Growth Mindset & How To Instill It in Others

As a coach or parent, you want your players or kids to try new things and embrace challenges. These are great ways for them to build resilience, find what they enjoy, and discover their passions! Fostering an environment where others feel free to try new things and challenge themselves is essential for your players or kids to reach their potential, on and off the field.

Did you know there is a way to help your players or kids improve, have more confidence, and have more fun while taking on challenges?

Carol Dweck, Ph.D., author of “Mindset,” discovered that our brain’s thoughts about a task, a growth mindset (GM) or a fixed mindset (FM), will have an enormous impact on our ability to learn and improve. In fact, people who have a growth mindset outperform people with a fixed mindset.

Why? Let’s dig into it.

Growth Mindset Illustration

When we’re in a growth mindset, we…

  • Believe skills and abilities are learned and developed through hard work and strategies.

  • Focus on the process of learning and improving (process-oriented vs. outcome-oriented).

  • Believe mistakes and setbacks mean, “I need to work harder and/or learn more strategies.”

  • View challenges and setbacks as opportunities to learn and get better.


BOTH hard work and strategies are required to grow and improve. Most of us are willing to work hard to train, but many aren’t willing to try new strategies. Do you have the courage to try new strategies and tools to strengthen your and your players’ confidence, resilience, and performance?

But before you start a new strategy, let’s explain what the other side, a fixed mindset, looks like. (Spoiler alert: it’s not that great!)

Fixed Mindset Illustration

When we’re in a fixed mindset, we…

  • Believe skills and abilities are something you’re born with. We either have it, or we don’t.

  • Focus on outcomes and try not to look bad even if it means foregoing growth.

  • Believe mistakes and setbacks mean, “I’m a failure,” and “I can’t improve.” Fear challenges and setbacks because they might make us look bad.

Key Point: We don’t live solely in a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. All of us go back and forth between these mindsets depending on the situation we’re in at the time. The key is to be self-aware and steer your and your players’ minds towards a growth mindset. Remember, our brains have a negative bias. So, of course, you’re more likely to have fixed mindset thoughts when there’s a possibility of experiencing mistakes or setbacks. We can’t control when fixed mindset thoughts come into our minds, but we can stop and steer ourselves and our others toward a growth mindset perspective. Whether you coach 7-year-olds or professionals, it’s important to know that your words and actions send a powerful message to your players.

Here are some common scenarios that present an opportunity to help players develop a growth mindset.

When Your Player/Kid improves or Achieves:

  • Example 1: You have a center back that previously struggled to win the ball in the air. Today he wins nearly every 50/50 ball and has a great game.

    • As a coach or parent, you can say, “How did it feel to win so many balls in the air today?” “I remember when that was hard for you.” “How did you learn to do that?”

    • This shows the player how far they’ve come and reminds them of how well they’ve played throughout the game.

  • Example 2: When a player hits a great shot with their left foot right before halftime.

    • Say, “I could see the extra work you are putting in. I’m so proud of you.”

    • Saying something like this tells the player that they are a product of their own hard work not born talent.

When Your Player/Kid faces a setback:

  • Example 1: You have a player who comes off the pitch, and they say, “I’m playing bad.”

    • Stop them and say, “Replace that with I’m getting better, I’m learning.”

    • Explain to the player that in order to achieve our goals and grow, we must face setbacks.

  • Example 2: You have a player who gives up an own goal. They hang their head, and their level of play drops.

    • Yell to the team, “Next Play, Next Play”.

    • Train your team to echo your call and show that specific player they are there to support them. This simple mantra can promote confidence and help players stay in the moment.

When your players are in a fixed mindset, they believe they can’t get better at something. Teach, with great patience and encouragement, that when things are harder, it simply means that it will take more effort and more strategies to make improvements. If your player chooses not to work hard at something because it’s not worth the effort, then their lack of progress is a choice. That’s very different than believing they can’t get better no matter how much they work at it.

Having a growth mindset offers the framework to help you and others focus on solutions, not problems. It will help you believe that ultimately you are in charge of your own destiny.

And the amazing thing is that developing a growth mindset is beneficial in all arenas of life, from education to the workplace to interpersonal relationships to sports to health. It leads us to take on challenges we can learn from, to find more effective ways to improve, to persevere in the face of setbacks, and to make greater progress! It’s a lifelong journey, and it’s not easy, but we promise it is worth the practice, time, and focus!

Train Your Brain. Transform Your Game… AND Life!
Soccer Resilience®

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