve by doing the same mount of training the same routine, in the short term whilst growing yes but not in the long term, consider the position you want to be in, in 2 years, 3 years and so on.

I would suggest the following is a good guide to the pathway a swimmer will take in terms of season goals, we are all individuals, so you may skip a couple of stages, regress due to uneven growth, stabilize at a level you are happy and comfortable at everyone’s pathway is different and unique to the individual athlete.

1 – Qualify for Middlesex Counties

2 – Be Competitive at Middlesex Counties (make finals)

3 – Win Medals at Middlesex Counties, secure South East Regional Qualification Time(s)

4 – Be Competitive at South East Regionals (make finals), qualify for English Nationals

5 – Win medals at South East Regionals, qualify for British Championships

6 – Be competitive at British Championships (make finals – main events) win medals English Nationals in non form events

7 – Win medals at British Championships, get selected for Junior International events


We won’t go any further, but you can see the progressive pathway that an athlete will follow, but just remember everyone’s pathway is different and there will always be hurdles along the way, be realistic with the goals you set.

It is recommended that swimmers in the Competitive Section (County, Junior County and Development) of the club set goals for the swimming season with parents and forward to their squad coach. This will help coaches help you although the overall club aim for swimmers in the competitive squads is continued progression, enjoyment and qualification at Middlesex Counties.

Swimmers in the Performance Squads will have different targets based on their stage of development and progression. By definition agreeing to join the Performance Squads means you want to swim at Regional and National level and want to fulfill your potential as a swimmer so you have already set out a long-term goal by joining the squad.

Because of this I meet with all in the squad at the start of the season and set goals for the next 12 months. All coaches should have targets for their swimmer’s, in the Performance Squads this is the correct time to share those targets once swimmers have made the conscious decision to follow this pathway and it’s very much a lifestyle.

A great way of thinking about your goal is to write it down on a sheet of A4 and brainstorm, write down all the ways in which you can achieve that goal.