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Develop a growth mindset

The varied tactical approach’s of the modern game demands players who are more flexible in their thinking and willing to embrace change. Today, top teams restructure their tactical approach many times during the course of a game and “intelligent” players who can identify challenges on the field and provide effective solutions will thrive. The modern player will literally be required to “think on their feet” and embrace and thrive during change.

Attitude is a major component that professional clubs look for during their talent identification process. Many players and parents underestimate this attribute and believe that if a player is producing on the field then that will be sufficient. However, they fail to recognize that player development is a long process. Young players will face several challenges, set-backs and adversity as they progress in the game. A major factor whether they will succeed at the highest level will be determined by their mindset. Success in sport requires a strong desire to always strive for excellence, an open mind to constantly learn and improve skills and an ability to positively deal with mistakes and set-backs.

World-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck has researched achievement and success, over several decades and has concluded in her book “Mindset – the New Psychology of Success” that it is not just our abilities and talent that bring us success—but whether we demonstrate a fixed or growth mindset.

Athletes who demonstrate a fixed mindset believe that their skill levels cannot be changed and as a result they tend to display the following behaviours:

  • They avoid challenges as they fear failing

  • Believe that skill is something you are born with so why work on improving it

  • Give up easily when encounter challenges

  • Do not value the importance of effort to achieve success

  • Gets frustrated easily and ignores feedback or criticism

  • Feels threatened by the success of others

  • Underestimates the importance of perseverance

In contrast, athletes with a growth mindset tend to demonstrate the following behaviours:

  • Embrace the belief that improved skills come from hard work

  • Positively embrace challenges

  • Are inspired by other athletes

  • Are willing to work-hard to constantly improve

  • Actively seek feedback/criticism and see it as a process to improve

  • View set-backs and opportunities to learn

Carol Dweck in her book “Mindset – the New Psychology of Success” pointed out the example of Billy Beane, a top baseball prospect who the movie “Moneyball” was based on. Beane was a very talented prospect in his youth but was unable to realize his full potential in Major League Baseball by being unable to evolve from his fixed mindset. His talent was not enough and he ultimately struggled to cope with the increased challenges that breaking into Major League Baseball presented.

There are numerous examples throughout sports of less talented athletes initially becoming the best in the world. Famous examples are Michael Jordan not being selected for his High School Basketball team and Usain Bolt failed to qualify for the finals of his first IAAF World Youth Championships in 2001.

In soccer, Jamie Vardy at Leicester City in England has proved that perseverance and hard work do pay off. Vardy was released by Sheffield Wednesday at 16 and only five years ago was playing non-league football in England. Last year he won the English Premiership title with Leicester and has now been selected to play for England.

To succeed in sports and maximize your abilities ……develop a growth mindset!

Tips for Players: Print off the growth mindset poster and put it somewhere prominent that you can refer to on a daily basis. Embrace its values!

Tips for Coaches: The best players in the world make the most mistakes. Encourage your players to make mistakes and view these as opportunities to learn

Tips for Parents: Read the book Mindset and help your child to recognize the value of hard-work and perseverance to improve their performance levels

Source: Mindset – The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck


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