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Mindset, Let's Focus on Growth with Our Players

By Amy Snider - May 15, 2017

Psychology is a component of the game often neglected, deflected, and/or isolated by coaches. As coaches, we MUST realize how this can potentially motivate/demotivate players. We MUST recognize that everything we do or don’t do, has an effect on our players.
As coaches, we can (and should) influence the psychology of our players the most through the training/game environment. If our environment is based on “sound principles”, we can limit unhealthy emotional static, keeping our players in a healthy balance between anxiety and confidence.
Professor Carol Dweck has given us an incredible amount of insight into an elite mindset in her book Mindset. This insight provides us with plenty of “sound principles” needed to create an environment full of resonance and not dissonance. In the book, she states that there are two mindsets, a “Fixed Mindset” and a “Growth Mindset,” with the latter having the greater capacity for the pursuit of mastery in all areas of life. This mindset embraces a challenge, pushes through setbacks, see’s effort as a path to mastery, learns from criticism and feedback, does not fear failure, desires continuous learning, is inspired by other’s success, etc.
As coaches, our environment should be produced/managed with the development of these characteristics in mind. Our verbal/non-verbal communication throughout training & games should exhibit such things as full commitment to improvement, belief in the potential of each individual and the team, patience knowing mistakes are a part of learning, emphasis on performance, not results, acceptance that effort/focus is the key to growth, etc. Praise should be process-oriented focusing on problem-solving, exerting effort, responding positively to mistakes, etc. keeping in mind that the pursuit of mastery is non-negotiable.
The game provides ample opportunities to promote a “Growth Mindset” in our players. For example, at the highest level, 6% of possessions yield a shot, and less than 1% of possessions yield a goal. The game is made up of constant turnovers, thus managing mistakes is paramount. Teaching players what to do when possession is lost is logical. This places emphasis on the process. Praise the reaction to defend when possession is lost, encourage problem-solving in that moment, suggest solutions based on the scenario, etc. If you want to address what created the turnover, it’s essential to determine what broke down. If it was a good decision, but lacked execution, praise the decision and guide them to a better technical solution! This puts the focus on problem-solving!
We MUST recognize that everything we do, or don’t do, has an affect on our players. Use the game to develop a “Growth Mindset” in players. Let’s not overcomplicate things!