Sport Psychology: Goal Planning

Posted by Ami Strutin Belinoff, M.A on May 30, 2017 12:50:04 PM

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Beach Season is Upon Us: Goal planning step by step.

In sports, vision is crucial and it is the center point for which all success and or failure hinges. There will be failures and pitfalls along the way, but resiliency, determination, and persistence are key to long-term success.


How do we find our vision? By creating TIME and SPACE to explore that which drives us, that which creates that exciting feeling buried deeper within us and bubbles up as we dream and invite our vision to fuller expression. Once this is established, we can get started on how we are going to set out to begin achieving this vision. This is where having a detailed plan and goals come into play. By the time you are done reading this, you should have the structure to set forth a goal oriented plan to get you on your way. As with all plans and goals, they will flex, bend, and change.


Goals can be broken down into 3 areas:

  1. Your Dream or Vision. When looking at beach volleyball what do you fantasize about? Where do you see yourself if you were to follow your dream in beach volleyball?
  1. Your Realistic Goal. This is a goal that you would like to accomplish by the end of this beach season.
  1. Your Process Goals. Identify and understand where you are now and the process on how to achieve your realistic goal. 

The process on how we achieve our goals is the main entrée so we need to give it the most attention and focus.


Ingredients to forming your process goals:

  1. Time/Space

As we mentioned earlier, creating time and space to sit down, reflect, and actively make your process goals is the first step. Give yourself an hour to start. Find a quiet place and do some deep breathing for 10 minutes before you start to center yourself and focus.

  1. Where am I now?

One of the most crucial pieces to moving yourself to an end point is to understand where you are now. Having self-awareness and a critical eye to know where you stand in your game now is imperative. Think of it as your own personal inventory or self-assessment. This next step may help you to achieve this.

  1. What are my strengths and weaknesses?

One way to dissect your game is to understand your physical, skill, and mental strengths and weaknesses. Begin by rating yourself on each component from 1 to 5: setting (bump and hand), hitting, blocking, digging, serving, passing, and shots. Next, apply the same analysis to some of the basic mental tenets: focus, confidence, determination, positivity, communication, nerves. Lastly, reflect upon your physical make up, such as strength, agility, flexibility, conditioning, and so forth. Using and committing to your BridgeAthletic workout may be a vital piece to you reaching these physical goals. Once you have rated yourself and taken some time to analyze your game, pick one of each skill to work on for the next 4 to 6 weeks. (3 different goals)

  1. Process goals

Pick a specific target goal for each area (there should be 3 goals). Each target goal should be time bound, measurable, realistic, specific, and based off of your current baseline (where you are right now). 

  1. Monitor your goals

This aspect of goal setting is often left out. Monitoring your progress on your goals is very important. Goals are always changing as is your performance. Updating and monitoring your goals keeps you focused on your progress, which drives motivation and confidence. Keep your goals handy and just make little journal notes after every practice and check in on how your progress went that practice. This does not have to be long, maybe 5 or 10 minutes. You may find that you want to adjust your goals or you may find you achieved one of them and in that case you can start a new one.


Here is an example to help you get started.


Target Mental Goal: FOCUS by July 1

I will increase my focus and attention when drilling, playing, and working out with all aspects of my volleyball game to 85% through the entire duration of my playing.

Baseline - June 1

Currently my attention and focus fluctuates in my games. When I am winning big, I lose focus and when my confidence is down I lose focus. In a match, my focus is about 70%.

Objective 1

I will practice my breath work twice a day, working on diaphragm breathing with counting for 5 to 10 min. I will count as I breathe up to a set number and then back down in the reverse order. If I become distracted in my count, I will start my count over. This should drive awareness and focus to limit mental distractions.  

Objective 2

I will use action words during play at any moment that I feel my focus and attention slipping to get myself back on track: “Let’s go, Come on, Right Now, FOCUS, or Next Point”

Objective 3

I will make a conscious effort to know when my focus drifts away by externals distractors like the score or the crowd. I will sharpen my focus by resetting and breathing and picking a visual stimuli to zero in for 2-3 breaths.

Key Takeaways

If you want to achieve success, nail down a couple of outcome-oriented goals to achieve by the summer’s end. Then, create and monitor a detailed plan to get there. The joy of accomplishing a big goal is amazing, but to get there the focus must be on the process. We would all like the process and journey to be fun. As you follow your plan, keep these reminders top of mind.

  • Create as much self-awareness about your beach game as possible and get feedback from others too: friends, coaches, or even family.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. Inch by inch is a cinch, yard by yard is hard.
  • Have fun and enjoy the process as much as you can. Understand there will be good days and bad days.
  • Share your goals with people that you trust and are close to. Sharing goals leads to a further commitment to your goals and you can often gain more support through the tough times.
  • Reward yourself when you make a break through or accomplish a process goal. We have to embrace all forward progress.

Creating goals and learning Mental Skill Training gives an athlete a competitive edge. Goals drive motivation, commitment, and focus.


Volleyball-specific training plans for clubs and individuals

About the Author:

Ami is a licensed mental health clinician and specializes in sport psychology. He focuses on the whole athlete, on and off the court. He uses a full range of techniques in cognitive-behavioral, goal-oriented, and mindfulness practices to craft the whole athlete.  

Exercises such as self-awareness coaching, visualization, motivational imagery, deep diaphragmatic breathing and positive self-talk are key elements to his approach. His proficiency in assessment, intuition and a deep respect for the body/mind connection drive his methods. His continued participation in beach volleyball, mountain biking, skiing, hiking, surfing, and yoga keeps him connected to sports and competition. 

Ami Strutin-Belinoff, M.A., LMFT
Mental Peak Performance Training
Phone: (310) 804-7553

Topics: Sport Science, Volleyball