cross country Sport Specific

Setting SMART Goals for Track and Cross Country Student-Athletes

(Flickr – Oscar Rethwill)

(Flickr – Oscar Rethwill)

We are huge advocates of student-athletes not just setting goals, but goals that are measurable and attached to clear expectations and deadlines. Until a student-athlete puts pen-to-paper and comes up with a plan for their dream or wish, it remains just that.

Alison Vincent, head recruiting coach for track and cross country at NCSA Athletic Recruiting, regularly coaches student-athletes and their families on setting SMART goals. While doing so can benefit any kind of student-athlete, SMART goals fit-in well with the track and cross country style and personality of athlete.

So what is a SMART goal?

A SMART goal is a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timed. it’s also the type of goal advocated for by Olympic athletes. Check out how the U.S. Olympic committee defines each of those criteria here.

Why do SMART goals work so well with track and cross country student-athletes?

SMART goals are great for track and cross country athletes because they are numbers based, just like track and cross country time goals. This makes tracking and measuring goals easier than most other sports, and your results easily translatable to college coaches.

When should a track or cross country athlete set their SMART goals?

Set them season-by-season, from school to club, outdoor, and indoor. This will give you something new to aim for every few months, and hopefully result in steady improvement that’s easy for college coaches to see.

What if I attain my goal in the first few meets of the season?

Alison suggests setting not only major goals at the start of the season, but lots of mini-goals throughout the season to mark achievements, or to continue to keep your eye on the prize if a goal was attained sooner than expected.

Keep in mind peak events – state meets, post-season competitions, national level meets, and other important trials that may deserve their very own SMART goal.


Scouts and recruiting coaches like Alison can help you identify your level of track and cross country recruitment, and get in front of college coaches. The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile.

About the author
Andy McKernan

Andy McKernan is the content strategist at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. A content marketer with a background in creative writing, Andy brings several years of experience to NCSA.