How Does Mindset Affect the Youth Athlete?

Posted: 11/22/2011 in Uncategorized


In my many years of research, and educating myself on how to be a better coach and trainer, I have read many books, seen hundreds of DVD’s, and attended countless webinars and seminars. One of my all time favorite organizations through out this process is the Positive Coaching Alliance. In my studies with PCA I was turned on to a psychologist from Stanford named Carol Dweck. Dweck wrote a book called Mindset- The New Psychology of Success. This book is great.

The pages inside describe the differences between a Fixed Mindset and a Growth Mindset. Athletes with a fixed mindset believe that their talents and abilities are simply fixed. They believe they are born talented, and that’s that. In this mindset athletes are so caught up in being and looking talented that they may not live up to their potential. Athletes with a growth mindset, on the other hand, think of talents and abilities as things they can develop-as potentials that come to fruition through effort practice and instruction.

These are Dweck’s Mindset Rules:

Rule 1:

Fixed Mindset: Look talented at all costs.

Growth Mindset: Learn, learn, learn!

Rule 2:

Fixed Mindset: Don’t work too hard or practice too much.

Growth Mindset: Work with passion and dedication—effort is the key.

Rule 3:

Fixed Mindset: When faced with setbacks, run away or conceal your deficiencies.

Growth Mindset: Embrace your mistakes and confront your deficiencies. Take a look at the diagram below for a moment and absorb this concept.


With those rules, it is clear to see why coaches need to teach their players to have a growth mind set. The key to becoming great at anything is a willingness to learn, to work hard and to acknowledge your shortcomings/weaknesses to become better at whatever task you decide to take on. These mindsets can easily be seen in young athletes for the attentive coach.

There will be athletes on your team or in your gym who have a fixed mindset won’t be able to accomplish a certain task or a finish a certain drill/exercise, while those with a growth mindset realize that they may not succeed the first time but will keep trying and learn how to get better at the drill to make themselves better.

These mindsets can be cultivated by coaches, sometimes without them even knowing it. A lesson I learned from PCA was not to fall into the “talent trap”. This can also happen to parents. Dwecks research offers clear guidance on how to avoid the talent trap.

For example; a player on your team does something great during a game. The feedback he gets from his coach (and parents), can help cultivate a mindset. See the slide below for the guidance provided from Dweck.

Coaches need to show their players that they value effort and practice not simply talent. Listen to what Dweck has to say about the coaches’ influence and how mindset should be cultivated properly.

Mindset is not exclusive to the athlete, but is certainly as influential to the student. Some kids are told their whole lives how smart and talented they are. This talent trap can be detrimental to any young person. Believing you are naturally endowed with the skills to succeed in sport and/or academics can create a lazy lifestyle. Many of these young Student athletes simply give up when things are difficult because they believe their “talent” is innate and fixed. Sounds like a trap to me.

The student athletes that are groomed within the growth mindset are the ones that excel and become the top in their sport or field of endeavor. See what Dweck’s research says about this.

Parents and coaches I plead with you to be careful what you say and do when praising your young student athletes. Beware of the trap.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s