The Ultimate Guide to SMART Goals for Student-Athletes

Colin McAtee

Written by Colin McAtee

May 18, 2023

Being a student-athlete is a unique and rewarding experience that requires dedication, time management, and a clear vision of what you want to achieve. As a former college student-athlete at the Division I level, I understand the importance of setting effective goals to maximize potential and achieve success both in the classroom and on the field. This blog post will explore the concept of SMART goals and how they can empower student-athletes to reach new heights.

What are SMART Goals?

SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This framework provides a structured approach to goal setting, enabling student-athletes to define clear objectives, track progress, stay motivated, and ultimately achieve their desired outcomes.

Smart Goals for Student-Athletes Guide


The first step in setting SMART goals is to make them specific. Rather than setting a general goal like "improve performance," break it down into distinct components. For example, a basketball student-athlete could set a goal to improve their field goal percentage by 10%, increase their vertical jump by 2 inches, or maintain a GPA of 3.5 during the season. Being specific helps to focus efforts and create a clear roadmap to success.


Measuring progress is crucial to staying motivated and assessing success. Establishing measurable goals allows student-athletes to track their progress and determine whether they are on the right track. For instance, a measurable goal could be completing a certain number of laps in the pool, achieving a specific fitness test score, or increasing your average points per game. By quantifying goals, student-athletes can celebrate milestones and make adjustments if necessary.


Setting achievable goals ensures that student-athletes have a realistic chance of success. While it's essential to challenge oneself, setting unachievable goals can lead to frustration and demotivation. When setting goals, student-athletes should consider their current abilities, resources, and time constraints. It's crucial to balance ambition and feasibility, setting goals that push boundaries but are within reach with effort and commitment.


Relevance is critical when setting goals as a student-athlete. The goals should align with the individual's long-term aspirations and complement their athletic and academic pursuits. For example, a high school student-athlete aspiring to play at the collegiate level should set goals that give them the best chance of becoming a college athlete. These goals should be related to improving athletic performance, grades, and test scores. By ensuring relevance, goals become more meaningful and provide a sense of purpose and direction.


Setting a timeline for achieving goals helps student-athletes maintain focus and avoid procrastination. Establishing deadlines or milestones can break down larger goals into smaller, manageable tasks. For instance, a basketball player aiming to improve their free throw percentage could set a goal to practice free throws for 30 minutes every day for a month. Time-bound goals create a sense of urgency and foster a proactive approach to goal attainment.

Putting SMART Goals into Practice

Now that we understand what SMART goals entail, let's explore how student-athletes can implement them effectively.

Assess strengths and weaknesses

Start by evaluating your current abilities and areas for improvement. Identify your strengths and weaknesses on and off the field to develop a well-rounded set of goals targeting specific growth areas where you want to improve.

Prioritize goals

Based on your assessment, prioritize the goals that are most important to you. Focusing on a few key objectives is better rather than spreading yourself too thin. By narrowing your focus, you can allocate your time and energy more effectively.

Break down goals into actionable steps

Take each goal and break it down into smaller, actionable steps. This makes the goals more manageable and helps you stay motivated in the long term. For instance, if your goal is to improve endurance, you could start by incorporating regular long-distance runs into your training routine.

Create a timeline

Set deadlines or milestones for each goal. Determine when you would like to achieve them, and create a timeline that allows you to track your progress. Remember to be realistic and flexible, as some goals may require more time and effort than others.

Regularly track progress

Celebrate milestones to maintain a positive mindset and sense of accomplishment. Monitor your progress by tracking your performance, grades, or other relevant metrics. This will help you stay motivated and make any necessary adjustments to your approach.

Celebrate your success

Celebrating success is crucial for SMART goals because it provides much-needed motivation and reinforcement for the student-athlete. Recognizing and acknowledging your accomplishments along the journey helps to maintain a positive mindset and boosts self-confidence. Additionally, celebrating success allows you to reflect on their progress, evaluate their strategies, and make necessary adjustments for continued growth and improvement.


Setting SMART goals is a powerful tool for student-athletes to optimize their potential, achieve success, and balance their academic and athletic pursuits. Student-athletes can achieve great things by embracing the specificity, measurability, achieveability, relevance, and time-bound nature of SMART goals. Remember, goal setting is not a one-time task but an ongoing process that requires regular evaluation and adjustment.

Ready to become a college student-athlete? Start your 14-day free trial.