Effort, Support & Learning

In the previous post, we discussed why praising athletes “shamelessly” might foster the Fixed Mindset. That does not mean we should hold back praises. Instead, we may want to be more deliberate in reinforcing the actual effort that leads to learning (rather than ability), and to mix up external praises with process based feedback.

The objective for this post is similar to the last one – to provide anyone in a coaching role (you could be a teacher or parent) with strategies that will help their athletes foster a mindset that pushes one to train consistently, cope with inevitable failures and to bounce back even stronger and better.

The ESL Reflection Method

Whenever kids were not attentive, instead of asking them to shut up, I would direct their attention to the thinking routines associated with ‘Effort’…

ESL Coaching Model Standee

The ESL (Effort, Support & Learning) Reflection Method is a tool that I’ve developed to guide my coaching. I have modified it according to the profile of athletes that I work with. It is not validated by research but is intuitive and easy to use.

I recently had the opportunity to share the model at the Para Sport Congress in Bogota, Colombia (see video below), where I explained exactly how the thinking routines associated with Effort, Support and Learning can help foster the Growth Mindset.


How Best to Make Use of this Reflection Method?

I use of a variation of these questions for my post-practice or competition reviews. A  friend of mine includes these questions in an e-training log for his athletes. This tool is versatile and not limited to reviews.

When I was coaching primary school kids, I had the ESL Reflection Model printed on a standee banner. Whenever kids were not attentive, instead of asking them to shut up, I would direct their attention to the thinking routines associated with ‘Effort’, and asked if they could do their best if they weren’t paying attention?

For those who were attentive, I could reinforce ‘Effort’ by making specific statement such as “Well done! It takes Effort to pay attention and you guys will learn quicker when you pay attention!”

For kids who were struggling to learn certain skills, instead of quickly correcting them, I will make use of the questions associated with ‘Learning’, e.g., “Let’s break it down, what do you reckon are your mistakes?”, “So what can you do differently?”

In the long run, such coaching practices have strong implications on the athletes’ intrinsic motivation, ability to focus on the process and the development of mental representations.


The research shows that besides process based feedback, role-modelling is the other key to helping athletes develop the Growth Mindset. When we are deliberate about making use of the ESL method to provide feedback, we are less likely to make outcome based (and pretty much redundant) judgments such as “Why can’t you seem to get it right?”, “I told you so…”, or “You should have won!”


What happens when we begin to change the way we provide feedback (behavior)?

Well, our own thoughts and emotions shift as well, and we are more likely to remain calm, supportive to model composure and the Growth Mindset.

Coach Hansen

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