Below is an email I send to the parents of the 7U baseball team I coached 3 years ago. I start off by saying I’m going to make some big, bold statements. Looking back I don’t think my statements were all that bold, but here’s what I wrote.
Let me begin with a couple big, bold statements.
#1) I believe teaching our athletes a growth mindset is more important than any baseball skill we can teach them.
#2) I believe reading Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” is the most important thing you can do for your young athlete.
A growth mindset, along with courage, grit, mental toughness, among others are some of the non-baseball skills that I want to teach our players. I’m not sure exactly how to go about teaching all of these, I have some ideas, but I do know if both the coaches and parents are conscious of and working to develop these things we are much more likely to succeed in our efforts.
Over the last three years I’ve continued to devour Carol Dweck’s content. I think I’ve watched every YouTube talk at least twice and listened to every podcast episode that she’s ever been on. The more I learn, the more I believe the “bold” statements above. It’s hard to overstate the importance of a growth mindset.
So you are probably asking what exactly is a growth mindset? According to Dweck, individuals can be placed on a continuum according to their implicit views of where ability comes from. Some people believe their success is based on innate ability; these are said to have a “fixed” theory of intelligence (fixed mindset.) Others, who believe their success is based on hard work, learning, training and doggedness are said to have a “growth” or an “incremental” theory of intelligence (growth mindset).
Here’s Dweck’s definition of fixed and growth mindsets from a 2012 interview.
“In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb.
“In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”
Here’s my call to action for you. I would like for you to go to YouTube and type in “Carol Dweck Growth Mindset” and spend the next several hours watching every video you come across. Then I’d love for you to go over to iTunes and search Carol Dweck and listen to every interview you can find. However, I realize that may be a bit of an unusual request and you may not have several hours available at the moment. So I’ll settle for you simply watching this video by Trevor Ragan. If you like what you see and want more, visit the Growth Mindset Hub on Trevor Ragan’s Train Ugly website. He has produced some great content to teach a growth mindset. Also, buy the book. Read the book. Teach the book.
That’s not all. I’ve got homework for your athlete as well. A couple months ago I went searching for resources to teach a growth mindset to kids. I found this great video series Growth Mindset for Students from Class Dojo. These are a series of short videos designed to introduce students to the idea of a Growth Mindset. If you have younger kids I highly encourage you to have your younger kids watch these videos.
Introducing students to the idea of a Growth Mindset is proven to have profound impact on learning. The same can be said about athletic performance. Results on the field are a product of the many actions taken over time and those actions are a product of beliefs around our talent and abilities. Changing a kid’s beliefs around their athletic abilities will change their actions and ultimately affect their performance in a positive or negative way. By teaching them a growth mindset you can ensure they have positive results.