Mindset First (2 of 2)

In the previous post, we discussed WHY coaches ought to be intentional about teaching Mindset. The focus here is on how we can integrate the teaching of mindset into our coaching practice.

We will first try to understand exactly HOW these coaching practices help athletes develop confidence and resilience, before going into WHAT these coaching practices are.


People who tend to overcome challenges and manage uncertainties have something in common – they focus on what they can control instead of what they cannot.

The Growth Mindset is primarily focused on things that are within her control. For example, how much energy she wants to invest in pursuing a goal and whether she wants to get better by learning from her mistakes. Our confidence grows when we focus on ‘step-by-steps’ that matter, and that are within our control. We are more likely to be solution focused and hence more likely to overcome difficulties.

What is the Fixed Mindset obsessed about? He’s likely to be stressing over whether he is going to win and how others are going to judge him if he loses.

Do we have direct control over outcomes and how others are going to think? What happens when you keep focusing on things that are out of your control? How would you feel?

A study by Schleider, Abel & Weisz (2015) found that fixed mindset youth were 58% more likely to show more severe symptoms of anxiety, depression, or aggression. This was a very thorough review of 17 studies involving over 6,500 students.

When we coach Mindset, we are inevitably helping athletes to focus on what they can control instead of what they can’t. We are teaching them how to be Confident and Resilient!


How to integrate the teaching of Mindset into

Before Practice

These 3 questions will help your athletes anticipate challenges and mentally prepare how they and overcome them.

1st question, “What is the objective for today’s practice?”
2nd question, “What are some difficulties that may surface while you are at it?”
3rd question, “What can you do to overcome this?”

For example, you might be coaching a territorial sport and the training goal is to string together five successful passes for a 3 v 2 practice. As you guide (instead of instruct) them with these questions, you are getting them to think about running into passing lanes, asking for the ball and looking up for options – these are all actions that matter and are within their control. You are guiding them to be solution focused rather than getting overly frustrated or anxious when their passes get intercepted.

During Practice

Again, feedback should be based on what the athletes can control aka the process, rather than based on the outcome. Refer to the slide below for examples.

Outcome vs Process

Your feedback should be based on the specific behaviors that lead to the outcome rather than the outcome.

“The brain that does the thinking, does the learning…”

You will also want to phrase your feedback as questions to get them thinking and learning quicker.

After Practice

Teachers, coaches and parents have found The ESL reflection method to be simple, intuitive and effective!

ABCs to Growth Mindset_ME

It is based on the three behaviors associated with the Growth Mindset – Effort, Support and Learning. Under each behavior, you will find questions or thinking routines intended to help align your athlete’s thoughts with the Growth Mindset.

Remember to do a review only when the athlete is receptive. Attempting to do so when the athlete is feeling emotional after a loss is definitely a bad idea!

Also, you may want to first understand the principles behind this model before applying it. Here’s an earlier post with a more detailed explanation about the ESL method.

In a nutshell…

Do you need extra time to teach Mindset? I don’t think so!

We all need to provide explanations and demonstrations and the 3 questions can be easily included while we’re at it. Likewise, it’s a matter of tweaking the way you provide feedback and how you review your session.

These small tweaks to your coaching practices that will actually help you to save time because it is likely to help your athlete learn more effectively.

Does it work? Not when you only apply it as a short term intervention solution. Consistency and the coach’s own mindset and role-modelling is key.

Have a go at this and let me know if it is working out for you!

Coach Hansen

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