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UK Coaching Participation Team
Organising and Planning

Three Ways to Help People Set Goals

Traditionally, goal setting is linked with improving a skill or improving sport performance. However, coaches now also help people set a range of personal goals that are important to them

Examples of some common personal goals people might set themselves include: to lose weight; take part in a charity event; feel better about themselves; meet new people; attend a session regularly; increase their activity levels; or being able to manage a health condition more easily.

When coaching someone to be more active, goal setting can help:

  • a person focus on their overall activity goal – ie something to aim for; manageable steps (short-term goals)
  • a person maintain their motivation as they achieve each short-term goal
  • increase a person's confidence as each goal is achieved.

Here are three ways to help people set and achieve goals that are important to them. Consider which method best suits your participants and the time you have available. People have different reasons for attending your session and may want to set goals in different ways. Check out the following three examples to help decide on how formal or informal, and how long, a goal setting process might be.

1. Have better conversations

Make time to talk to people in your session. Keep it conversational rather than a series of questions that are too formal and process orientated.

Examples of how you could start a conversation include:

  • What would you like to get out of each session?
  • Do you have any longer-term goals you are working towards?
  • What does success look like for you?

2. STAR – An informal way of goal setting

  • Set a Target: Through targeted questioning. 
  • Achieve: Support achievement of goals through delivery.
  • Recognise: Celebrate when goals have been achieved.

3. SMART – A commonly referenced way of goal setting

  • Specific: Make it as precise as possible. What is the person wants to achieve?
  • Measurable: Can you both monitor the progress?
  • Achievable: Is this participation goal achievable within the time frame and are the resources available?
  • Realistic: Is this goal challenging whilst still practical (might be based on current starting position of the participant)?
  • Time-framed: Make it time-framed.
  • Break big goals into smaller chunks, but not too many!
  • Connect people who have similar goals.
  • Encourage people to refresh their goals regularly. Know when people are likely to achieve their goal and talk to them about the next thing they want to work towards.
  • Discuss when relapses could happen, and mitigate.
  • Be proactive in noticing, recognising and rewarding people when they meet their goals.

Related Resources

  • The Art of Goal Setting

  • Goal Setting in Action

  • Helping More Women Get Active


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UK Coaching Participation Team