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 6 Simple Reasons Why Athletes Fail to Meet Their Goals

6 Simple Reasons Why Athletes Fail to Meet Their Goals

Why your athlete is struggling with their goals and how to find success

If your young athlete tends to lose focus partway through a season or fails to achieve their goals by the end of the season, they aren’t alone. Setting and achieving suitable goals isn’t an easy task, especially for kids who are also dealing with the expectations of the adults around them.

Here, Daniel Gould, PhD, director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University, explains why your athlete is struggling with their goals and what they can do differently to find success.

1. They Don’t Have Ownership
“With kids, it's easy for them not to own their goal,” says Gould. "In other words, a coach or a parent often tells them what their goal is, and because they didn’t come up with it, the athlete really doesn't have the drive to commit to it.”

You can help an athlete overcome this roadblock by letting them make a list of goals for the season without any input from you. You can discuss the goals after they are written out, but until then, refrain from giving advice. Make sure it's really the athlete’s goals, not them echoing what they’ve heard or been told.

2. They Don’t Have a Plan
“Every adult has experience making a New Year’s Resolution that we didn't follow up on,” Gould says. "That’s because we spend so much time identifying what the goal is, but then we spend a lot less time developing the plan for achieving it.” Without a plan for getting to the finish line, a young athlete is dreaming, not goal-setting.

Gould explains, “A child might say, 'I want to make the starting lineup.' But to make the starting lineup, do they know what do they need to do? Most kids will say, 'I don't know.' But you can help your athlete figure it out. Depending on the sport, it may be 'I need to improve certain types of shots.’ Or more simply, 'I need to be on time to every practice.’” Help your child create a road map, either written out or drawn as a timeline, of how to achieve each goal.

3. They Don’t Revisit the Goal
"This is a really common problem,” Gould says. "Everybody sets goals at the beginning of the year, but rarely do they revisit them on a regular basis to evaluate progress. Goal-setting only works if people get feedback relative to their goal.” Both coaches and parents can figure out a way to create ongoing feedback for an athlete and incorporate some kind of metric or evaluation.

Research has also showed that motivation tends to wane between the time of goal-setting and the point of achieving the goal, but setting related mini-goals that are actionable can keep motivation high.

4. The Goals Are Too Vague or Too Big
"We know that goals that are specific and measurable are much more effective than 'do your best' general goals,” Gould says. "For example, if I tell my kid that I want him to have a better attitude, that’s extremely general. That means so many things to different people. Instead, really break down what behaviors you want to see, such as demonstrating good sportsmanship, not making any snide remarks to officials, hustling between all drills, and saying thank you to your coach. Really clarify what success means.”

And goals don’t have to be massive championship-winning goals to be satisfying. Research has shown that smaller goals that are more easily achieved can be incredibly satisfying, so make sure that your athlete isn’t just setting huge goals.

5. They Expect Perfection
Basketball legend Michael Jordan famously said that he missed more than 9,000 shots in his career. There are baseball players in the Hall of Fame who failed seven out of 10 times at the plate. “The whole idea that you have to be perfect is just unrealistic, yet kids believe that it’s possible,” says Gould.

“But sports are a great way to teach a young person that one failure doesn’t mean that a goal is now unachievable or out of reach. If they fail at a goal, just help them reboot: Set new, realistic goals based on new information.” Later in life, we rarely have the opportunity to learn from failures with minimal repercussions, so use youth sport as a way for kids to build those skills and resilience that will serve them outside of sport and later in life.

6. Their Goals Aren’t Your Goals
Sometimes, an athlete’s failure to meet a goal is simply a case of mismatched expectations between them and an adult. For instance, a parent might have been the star defensive soccer player in high school and therefore expect the same from their child - even though that young athlete would rather be playing tennis. Make sure athletes actually want to achieve the goals that they set!

It’s not surprising that many young athletes lose interest in goals or fail to achieve their goals during a season. Keep these barriers to success in mind as you help your young athletes set and work towards their goals.

TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.

 How to Eat for Immune Support During COVID-19

How to Eat for Immune Support During COVID-19

Basic tips on eating for immune health

Nervous about your young athlete’s immune system as cold and flu season continues and COVID-19 is still a part of everyday life? You’re not alone. But luckily, there are some easy ways to boost your child’s immune health without turning to supplements or pills: Food can be a powerful tool in your efforts to keep your child healthy this year.

Here, TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, shares her best tips for boosting immunity in the kitchen.

Educate your athlete
Ziesmer believes that when kids are educated about nutrition, it’s easier to encourage healthy eating. “I like to explain to kids how digestion works: when you eat something, it travels through your body and it gets absorbed into your whole system, so if you're eating a bunch of junk food, that's what is absorbed into your system and you won’t perform your best.” She recommends watching an explanatory video or two about the digestive system with your kids to help get them on board with improving their diets.

Improve the microbiome
Research has shown that immunity is linked to good gut health, which means a healthy gut microbiome. That’s right, not all bacteria are bad—and having a healthy balance in the gut can go a long way towards keeping your child healthy.

“There's no one magic food, but you can start improving immunity by having a healthy gut microbiome,” Ziesmer says. “The bacteria in your gut affects so many different things in your body, and about 70 percent of your immune system is found in your digestive tract. We want to populate our gut with good bacteria, which comes from fermented foods. Eating those foods will raise the level of healthy bacteria in your stomach, which will boost your immune system.”

Ziesmer recommends gut-bacteria-boosting foods that are rich in probiotics, including sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and kefir.

Eat the rainbow—especially greens
“Eating a generally healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables will provide vitamin C, vitamin E, and different antioxidants,” Ziesmer says. So, make sure that most meals are colorful, with a wide variety of vegetables, whole grains, and clean protein sources. Green vegetables in particular have been shown to potentially boost immunity, and of course, are part of any healthy diet.

Sneak in greens whenever possible, whether it’s a handful of spinach in a smoothie, broccoli in a stir fry, or a little extra arugula on your athlete’s sandwich.

Add more fiber
Certain fibers—including those found in apples, oats, and nuts—have been shown to strengthen the immune system while decreasing inflammation. Meaning that yes, an apple a day may keep the doctor away! “Naturally occurring fiber found in fruit and vegetables also helps populate your gut with healthy bacteria,” Ziesmer adds. “Probiotics are the healthy bacteria, but prebiotics are the fibers from foods that the healthy bacteria eat. Apples, bananas, asparagus, oats, and Jerusalem artichokes are great prebiotic sources.”

Watch out for fast food
Fatty foods, primarily those that are deep-fried and high in sodium as well as fat, have been linked to worse immune health, so it’s critical to keep the overall food quality of your athlete’s diet high. The occasional trip to a fast food spot won’t destroy your child’s immunity, but it’s important to make a high-quality diet a priority.

"If your athlete is eating a lot of junk food, that's obviously going to make the bacteria in the stomach more toxic rather than increasing the good bacteria,” says Ziesmer. “When eating out, you're going to be consuming a lot more saturated fat, salt, preservatives, and additives, all of which can raise the level of inflammation within the body and counteract the effects of having the healthy bacteria in your stomach.”

Even picky eaters need to eat right
It’s tough to push a plate of vegetables on a picky eater, but it’s critical for their health. Ziesmer recommends starting off by just putting certain vegetable on their plate at dinner. “Some kids have to be exposed to new foods 20 times before they will even try them,” she says.

You can also increase buy-in by having kids help pick new recipes, grocery shop, and food prep. And when all else fails, Ziesmer says to disguise foods, adding spinach to smoothies or wrapping asparagus in prosciutto. Or, she recommends the classic banana, which is packed with fiber and other vital nutrients. “Most kids like bananas,” she says. “Put one in the freezer and it’s just like ice cream!”

Food can be one of the many tools you use to help keep your young athletes healthy, and it doesn’t have to be hard with these basic tips on eating for immune health.

TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.



Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer

Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer emphasizes the importance of writing out a plan for the day, the week, and the year. To have your questions answered by Michael Cuddyer, submit them using #USABMailbag on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Michael Cuddyer is a 15-year MLB veteran and two-time All-Star, spending his career playing for the Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies and the New York Mets. A member of the USA Baseball 18U National Team in 1996 and 1997, Cuddyer was then named the 1997 Virginia Player of the Year, Gatorade National Player of the Year, and was a member of USA Today’s All-Star team. He was selected ninth overall in the 1997 MLB Amateur Player Draft by the Minnesota Twins.


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