Coach Samson Dubina US National Team Coach 4x USATT Coach of the Year

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The Talent Trap

Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset

The Talent Trap
By Jim Thompson
Carol Dweck of Stanford University, Author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, has identified 2 distinctly different mindsets of most coaches – the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.
The first is the “Fixed Mindset,” in which an athlete sees ability as set.  Either you have talent or you don’t.  Either you are smart or you aren’t.  This mindset is a dead-end because whether you succeed or not is determined by something totally outside you control
The other is the “Growth Mindset.”  You believe in your ability to grow and improve, regardless of where you start.  This is a wonderful thought for any young person: “I can get smarter (or better at learning a foreign language or excelling in a sport or…) if I work hard at it.”
Dweck’s idea is especially important for youth athletes who must make and react to countless mistakes as they learn a sport.  As Dweck states, “People with a fixed mindset think effort is for people without talent.  They are afraid of making mistakes so they hide them.  Learning takes a back seat to looking good…It’s in the growth mindset where people believe that you can develop talent – it’s not fixed – that the whole idea of effort, learning, and confronting mistakes is inherent in the framework.”  On the flip side, if an athlete does something well, either on the playing field or off, Dweck’s research offers clear guidance on the appropriate type of feedback coaches should give to avoid the talent trap.
Check out the wrong and right mindsets...
For example, a coach might say, “Wow that was an amazing rally! You’ve got talent!  This focus on talent reinforces the FIXED MINDSET and the idea that the player has little or no control over his development.  A tough challenge in the future then becomes even tougher because talented people aren’t supposed to be stumped by a challenge.
On the other hand, you could say, “Wow, that was an amazing rally!  You’ve really been working hard, and it’s paying off!!!  This reinforces the GROWTH MINDSET that a good rally is a result of effort, which will more likely cause him to try harder in the future when faced with a challenge that initially stymies him.
This article was written by Jim Thompson (and changed slightly by Samson Dubina).  For more info about the talent trap, check out his book The Power of Double-Goal Coaching.
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