My colleague at CoachSG was asking me for movie recommendations that will inspire sport coaches and Moneyball by Michael Lewis came to mind. The movie is based on a real story and stars Brad Pitt as Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Beane (follow this link for a quick summary of the movie).
Well, the movie did not exactly inspire. Instead, it provoked me into reflecting on how I may have unknowingly limited the potential of the students and athletes that I’ve worked with, especially during my early years as a PE teacher/coach.
My focus was more on recruiting and developing “natural athletes” (I was coaching canoeing back then) and like most “sports people”, I romanticized about how a player is a “natural talent”, “born to row” and praised results more than effort and learning.
The Talent-Effort Fallacy
The movie spend considerable time on flashbacks to Beane’s youth. He was a “screaming talent”, excelling at Basketball, American Football and Baseball. Scouts and “experts” were convinced that he was definitely going to be star and wooed his parents with exorbitant contracts and scholarships to get the young Beane on their team.
Beane relied on his considerable “natural talent” early in his career (he was probably maturing faster than his peers) and it came to a point when his peers caught up with him physically and technically. He was no longer the best player and trapped by his “huge talent”, he had to be perfect and can’t possibly afford to look bad, i.e., he was stuck in the Fixed Mindset! Every ‘at bat’ became a judgement on his ability, an opportunity for humiliation! Every mistake became a disaster instead of a learning experience… The Fixed Mindset destroyed his confidence and ability to focus leading to frustration and ultimately an early retirement from a disappointing playing career.
“Looking Silly is Part of the Learning Process…” Coach Hansen
The movie also contrasts Beane’s progression through the minor to major league with two of his team mates, who despite having less “natural talent”, made a great playing career for themselves through sheer effort and a willingness to learn from their mistakes, i.e., by adopting The Growth Mindset.
Oakland A’s miracle run…
Despite a disappointing playing careers, Beane enjoyed tremendous successful as a major league exec. How did this happen? He learnt from his own experience and began to select drafts by making use of statistics to examine their mindset (focusing on the Growth Mindset rather than the Fixed Mindset). For example, he focused more on runs, or rather what players had to do to win runs rather than what the league paid millions for – how players looked ,or even how their girlfriends looked! No kidding! Watch the following scene from the movie.
Through the process, he brought the cheapest team then in the top league (The New York Yankees cost USD 125 million in contrast to the Oakland As USD 44 million) to a record 20 games wining streak!
One of the best movies to teach Mindset…
Part of being a process focused coach (see illustration above) involves teaching our athletes about Mindset and The Talent-Effort Fallacy aka The Myth of Natural Talent. This movie is perhaps one of the best way to do so. So if you have not watched Moneyball, not only do you need to, your athletes need to watch it too!