Saturday, 24 January 2015

How do we build a bridge to 'not yet'...

Carol Dweck is a psychologist and author of the book - Mindsets - a look into working with children around creating conditions for successful learning.  She was featured on a recent ted talks that is well worth watching

Several themes arise in Dweck's talk that relate in every way to the work we do as coaches.

- Abilities can be developed.  Probably the single most important message we can deliver to youth in cross country skiing.  Abilities are not predetermined.  Abilities change over time.  My own personal experience shows this.  My own son who at 10 or 12 or 14 would regularly finish 20 or 22nd out of 25 kids in a race, now is on the junior national biathlon team and will compete at World Junior Championships in Belarus next month .   When somehow, and probably due to the good work of his coaches, he persisted with the belief that his abilities could be developed, he could achieve his goals to become a successful athlete.  He wasn't obsessed with his finish position in races.  He learned to not always have a need for constant validation.  I am proud of him, as any Dad would be.

How do we deliver the message of 'abilities can be developed' to the kids we work with?  We do this by being deliberate about telling them that abilities can be developed, anyone has the potential to be a successful athlete.  Dweck would say that it is about a 'mindset' where kids see a challenge and react with ' I love the challenge'.  A space where kids understand that their ability can be developed.

This type of mindset is fundamental to athletic success. It is the type of mindset that as coaches of adolescents we need to be developing in every athlete we work with.  Some of them will still decide to leave the sport at 13 or 14 because its not for them.  But we won't have them leaving because they are obsessed with getting on the podium every race or stressed out to perform according to finish position.

At 12 or 14, my son Matthew was the type of kid who not very many coaches would have predicted would develop into the athlete he is becoming.  There is no crystal ball that allows any coach to predict what an athlete will eventually become. But there are things that we can do each and every practice.  We can tell kids that they can develop their abilities. We can encourage them to dream big.  We can create a space where we champion more than the early developing kids or the kids whose parents have unlimited resources to buy them world cup level equipment at 10 or 12 years old.  We are kidding ourselves if we think we can level a playing field when working with youth.  But we can deliver the message each and every practice that 'you can develop your abilities' - and deliver that authentically to each and every child we work with.

Carol Dweck uses the phrase 'not yet' when referring to the type of feedback that is important to give kids to help them develop a growth mindset.  'You did well, but you're not there yet, keep working, you will get there'.  As a dad, its the type of message I have tried to deliver to my kids over time, and maybe its a small part of why they are all still engaged in cross country ski racing.  And maybe the most important deliverer of the 'not yet' message are parents.  But as a coach, it is super important as well because it is about the culture we create in our groups, in our clubs.  I encourage you to go for it.

Happy January!

Roy Strum
Canmore AB

1 comment:

  1. Johaug is a great example of this. She got soundly beaten even at 13.

    You might need to use google translate for that.