Sunday, November 20, 2016

Through an Athletic Trainer's Eyes: Goal Setting

Goal setting is a great mental technique to use in the rehabilitation setting. The integration of goal setting into the athletic training room gives an opportunity for the athletic trainer and the athlete to interact. Most athletes are already used to the goal setting process in relation to their sports so the question is why not transition it into the rehab domain?²
Colin Deal and Chris Shields conducted a study to analyze the effects of  goal setting on athletes in the rehabilitation process. One athlete commented that ‘[goal setting] really helped, setting those goals made me proactive in trying to strengthen everything to get back earlier than anticipated.” ¹ Another athlete stated, ‘well it was kind of like setting those goals so that as soon as I reached it I felt accomplished. It kind of makes you strive to get better.”¹ Goal setting gives the athlete a sense of direction and provides motivation during the rehabilitation process.
Goal setting can be a useful tool in the athletic training room if utilized properly. Here are some guidelines² to follow when setting goals with your athletes:
  • Set goals in all 4 areas of goal setting. By setting goals in multiple areas the athlete can still have a sense of accomplishment if they have plateaued in another area.
    • Mental: psychological skills such as relaxation, imagery, or positive self talk
    • Physical: rehabilitation specific such as range of motion or strength
    • Sport Specific: technical and tactical skills used within their sport
    • Life Skill: areas outside of sport such as school or work
  • Make goals task-oriented
    • To make a goal task-oriented give it the “to-do” mentality instead of a want mentality. By making this simple adjustment to a goal the athlete will have a greater chance of completing the setting to accomplish the goal.²
  • Make a combination of short and long term goals
    • Short term goals should serve as stepping stones to reach the long term goal.
  • Create SMART goals. This acronym is used to make the goal more detailed leaving no room for speculation on what is trying to be accomplished.
    • Specific: to know what exactly what you are supposed to do. This is the “who, what, when, where, which, and why”
    • Measurable: how will progress be measured. This may involve creativity on the athletic trainers end to make the goal quantifiable.
    • Action-oriented: This is what actions they will do. This is making the goal task-oriented.²
    • Realistic: The goal must represent an objective that the athlete would be willing and able to work towards.³ This is where the athletic trainer should properly educate the athlete on the nature of their injury.²  
    • Time-bound: This gives the goal a time frame. Individuals tend to work towards their goal when there is a time boundary.
    • Write the goals down. By physically writing the goals down it makes them real. A written down goal has a greater backbone than one that is just said out loud.
Goal setting has many beneficial aspects. For example, athletes can gain a sense of control in the rehabilitation process by assisting in the goal setting methods. Secondly, as the short term goals are being completed the athlete can see the progress being made towards the end goal. Goal setting can take some work but will prove to be useful if executed correctly.

¹Deal, C., & Shields, C. (2015, November 23). Importance of the Student Therapist/Athlete Relationship and Goal-Setting in Injury Rehabilitation. The Qualitative Report, 20(11), 8th ser., 1859-1870. Retrieved November 3, 2016, from
²Granquist, M. D., PhD, ATC. (2010, June 22). Collaborative Goal-Setting to Enhance Rehabilitation Adherence and Outcomes. Lecture presented at National Athletic Trainers' Association Annual Meeting & Clinical Symposia in Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia, PA.

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