Posts Tagged ‘fixed versus growth mindset’

Understanding How Mindset Can Affect An Athlete’s Potential

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014


Carol Dweck, the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, has been studying mindset for over 20 years. She has marvelled at the fact that there are people with natural athletic abilities who feel they cannot improve on their God given talents (Fixed mindsets) and those who believe their potential can always be improved upon (Growth mindsets).

Athletic scouts tend to look for natural talent, not potential. Potential is different from natural talent, as talent tends to be more obvious. However, potential can make a champion, as long as they have the right athlete mindset.

Scouting for Talent

When sporting scouts are out looking for recruits they tend to focus on talent. However when we look historically at the qualities one might look for in a prize fighter surprisingly Muhammad Ali lacks almost all of the traits one would expect in a natural: He is not built like a champion, nor does he have the fists or reach of a champion and yet he was arguably one of the best heavyweight boxers of all time.

Golfer Ben Hogan had a wild hook that could have cost him his career had he not persevered through practice and self improvement. Often in sports when people are not viewed as naturals they are in essence being told they lack potential. Yet many prime athletes have proven this theory wrong through tenacity, focus and practice, demonstrating a growth mindset.

Harnessing Potential

A student of Dweck’s did an honours thesis that showed that those athletes who believed that success is reachable through determination and hard work proved to be more successful the following season. Athletes who felt their coaches supported this view also had greater success.

Further studies by Dweck tested the theory of mindset intervention by trying to teach students to have a growth mindset. Her studies found that students who were taught and understood that the mind was able to constantly grow and form new connections that would help them become more intelligent were able to grasp and embrace their growth. They were able to apply themselves and see improvements in their grades which motivated them to continue to strive to improve their grades and performance.

This demonstrated that there was the possibility to teach growth mindset. The effects this could have on athletes have proven to be quite remarkable.

Coaches who choose to work with the athlete mindset and performance intervention could teach athletes, even those who have suffered set backs, or are disenchanted with their sport, that practice will allow them to reach their full potential and learn to love the game again. Therefore potential is the seed required to groom athletes into champions.