Today we’ll share how to set basketball goals so you can achieve your wildest dreams. The most important thing when it comes to setting goals for basketball, is that you take the time to do it! Basically you need to define your objectives, and clarify what it will take to get there. Then you can begin your plan to achieve your goals and make them a reality. To perform at your highest level, always know what your goals are and keep them in focus.
WNBA Champion and Washington Mystics guard Alysha Clark, never really sat back and thought about what she personally wanted out of her WNBA career, until a general manager asked her about it during a free agency phone call, many years after she’d already been playing in the league. “We all think you’re an incredible person. But what do you want?” they asked her.
“And when that question was posed to me I was like, ‘Okay well…’ and I sat there, and after I got off the phone I was like I guess I’ve never really sat back and thought about what I personally want out of my career. I just kind of went with whatever was right, and whatever made everyone else happy and comfortable. And I was for it.” she said.
“At the time it was great, because that’s what I was enjoying; that was what made me happy.” she continued, “But then I never really stopped to think, how some of these other players get to do like, ‘In my career I want XYZ’ – I’ve never done that. I’ve never set a personal goal. I’ve never set those types of things in my career in the WNBA. Overseas [I did] but in the WNBA I never did because I was like ‘Oh it’s not going to be a reality. So there’s no point to do it and be disappointed.’”
“Until the 2020 season, I made my first personal goal. I set a personal goal of being Defensive Player of the Year. I was like I’m more than capable of making that happen. I’m more than capable of being in the running and talk for that. So that was the first time in my entire career that I set a personal goal.”
By the way, she was the Defensive Player of the Year that year.
Basketball goal setting has tons of benefits:
“The results you get are often based on the goals you set. So the goal-setting process is important.” shared Jim Afremow in The Champion’s Mind. Here are five questions he encourages you to ask yourself to evaluate each performance goal you set:
Specific goals have a clear focus and scope. For example: “I want to improve my three-point shooting percentage.” The pros set specific goals too. In the last couple years, WNBA Champion, Olympic Gold Medalist, and Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird has looked to keep getting better and better and better at the things she’s really good at, and also add one little thing to her game each year.
“As far as myself in the last couple years, like through time I am who I am. I kind of came to accept it. I will say basketball is different now. When I was growing up you played 1:1 you had 3 dribbles max. And now I think the game is different. So if I was answering this question at 25, I might be like ‘Oh I want to add X, Y, and Z, dribble this, awesome, blah, blah, blah.’ But you know what I think happened to me was: I just knew what I was good at. I identified that, and especially in the last 5 or 6 years – I’m just going to take those things and keep getting better and better and better. And if I can add one little thing, great. So a couple years ago that one thing I added, I was trying to do those off-foot layups more. I would get a couple in a game and I’d be like ‘What, what!’ But for me, an additional five layups is adding something to my game. So more so the focus has been, this is what you do well, now just be great at those things.” she said.
Adding numbers to your goal will help you be able to more clearly see progress. For example: “I want to improve my made three-point shooting percentage to 75% uncontested.”
Optimism is very important. Here’s a story that illustrates why. One day a man spoke to his grandson about a battle going on between two wolves. One wolf is evil. It represents anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false price, superiority, and ego. The other wolf is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The grandson thinks a while about the warring wolves and then asks his grandfather, “So which wold will win?” The grandfather replies, “The wolf that wins is the one that you feed.” Make sure your cup is half full!
Your goal should be relevant to what you ultimately want to achieve with your game. From the time the late Kobe Bryant entered the NBA at 17, he made it very clear that he had only one goal in mind: to win as many championships as possible. Kobe knew that his salary, success with other teammates, and as a player would be predicated on his ability to win championships.
Pro hooper for the Las Vegas Aces and 3×3 Olympic Gold Medalist Kelsey Plum has lofty goals too, “I mean there’s a lot of things that I haven’t done that I want to do. I mean whether that’s Paris 2024, whether that’s world championships next year, whether that’s the WNBA Championship like I want to be an All-Star. I think this year will probably be the best year I’ve ever had playing basketball, and we’re just going to keep building.” she said.
Hold yourself accountable with a reminder you can see every day. After you’ve set your goals, be sure to write them down and display them in a location where you can look at them or motivation. Consider putting your goals on a Post-It note and fixing it to your bathroom mirror, refrigerator door, or bedroom nightstand – as these are places you’ll look at least once a day.
Be sure to give yourself a time frame that motivates you: a month, 3 months, whatever it may be. Try to keep it less than a year to stay on track. For example, Kelsey Plum set a timeline for herself to be back on the court after her injury, “I think when I tore my achilles…I remember crying. And I was crying because I was angry. But I was also like, ‘OK this is the last time you’re allowed to cry because for the next nine months.’ Because I was like, when do you come back from an achilles from 12? All right let’s do it in nine. I have to put all my energy, focus, mental, emotional capacity into these next nine months.”
Consider using a three-level goal system to determine your achievement levels: bronze, silver, and gold. That way you have three possible levels of success rather than a narrowly defined goal. In this system, bronze is a desired result that would be a good outcome based on a reasonable assessment of past performances and current capabilities. Silver is a significant improvement. And gold is achieving a best time or delivering a major performance breakthrough. Another benefit of setting basketball goals this way is that you won’t sell yourself short by thinking small, since the top level really has no limit.
Here’s an example: A basketball player who makes 80% of her three-pointer shots tries 100 shots after a regular team practice to work more on this area of her game. She sets her goals as: bronze 75-80 shots made, silver 81-85 made, and gold 86 or more.
Pro tip: Get a friend, teammate, or coach to be an objective observer to help provide encouragement towards your goals. Or join a group where your desired behavior is the normal behavior.
“The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do,” said Kobe. Now you’re ready to unlock your greatness by setting basketball goals. You can easily record your basketball goals with this handy basketball journal printable!
Up next, learn about basketball leadership and basketball mindfulness, because both can help you on your journey to being the best hooper you can be.
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