Using SMART Goals to Measure Training Progress

February 24, 2023

Written By:

Mark Pryer, Senior Applied Performance Coach



In this blog, we'll take a look at how ATH uses a SMART goal approach to set and evaluate the training and goal progress for every athlete and active adult participating in our training programs. Each program – from training youth athletes, injured athletes, professional athletes, or adults simply looking to get and stay fit –

has an intentional and unique, data-based approach to setting a baseline and measuring progress throughout our training cycles.


ATH’s SMART goal approach to evaluations - the highlights:

  • Used for performance training / athletes starting at age 8 through the collegiate and professional level
  • The evaluation process and data capture methods for each ATH training program 
  • How the evaluation ties into our data-led, science-backed approach to training
  • How we use the evaluation and how it informs the training for the athlete
  • How we use data to set goals for our athletes
  • The technology we use to capture data 

With the start of the new year many athletes of all shapes and sizes are starting to put a renewed focus on goals – and part of the goal-setting process is having a practical evaluation done. SMART goal setting is one of the most common ways to break down the cycle into manageable chunks and ensure a systematic approach. 


Briefly, SMART stands for Specific, Manageable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. For the athletes and clients at ATH, each of these means different things, however, the key point is that each item is checked off during the evaluation process, leaving nothing to chance. So how do we bridge the gap between the theoretical and tangible to help each individual assess their individual progress? Science! Technology! Follow along to learn how the evaluation process works and differs from training group to training group.


Evaluation is a crucial part of athletic success, and goals can take many different forms. The first step is to set a goal that is specific and measurable. Before the evaluation, within the process of getting to know the athlete goals are outlined in specific detail. The detailed nature is important as it helps the coaches to know what the athlete is working towards, how they are measuring their progress, the overall feasibility of their goal, and the timeline within which they would like to see it happen. At ATH we have five training programs, each of which will have it’s own evaluation and testing procedures. 


The first group is our Student ATHlete program (SA) which spans the ages of 8-18 (broken down by ages into 8-12, 12-14 and 14-18 training groups). For these athletes a focus is on growth and maturation, which is determined by the usage of the Mirwald equation. This equation allows us to place the SA in the age group that fits their current maturational status, and allows for the training to be tailored more closely to their burgeoning needs. In addition, key metrics surrounding exercise competency (squat, hinge, and push-up) are evaluated. 


Performance-wise we look to quantify sprint and change of direction times, jumping ability, and isometric strength, using a selection of high-tech equipment to aid in accuracy. Sprint times are acquired through the use of research-grade laser timing systems, jumping ability through the use of accelerometers and force plates*, and finally, isometric strength through a custom-designed strain gauge* (*not yet available at all ATH locations). As our SA training program is broken into 3 age groups, it doesn’t make sense to compare your 8-year-old to the next-door neighbor’s 18-year-old. After the evaluation, each athlete will receive a copy of their age-group-specific report and a consultation with the coach wherein the results will be detailed. 


The next program, called Forever ATHlete (FA), focuses on our adult population where the testing is similar but with a few key differences. General anthropomorphic data will be collected (height, weight, and body fat percentage – which is optional and done via Fit3D scan). Similar to the youth, exercise competency will be assessed, as well as the sit and reach for general flexibility. Counter to the youth, sprint performance testing has been replaced with a cardiovascular capacity test on the rower. Strength testing is similar, done through the usage of a strain gauge. This allows for the safe implementation of maximal strength testing across all ages, demographics, and injury histories.  


Next Level ATHlete (NL) is our training program that encompasses collegiate athletes and professional athletes. NL testing is justifiably more complicated and time-consuming by nature however there are similarities to the other programs. For these athletes, injuries are the cost of doing business sometimes. Therefore, a thorough injury history screen, as well as joint-by-joint measurements, are taken. On the performance testing side, we add a few more jump tests, longer sprint distances, and a bit more comprehensive strength measures. 


Team sports are a great way to teach valuable life and social skills, such as the ability to communicate effectively and work together in difficult situations, however, team assessment is often overlooked for a multitude of reasons. Our Team ATHlete training program is structured to allow for the enhancement of the individual as well as the team. Our Team ATHlete evaluations can be structured to fit the needs of the sport as well as allowing for the individual’s results to stand apart from the crowd.  


Finally, we have Rebuild ATHlete (Rebuild for short). Rebuild is our program for injured athletes and everyday adults who are returning to sport or regular physical activity. On the rebuild assessment, everything is available. Joint-by-joint testing is done specific to the injury and the surrounding joints. Performance testing is done as the athlete is capable, and mimics the program-specific testing already performed. 


For every training program, the evaluation serves a few different purposes. We talked about the goal-setting process, which is vital. Secondarily, the evaluation allows the coaches to program for the weakness in the athlete’s performance. This could be as simple as adding a few extra reps in a strength exercise, or changing the duration of a cardio exercise performed. Each athlete’s performance has strengths and weaknesses, which can often show up in multiple areas. Being able to target areas of opportunity through laser-guided programming and mentorship is a great way to ensure that your SMART goals are being checked off at rapid pace. However, in order to optimize results evaluations should be performed at semi-regular intervals. For most athletes (with the exception of Rebuild ATHlete) we recommend an evaluation prior to starting any training program, and once again after 12 weeks or 24 sessions.  

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