Sport Motivation is an Inside Job
The question coaches ask a lot is “How can I motivate my players?” The answer to this is twofold. First, it’s time that coaches STOP TRYING to motivate their players and start helping athletes CONNECT to their own motivation. Second, when coaches foster the right mindset, a growth mindset, in their athletes, then commitment and motivation will automatically show up without having to force it.
I’ve read Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology for Success and I recently participated in a talk she gave to Positive Coaching Alliance trainers. Dweck’s research on fixed mindset and growth mindset is essential for every coach to understand. To summarize, a fixed mindset reflects a belief that talent is inherent and cannot be altered—meaning we have fixed abilities, be they athletic, academic, artistic, musical, etc. A growth mindset involves a belief that you can develop talent—that talent is not fixed. Typically athletes with a fixed mindset tend to fear real challenges. Competition is seen as a threat as it “measures” an innate ability that they are powerless to change.
On the other hand, athletes with a growth mindset welcome challenge. Effort, learning and confronting mistakes is inherent in their framework. Someone else’s growth and improvement presents an opportunity and not a threat. They are empowered by the belief that they can work hard every day to develop their talents and maximize their own potential. Losing is an opportunity to learn and is therefore not a failure at all.
What does all this mean for coaches? How can we make sure our athletes remain learners with a growth mindset? Here are a few ideas:
- Watch your language! Our words tell our athletes what we believe and what we value. Praise effort, persistence in the face of set backs, learning, improving, strategy, choosing a difficult task, focus, overcoming obstacles etc.
- Present your staff as mentors in your athletes learning process
- Learn, teach and talk about how the brain works. Let your athletes know that effort and learning increase the number of neurological connections in their brain. This is what makes them better, smarter. Check out Dr. Dweck’s site www.brainology.us – she calls it “the owner’s manual for the brain.”
- Read Dr. Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology for Success.