By Tim Bradbury, Director of Coaching Instruction, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
I read a huge amount of quality articles and books. It is part of the daily life of a State DOC (Director of Coaching) or enthusiastic soccer educator. I am lucky in the fact that all of my professional duties revolve around coaching, parent and player education. The last few months, I saw two interesting events collide at the same time, both linked and one highlighting the weakness and flaws in the other.
I thought I would share.
Event one was initiated by my attendance at this year’s NSCAA Convention when I purchased a copy of Carol Dweck’s book. Dweck was one of the speakers who had been recommended to me by Sam Snow as a must listen to deal if I got the chance.
I highly recommend the book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, as a must read for any soccer educator. At its core, the book seeks to illuminate some simple truths:
- For some strange reason we look to applaud natural talent in our athletes rather than those who work hard to become great.
- People typically have either a fixed mindset e.g. I was not born with that ability or skill and will never pick it up.
- Or a growth mindset - this may be where I am now but with effort and a good teacher there is every chance I will excel in this area.
As Dweck puts it, “Character, heart, the mind of a champion. It’s what makes great athletes and it’s what comes from the growth mindset with its focus on self-development, self-motivation and responsibility.”
Looking back on my life, I see times when I have displayed both a fixed and growth mindset to different areas of study. The results in hindsight are obvious those I approached with a fixed mindset I failed miserably in while those I attacked with a growth mindset I managed to excel in.
Dweck has chapters on athletes, where understandably Michael Jordan and Mia Hamm stand out as examples of the growth mindset where McEnroe and Pedro Martinez are given as classic examples of the fixed mindset.
The chapter on leadership in the book is the one that led me to a new understanding of some club boards I have spoken with. Great leaders and boards surround themselves with people who ask hard questions as to where the club is heading. They seek guidance and advice from qualified soccer experts and take the advice given. They do not fear criticism and look for healthy debate. These are the boards that display the characteristics of the growth mindset
Then of course we have those that display the attributes of the closed mindset. These boards do not look to be challenged or seek the advice of the experts, somehow by virtue of them being on a board they become overnight experts in youth soccer and this is a position they must protect. Part of this protection means hard questions and topics are avoided and anyone who holds their decisions up for discussion is automatically the enemy. They put their own egos, likes and dislikes before the good of the club.
I realized in reading the book and dealing with a club board how true and accurate Dweck’s observations are.
I was pleased to discover as I got deeper into the book that one of the key points I make to all coaches I train about the importance of language is essential in encouraging the growth mindset. The teaching point is a simple one, plan the language you are going to use in advance to ensure that you always exalt effort. For example, not the first one to do 50 juggles rather the one who tries the hardest for the next minute to juggle laces only. Or before you chose who picks the teams to scrimmage tell your team you will select the ones who put in the best effort at practice to pick the teams. This simple use of language linked with the growth mindset idea quickly leads to an environment where kids challenge themselves to always do their best.
As I look back on my youth coaching career, I note that one Crystal Dunn and Rachel Nuzzolese best displayed the growth mindset. Two young players that managed to have quite good journeys in the game.