Goal-Setting For Student Athletes In The Time Of COVID-19

In Learn
By Kirsten Jones | March 23, 2020

Goal-setting For Student Athletes In The Time Of COVID-19

With schools closed and sports practices and games canceled, many parents and teen athletes are left wondering, “What do we do now?” While it is true that there is a lot of uncertainty as to when life will return to normal, there is a bigger question which begs to be asked of those who are passionate to get ahead in their sport, their conditioning, their craft: What can I do now to help put me in the best position to win, both on and off the field of play, once things return to normal?

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The late Kobe Bryant was famous for his work ethic, particularly when no one else was watching. Any time someone had something negative to say about him, he would write it up on his wall and assign a workout to go with it. 

No focus. Calf raises 12 x 5.

You’re garbage. 100 made free throws.

You’re mental. Five-mile run.

Not a team player. Film review. 

Prima donna. Low row 10 x 4.

A fluke. 300 made bank shots.

Here are four ways peak performers focus their energy, regardless of the time of year or whether anyone else is doing it or not. They are so clear on why they do what they do and want to be the best at it, they can’t imagine a day without their schedule, which moves them incrementally, 1% better a day. Kobe did a 4 a.m. workout every day in addition to the two three-hour practices the Lakers held because he knew that the compounding effect of him getting in more reps over time would be winning the mental battle with his opponent before he even stepped onto the floor. Every day is an opportunity to get 1% better. What are you doing today?


Credit: @James Clear ATOMIC HABITS


This is all about the BIG picture. Whether you are re-visiting your goals or writing them down for the first time, this is the perfect opportunity to create a vision. Get your goal list out and look to see if they are relevant. Things change over time and circumstances shift as well. If your goals have evolved, it’s a great time to make adjustments. For example, if the goal originally was to “make the top team” and now you’ve made it, perhaps the amended goal is to “get more planyingte” or “get three assists per game.” Ask yourself, what are the big-picture goals you desire to reach over the next 12 months? Put it in words or pictures and make a board out it. If you’re looking at this every day, you’re giving yourself a reminder for what’s important in the big picture.


What is your WHY? Why are you playing this sport? Why is it important to you? Your “why” changes and evolves over time. The reason you started playing soccer at age 6, which was potentially driven by the desire to be with your friends, is probably not why you are playing competitive soccer today. Perhaps you love the challenge of playing at a higher level or aspire to play at the next level. Knowing your why and being clear on what it is that drives you will make every painful push-up or extra rep worth it. And if your why doesn’t motivate you to work out in these days of uncertainty, that is also good information and a great discussion to have with those who love and support you. We are all growing, evolving human beings. If your why has shifted, that’s OK! Now it’s time to get curious about what’s next.


In times of uncertainty, it is normal to start justifying what is or isn’t getting done. It’s easy to opt-out of things that are no longer mandated. Take a few minutes to think about what you do have control over. This is the place to get specific around what you do and when. The more specific a plan you write, the less mental muscle you’ll need to engage to make it happen. Create a routine and then implement. Rinse and repeat.

For example, if you start your day at 7 a.m., you now have ten to twelve hours to utilize.

7am Wake up

8am- 2pm Online school

2pm-4pm Snack, chill online and connect with friends

4pm-6pm Time to create (work out, challenge a teammate to a work out, write, try something new, give back, etc.)

6pm-7pm Dinner

7pm Free time until bedtime

If six hours (including lunch) will be doing school work, what are you doing with the other six or seven hours in your day? Let’s assume two to three hours on social media or watching movies (just being realistic), that still gives you three hours to create, to improve, to give back and to grow each day. 

Without access to a court to shoot on or a gym to do weight workouts in, get creative on where you can work out, whether it’s your living room or driveway. There are thousands of different gyms and trainers who are now offering online workouts. Find your favorite and follow them on IG. Two examples: @Barrys from Barry’s Bootcamp is posting a workout of the day (WOD) or USA Network Biggest Loser Trainer, Steve Cook IG: @SteveCook provides short workouts that require zero equipment. There are many, many others. Find a gym or trainer who inspires you, FaceTime a friend or teammate and do the workout together virtually. Many clubs are posting their own online workouts as well. Find a way to make them fun and creative; you’ll stick with it longer.


Given the busy lives and schedules teen athletes have, now with so much downtime, due to social distancing and self-isolation, these are perfect to start identifying how well you are doing in each category and then making adjustments or creating new practices where possible.

1) Increase overall fitness. It doesn’t take that much space – a nice uphill road or a parking lot for you to be able to do squats, burpees or sprints. Make a specific goal: I will do a parking lot workout on Monday-Wednesday-Friday from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the empty lot next to my school. Make it S-M-A-R-T. Specific. Measurable. Actionable. Realistic. Time-bound.

2) Sports-specific skill work. What drills can I do on my own? If you play volleyball, you can do passing and setting against a wall. If you play soccer, you can dribble a ball and do agility work with cones. 

3) Nutrition. Are you fueling your body properly? How do top athletes fuel before, during and after they train? There is a lot of research on this on the internet.

4) Mindset. What are you doing to bring your athletic dreams into reality? Do you have a mindfulness practice? Do you meditate or journal? Do you do any breath work? These are all tools which will lower the cortisol levels in your body, which is triggered by stress. When you proactively have a practice you do daily, you will, over time feel less of the extreme highs or lows, you will be more in tune with your desires and purpose and you will be less reactionary, more calm,  and focused. Who doesn’t want all that? If you’re new to meditation or mindfulness, check out the CALM or Headspace apps. They are both great tools to start a practice. Kids as young as four or five can learn to meditate. Once you have a practice, it’s free and you can use it to “do life better” every day.

5) Sleep. Finally, we are a nation of sleep-deprived people. Look at this as the perfect time to create a new sleep schedule and train yourself to stick to it. If you have a smart watch, use the function for tracking sleep. It will tell you how many minutes you are awake or in deep, light or REM states. For our teenagers, sleep is a critical ingredient for them to be happy, to grow, to learn and remember new information. Another key tip is to power off all devices one hour before bedtime to allow your brain to de-stress from the day and unwind. Ideally, you don’t have any devices in the room during sleep. This one can be challenging, I know, but is so helpful in getting restful, uninterrupted sleep.

How to tun isolation into motivation

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Kirsten is a motivational speaker, writer and Peak Performance Coach. She is the co-host of the #RaisingAthletes Podcast with Kirsten Jones & Susie Walton on iTunes. Kirsten and her husband are raising three teenage athletes in Los Angeles. More from Kirsten at Kirstenjonesinc.com


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