Setting Goals for Success in High School, College and Beyond

[Guide] S.M.A.R.T Goals Worksheet

The start of a new year and/or a new playing season brings an opportunity to recalibrate. What worked and what didn’t in the past year or last season? How can you correct the path if need be?

What if you are in the middle of your season? Can you evaluate and make adjustments in the middle, or do you need to wait until the end of the season? How do you focus on the moment when you are racing to the next practice, game, test, homework assignment or recruiting email?

These are all valid and legitimate questions. The only way to evaluate where you are right now is to stop. Take a brief reprieve. Put some thought into the important aspects of your life and then go back to work.

How to Evaluate Your Current Life

What are some meaningful ways to evaluate where you are right now? You can begin by asking yourself some simple questions about last year or last season.

  • What did I accomplish?
  • What did I learn?
  • What or who am I most appreciative of?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • Is there anything that I need to change in order to make next year better?

Take a minute to reflect on these questions and write down the answers.

Smart goals defined with notepad and pen

Setting Goals for Next Year

Now you can use your answers above to help set goals for the next year or season. Have you heard of SMART goals? I used these with my student athletes when I was coaching. They are meant to give you direction and focus.

SMART goals were first developed as a concept in 1981 by George T. Doran. He was a consultant who published a document called, “There’s a SMART Way to Write Management Goals and Objectives.”

You are doing the same thing: writing goals and objectives when you look at where you are now and where you want to be in the future. All you need to do is set a plan.

What does SMART stand for? 

  1. Specific
  2. Measurable
  3. Achievable
  4. Realistic
  5. Timely

Many athletes get to this part and feel like this is too much work. They don’t have time to sit down and write all this out. However, once you try it, you might like it. Consider each step separately.


How can you make a goal specific? Try describing your goal with what, why and who. 

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why do I want to accomplish this?
  • Who will be involved in this accomplishment?

Example: I want to play [my sport] at “so-and-so” college because I love it and want to have that experience as a college athlete.


Making goals measurable is not always easy, but doing so will help you focus on the details that keep you on track.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How will I measure progress?
  • How will I know I have achieved the goal?

Example: I will measure my progress by knowing there is interest from the college coaches, and I have a legitimate shot to land at that college. I am in conversations with them, and they have told me I am one of their top recruits. I know I have achieved the goal when I have an offer from this college.


Knowing if your goal is achievable is not always an easy question. The goal should challenge you but be attainable.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Is this goal attainable for me?
  • Do I have the skills needed to accomplish this goal?

Example: This goal is achievable because I have the skill level in my sport to play for this college, and I have enough time to go through the recruiting process with this college in mind.


With this step, you are making sure this goal is important enough to you that you will see it through and that it is a realistic goal for you.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Does this goal make sense for me right now?
  • Is it the right time?
  • Will I see it through?

Example: This is very important to me because I want to play college sports, and I am willing to put in the time and effort to get the job done.


Putting a timeline on your goal helps you to aim differently. For example, if your timeline is a year or two away, you set the goal and then set subgoals along the way. If your timeline is immediate, then you can focus on more immediate needs.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • When will I accomplish this goal?
  • Is it doable?

Example: I will land a spot on the college roster by May of my senior year. This is a realistic time for me since I graduate in June.

Girl with hand on chin with pad and pen and phone

How to Set Smaller Goals

When you think about SMART goals, you think about the bigger picture. However, you can make smaller goals that help you get to the larger goal. For example, if your goal is to land a college spot on the roster of your favorite college, then you can set up little milestones along the way.


SMART Goal:  I will play [my sport] for [my top college choice] because I have always been a huge fan of this sports program, and it would be the best fit for me. I will accomplish this goal by May 1st of my senior year.

This is a great goal. If you are a senior in high school, your plan and your smaller goals may look different than if you are a sophomore with a little more time. Consider the following examples.

Senior goals:

Sophomore goals:

Both examples are hypothetical, and athletes would have a different set of goals depending on their circumstances and where they are in the recruiting process, but these lists identify smaller lists of goals that are aiming at the larger goal of obtaining a college roster spot.

Someone holding up sign that reads think big, dream big, believe big and the result will be big

The Find My Team Challenge

Find My Team challenges you to go after your dreams and goals. Using SMART goals will help you make your dreams more specific and attainable. If you have a goal that you want to achieve but are having trouble organizing it in the “SMART” way, feel free to reach out to us for more help. Email us at

We have created a guide to help you set these goals. Feel free to download it and make as many copies as your goals require. Dream big!

One Last Point

It’s easy to avoid sitting down and trying to make real goals for yourself. It’s much easier to just go with the flow. However, if you have learned anything as an athlete, becoming good at something takes practice, and what you become good at leads to an opportunistic future.

When you learn to set goals, you set yourself up for success, not only in high school but in college and beyond. College coaches like student athletes who can make a goal and then work hard to accomplish it.

Employers like to hire athletes because athletes have gone through hard work and teamwork. As a student athlete, you have acquired skills, like goal setting, which makes you that much more attractive as a great hire when your college days are over.

References for more information:



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