A New 26: G is for Growth Mindset Coaching

G is for Growth Mindset.  Growth mindset has grown (I couldn't resist) into a pretty popular topic in education and sports over the past several years.  I've written about it before, but the basic concept behind it is there are two ways of looking at talents and intelligence.  A fixed mindset view sees talent and intelligence as completely natural.  Either you have it or you don't.  A growth mindset view takes the perspective that talent and intelligence can be developed with effort over time.  I see more and more coaches posting about having a growth mindset because they're reading a book or going to a conference.  That is great.  I love it that they're willing to learn, and that is certainly a growth mindset behavior.  At the same time, it's important to realize there is a little more to having a growth mindset.  Specifically, there is a lot more to coaching with a growth mindset.  Here are just a couple ideas to expand your way of thinking about coaching with a growth mindset:

*Giving process driven feedback.  We want athletes to move beyond the idea that, "I did well because I'm good," and the inevitable, "I played bad because I suck," that comes along with it.  This is a fixed mindset roller coaster of self-efficacy that can be really difficult to deal with.  Coaches can help by giving process driven feedback and getting to the root behavior that led to the outcome of the performance.  "You grounded out to third because you expanded the zone there."  "You took that shot contested by two defenders which tells you there was an open teammate somewhere."  Even better would be being able to talk players through what happened.  Helping them to give themselves the process driven feedback.  "Okay, you struck out.  Why?  What happened?  What can you learn from it?"  "Well, I was pretty indecisive in my plan.  I wanted to attack fastballs but then took a breaking ball right down the middle and got mad about it.  Then, I started to doubt my plan and took a fastball right down the middle.  Then, I was completely out of it and just swung at the next pitch no matter what.  Next time, I need to stick with my plan."  Asking quality questions, without judgement, allows the player to drive the discussion and find the answer.  When the light bulb clicks and an athlete realizes they can find the answers, it can be incredibly powerful for them moving forward.

*Have a growth mindset view of ability as a coach.  We all have coaches we admire.  There's something in them we like.  Maybe it's their ability to stay cool under pressure.  Maybe it's how they always seem to be prepared for the game's strategic back and forth.  Maybe it's their championships won (Let's be real.  Results matter.).  Regardless, those traits and accomplishments don't just happen.  Coaching isn't, "Either you have it or you don't."  Similarly to the talent of a player, viewing talent of ourselves as a coach can be a roller coaster too.  Any criticism of you as a coach becomes an attack of "not having it."  Every time you speak would be an opportunity to really show them you do know what we're talking about.  If it doesn't go how you wanted, it's because maybe you don't.  That can be a really difficult way to coach and one many of us can probably relate to at one time or another.  We're basically putting ourselves one word or action away from the amygdala triggering a threat!  More importantly, it makes you really difficult to play for.  If players are not able to speak openly and honestly, that's a major culture issue.  If I have a growth mindset view of coaching, I realize I can learn to stay cool under pressure.  I can help to make myself and the team prepared for every game.  Criticism, while tough to hear, is a chance for me to grow.  I really need to consider why the player, parent, etc. feels that way.  This speaking opportunity was a way for me to help the players.  It may not have gone exactly how I wanted, but let's figure out why and what I can do about it moving forward.

Modeling the growth mindset is going to be way more powerful than talking about it.  If you do that, you create the environment that encourages athletes to do the same.  Growth leads to more growth.  Those are just a couple of ways to be more of a growth mindset coach.  There are many more.  Dig and grow.

- Coach Ehrlich


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