Use the Olympics to Teach Kids About Goals

Amy Lauren Smith

It’s just about the beginning of the school year, which means that many kids are starting to set goals about their academics, health, or even their social behaviors. Because of this, teachers often start out the year by talking about the goal-setting process—and this year, the Olympic games give us the perfect opportunity to help these lessons come alive.

Athletic goals are often easy for students to wrap their heads around, because they easily match up with the SMART descriptors of goal setting:

Specific: These athletes are getting ready for a specific race, match, or event.

Measurable: Athletic goals are almost always measurable with medals, times, victories, and losses.

Attainable: By virtue of the fact that they qualified, these athletes are all in the position to achieve victory.

Realistic: For these special athletes, winning a medal is a realistic goal.

Timely: Absolutely! That event is scheduled, set in stone, and not happening again for another four years.

I’ll have my students research a specific athlete or team and answer the following questions. (If time allows, I might have them share their findings with the class.)

1. Which Olympic athlete (or team) would you like to learn more about?
2. What made you want to pick them?
3. How is their goal a SMART goal?
4. Goals are rarely achieved without help. Who helped your athlete along the way, and what did they do?
5. What were some of the checkpoints along the way that the athlete experienced to know they were making progress?
6. What roadblocks or obstacles did your athlete face while working towards their goal?

You can always set the kids free to research individually, but for those who need some help, here are two suggestions to get them started.

The Olympic refugee team
For the first time in Olympic history, there is a team made up entirely of refugees. These are athletes without a country, a national anthem, or a permanent home. After the warm welcome they received during the opening ceremonies, it’s clear that they're inspiring people all over the world. For more info on this amazing team, watch this quick video from ABC News: Meet the Olympics’ First Refugee Team.

Dartanyon Crockett
One of the most popular videos in my seventh grade health class is an ESPN documentary called Carry On, about Dartanyon Crockett and Leroy Sutton, two disabled high school wrestlers who formed an unbreakable bond and achieved remarkable goals by working together. Dartanyon—who is legally blind—went on to compete in London with the Paralympic judo team and ended up winning a bronze medal. He’s ready for this year’s games, and after being so inspired by him in the past, my students can’t wait to see what he’ll do in Rio. To get the project started, have your students watch Part 2 of Carry On, which focuses on Dartanyon’s road to the Paralympic games in 2012.

Finally, for more ideas on goal-setting: 5 Tips for Teaching Kids How to Set Goals

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