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SMART Goal Setting For Tennis Players

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According to research, only 8% of people accomplish their New Year’s Resolutions. Few people set goals, and even fewer accomplish them.

What’s all this goal-setting hubbub got to do with tennis? Many of us desperately want to become highly-skilled tennis players. We dream of winning big matches, striking winners in clutch situations, and hoisting shiny tennis trophies above our heads. But the next minute, we’ve opened a bag of corn chips and flipped the channel to reruns of Seinfeld.

The problem with most tennis players (and people in general) who want to improve is that they don’t set goals. And the rest that do don’t set smart goals. Anyone can tell themselves they want to be the best tennis player in the state and win big tournaments. But where do you go from there?

Chances are, you need to reevaluate the goals that you have set to make sure they include the criteria necessary to ensure that you will have the best chance to accomplish them.

The key, my tennis friends, is to set SMART Goals.

How Can SMART Goal-Setting Help Tennis Players?

Have you ever grabbed a piece of paper and sat down to write your goals, only to get back up and do something else after 15 minutes of confusion and an unused pencil? 

Setting the right goals that will maximize your tennis career and quality of life isn’t easy without knowing the right criteria. We’ve all set goals that have been too difficult to achieve, too broad, and that failed to advance our long-term goals. SMART goals are different. SMART goals ensure that we stay motivated and consistent so that we will accomplish them.

After reading the rest of this post, you will know how to set goals that give you direction, purpose, confidence, and a blueprint for success. SMART goals will tell you the precise actions and frequency you need to help you accomplish your goal. Without SMART goals, you’re swimming to an unknown island without a map.

What is a SMART Goal?

Your SMART goals must be:

1. Specific

You will optimize the chances of achieving your goals if you are as specific as possible when formulating them. Overly broad goals like “I want to increase my NTRP rating level” gives the player little direction to follow.

Compare that with the following goal: I will increase my NTRP rating by .5 in 1 year by practicing my serve three times a week for 1 hour a day by myself or with a coach to improve my serve.

Boom. Now that is a specific goal! The more specific, the better!

To help you make your goal as specific as possible, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is involved?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • When will you achieve it?
  • How will you achieve it?
  • Why do you want to achieve the goal?

Then answer those questions!  I recommend that you use a Mind Map to map out your answers. They are free to use and help you organize your thoughts and plan of action on your computer.

By formulating specific goals, we give ourselves a detailed roadmap that we can use to pursue consistent and purpose-driven tennis training.

2. Measurable

Make sure that you can measure success with your tennis goal. A lot of players set goals but have no way of knowing their progress.  If your goal is to become a better tennis player, that’s great. But how will you know that you’re improving?

For example, if you set a goal to increase your NTRP rating by .5 in one year, this is a measurable goal, because in one year, if all goes well, you will increase your NTRP rating. But this goal is still a little too broad. We can do better.

A goal like “I will practice my kick serve every day before school so that I can hit 10 kick serves in a row in 3 weeks” is another example of a very specific goal. This type of goal is clearly measurable because you will know whether you accomplished your goal by whether you can hit 10 kick serves in a row in 21 days.  That’s the type of goal you want to set, because it will further your longer term goals like increasing your NTRP level.

3. Attainable

You have to be realistic with yourself when setting SMART goals. There is a delicate balance between being realistic and detrimentally ambitious. You should always push yourself to achieve things which are out of your comfort zone. At the same time, many fail to take into consideration several important variables, such as:

  • Time
  • Effort
  • Cost
  • Relationships

Remember, aim for the stars and you will reach the moon. But if you aim for the stars with a bow and arrow and a $5 bill, you might want to consider trying to reach the top of a mountain first.  You probably won’t be able to turn pro if you are almost 30 and just started playing tennis, but aiming to win a sectional tournament (be more specific than this!) may be the challenge you need to get your game to the next level.

4. Relevant

Your goals must be relevant to your long-term aspirations. Setting a goal to hit 10 kick serves in a row in three weeks will improve your chances of increasing your NTRP ranking, so this goal meets the relevancy criteria. By contrast, mastering a tennis skill like the tweener probably makes little sense for your long-term tennis goals.

You will reach your long-term goals in the least amount of time necessary if you align your short-term goals with what you want to become several years down the road. This ultimately means that you should set tennis goals to improve whatever skill in your tennis game that will give you the biggest return on investment (aka ROI). For most of you this will mean working on your serve. For many others, it may be improving your footwork or forming a consistent practice routine. The possibilities are endless, so choose a goal that will best further your long-term goals.

5. Timely

You should attach a definite time period to your goal. In the example above about increasing your NTRP ranking by .5, we attached a one-year time period.

Last week, I wrote about how to crush your goals with a sense of urgency. One of the key principles I mentioned in that post was Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

When you set a goal, if you don’t attach a time period to accomplish it, then nine times out of ten you will relax and do something else because there is no due date. But when we attach a reasonable time period to our goal and understand what drives us to accomplish that goal, we end up maximizing our focus and effort-level. Attaching a time period ensures that we stay motivated, and apply consistent, purpose-driven action towards reaching our goals.

Examples of SMART Tennis Goals

-I will increase my NTRP rating by .5 in 1 year by practicing my serve three times a week for 1 hour a day by myself or with a coach to improve my serve consistency.

-I will practice my serve for 45 minutes a day every morning to improve my second serve. My goal is to be able to hit 10 kick serves in a row in 3 weeks.

-I will improve my hydration for the summer by drinking 8 glasses of water a day for the next two months; 4 glasses by noon and another 4 before bed.

Remember: make sure that your goal is as specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely as possible! Then the path to accomplishing your goal will be clearly defined.

Short versus Long-Term Goals

You should utilize both short and long-term goals to ensure success.

The best thing you can do for your tennis career and life is to first figure out where you want to be in the long-term. For example, think about where you want your tennis game and skill level to be in the next 5 years. Analyze what you need to work on to get there. Then create smaller, short-term goals to help you reach your long-term goal.

Let’s say you are currently a 3.0 player, and your long-term goal is to become a 4.5 player. In order to reach the 4.5 level, set SMART short-term goals that are directed towards improving certain elements of your game that will yield the greatest ROI so that you will get to the 4.5 level in the least amount of time possible.

Resources I Use to Set and Accomplish SMART Goals

Mind Meister  – Free mind maps to chart out the steps you need to take to reach your goals. Click here to learn more about mind maps, and here to get started creating them!

Trello – Another awesome free tool to organize your workflow and progression on projects and tasks. I use this to ensure my blog posts, podcasts, and tennis training gets done on time! You can add notes, checklists, attachments, and even pictures to your entries too!

Freedom Journal – The Freedom Journal helps you reach your goal in 100 days. I write in this journal every day and night to keep me focused on writing every single day in the morning. Check it out here on amazon!

Google Calendar – Just open up google calendar through your gmail account or the interwebs and schedule all your appointments and alarms to help keep you working towards accomplishing your goals!

Cell Phone Alarm – Set a reoccurring alarm or calendar appointment, and once your phone rings, go forth and conquer! Perhaps this phone will suit your needs 😛

Final Thoughts

Use SMART goals to take your tennis game and life to the next level.

Every action is driven by thought, and it is up to you to figure out what goals you need to set and accomplish to become the tennis player and person that you’ve always wanted to be.

Think big, make your goals specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely, and you will be amazed by how much success you can have in life.

To download your free guide on How to Set SMART Goals for Tennis Players, subscribe to my newsletter below!

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