How Trainable is mindset?

That all important word “mindset,” a word which most people know but do they understand it and what it means. You can have a positive mindset or a negative mindset, but how trainable is this within the football coaching world. Within this post we hope to discuss what it is, different types, is it trainable and how it can affect footballing performance.

What is Mindset?

If you look up the definition of the word mindset, this is the result you get “the established set of attitudes held by someone” but what does this mean in terms of sport and in particular football? When you delve deeper and look for how the definition relates to sport, it becomes a little bit clearer. Mindset is a product of your thoughts in terms of your performance and how it may hinder or help your performance/development.

It was Carol Dweck who identified there are two types of mindset an individual may have, which affects how well they perform and how successful they become. She identified individuals as either having a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. Someone with a fixed mindset believes their abilities are natural and a product of nature, which are unchangeable. On the other hand, a person who has a growth mindset believes their abilities can be developed, through learning and hard work.

The way you set out your mindset affects the way you approach tasks, in which someone with a fixed mindset will avoid difficult challenges, put failure down to lack of talent and essentially may underachieve. Contrary to this, if you develop a growth mindset you desire learning opportunities, want to be challenged and more likely to reach their peak performance.

Now we have defined what mindset is and the different types, it is beginning to become clearer to how much mindset could have an influence within the football environment, and how it may aid or prevent development in players.

Can Mindset be taught/coached?

To answer this question we must first look at how mindset is developed, and what causes a person to have more of a growth or fixed mindset. Throughout all of this I want you to think of mindset as a continuum where some people may be at either end, whereas others may be in the middle of the two.

Reading through the various research done on this topic it seems to be the case your mindset comes from your experiences and how yourself and others perceive your success. To give a little more clarity on this, if someone see’s your success then says “wow you a really talented,” this ideology points towards a fixed mindset as the belief is your success comes from your natural talent, which you are supposedly born with, with little scope to change. However if you flip this where someone sees your success and says “wow you really worked hard to get to where you are,” this is more likely to develop a growth mindset as it is down to hard work you got to where you are, leaving talent to have very little to do with the success.

Now what we have just mentioned is regarding how other people view your success, but how you view your own success can also affect your mindset because if you personally believe it is from your own talent, then you are more likely to solely rely on talent to achieve success. Whereas, if you recognise you worked hard to get where you are, then this is demonstrating a growth mindset.

    Personal Reflection

    Upon reflection of the research and differing opinions, I am under the impression mindset can be taught/coached because other peoples perceptions or opinions on success will naturally affect your mindset. For example how many times have you asked for someones opinion, in which their resulting answer has changed your thought process? At the end of the day what people say to us matters, with individuals always considering what people have to say.

    How we try to promote growth Mindsets at JCR

    The first step of helping someone develop a growth mindset is by looking at how they deal with different situations, especially when they are facing difficulty. This is because it helps you to understand whereabouts on the continuum they are, whether they are deep in the fixed mindset or are they already more towards the growth mindset.

    From this is it all about how you deal with the player, the phrases you say and the example you set. For example the first thing we say to all our players before sessions is “are you ready for a big session with plenty of energy?” Straight away this sets the scene and environment, of a hard working environment wheres results will be achieved as a consequence of the work rate the players put in. As part of our philosophy we expect both our players and coaches to come to sessions with lots of energy, ready to work hard, as when the players see the coaches working hard then the example is always being set.

    Another way to help promote a growth mindset we use is by making the player reflect, looking where they have come from in terms of ability and their development. Asking questions such as “could you do that before,” “why can you do it now?” This gives the players time to look at it and think actually yes I can do it now, due to the fact I put the work in to get the reward.

    From a personal perspective I always believe there is always room for improvement or learning, and this is something which I try to teach the players I coach, that there is no point where you cannot learn or improve. As part of this, I will ask “how can we make this even better?” Again this may seem a bit too much on the ball all the time, but if you don’t, then the player may get comfortable and believe they are already good enough and start relying on talent, which could be detrimental. This is not me saying that you should never recognise the success and the steps they have made, but you should always help them realise where they have come from and where they can go.

    Why is this topic so important?

    The picture on the right pretty much answers this question! Mindset is the difference between good and great, the difference between making it and missing the grade. Even at his age now, arguably coming towards the end of his career Cristiano Ronaldo is still looking for ways to learn and develop. Now as coaches this is something we have got to look at and say, right we need to get our players into the “Ronaldo” mindset.


    Mindset is often one of those which is overlooked when it comes to developing top players, but we believe it should be right up there. This is due to the fact a lot of the time the difference between making it and not, is the mindset the individual has, whether they are happy to stay where they are or whether they want this constant improvement. Therefore as coaches, we need to be developing the players mindset alongside our physical coaching, to ensure we are developing the best players possible.

    Thank You for taking the time to read this post, we hope you gain some value from it.

    James Redford

    JCR Sports Coaching

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