Changing the Way We Teach Mindset (and the Mindset of how we teach…)

By now, many athletes are familiar with Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset.

I had a psychology coaching session with a group of young soccer players from 2Touch Soccer last night. When asked what they had learnt in school regarding the Growth and Fixed Mindset, the familiar rhetoric that one mindset is “bad” while the other is “good” surfaced. When probed further, the boys weren’t really sure why the Fixed Mindset was bad, or how to apply the Growth Mindset in order to learn more effectively.

From what I gathered, most Mindset lessons consist of “Information download” where the learner learns about the two different mindsets, i.e., an athlete with the Fixed Mindset is more concerned about looking good rather vs a Growth Mindset who is more inclined towards effort and learning. The learner is often tested for his understanding of the topic through some written test or quiz.

Is this the most effective way to teach Mindset? So what if they know how an athlete with the Growth Mindset thinks? So what if they have been tested? Does it really help them become better athletes?

What’s the value in having the knowledge when you don’t know how to apply it (especially in Sport!)?    

Wouldn’t it be more effective if these athletes physically and emotionally experienced how the growth mindset actually helps them learn more effectively?

Learning by Doing

I got the boys to learn and perform a rope-skipping skill known as the 360 . It was quite a challenging task since most of them have not skipped for a long time and none of them have learnt any rope skipping skills beyond the basic bounce.


The session was facilitated through a series of practice and reflection. The boys were able to observe how their thoughts changed from those associated with the Fixed Mindset (when they were first asked to perform the task) to those associated with the Growth Mindset as they began to experience more success (see picture above). Every one of them managed to perform the 360 in the end! The boys are leaving next week to practice with a soccer club in Europe, and they also discussed about how they could apply the same thinking skills to overcome challenges and to learn more effectively while they were there.

Now, let me know what you think about this…if i were to give the boys a written test to assess if they were able to remember the definitions or explain the constructs associated with the Growth Mindset, and they failed the test (which they most likely would!), does that mean that the lesson was any less effective and that little learning has taken place?

While we are at it, let’s also think about Coach Education and how coaches learn. Do we learn best by doing and coaching, or by sitting through lectures and being tested through written examinations?

A coach with a long list of certifications vs. one who spends most of his time actually coaching and learning from his peers…which do you reckon is the better coach?

Coach Hansen

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