Coach's Corner

How to Change Your Athlete’s Mindset

Weaknesses are just strengths waiting to be worked on.

How to Change Your Athlete’s Mindset

Mindset trumps all. This is especially true once we realize that everything begins in the mind, including front squats. Carol Dweck, Ph.D., is leading research on two prevailing frameworks that create our state of mind. First, there’s the growth mindset — which essentially understands our attributes, including our talents and tendencies, as malleable traits. The growth mindset believes we can improve (or degrade) skills and have some element of control in most of our characteristics. Second, the fixed mindset understands our qualities as more deterministic. Outcomes for fixed-mindset individuals are more generally interpreted as reflections of who we are.

If you have a little bit of growth mindset about others, you might be interested in the following four ways to talk to an athlete (regardless of his or her mind’s orientation) to reinforce growth-mindset characteristics:

Attribute athlete’s strengths to a body of work.

When we start CrossFit, we learn — maybe for the first time — that we’re better at some things than others. This is an opportunity to reinforce the growth mindset in athletes by inquiring about their past or referencing the work they did in high school or as a youth. Telling someone they are naturally strong removes some of the control and opportunity for growth in the future, especially in areas they aren’t proficient at.

Allow Day One to be Day One.

This is important, especially when fixed-mindset individuals, who identify as “fit” people, struggle on Day One and begin to question whether their life is a lie or whether something is wrong with this “stupid CrossFit” program. Remind them that it’s their first day and that there’s almost no reason they’d be wildly good at something on the first day. While they may have a good base, tell them to look forward to a journey of learning.

Weaknesses are simply underdeveloped strengths.

The areas of CrossFit people excel in were earned, at some point. Weaknesses, then, are just strengths waiting to be worked on.

There is no summit.

Constantly giving context can engrain “learners” mindset to even the best athletes in the gym. While it is a burden of continual improvement, the strongest and fittest in your gym need to know that there are stronger and fitter men and women out there and that they aren’t at the summit. There is no summit.

For more insight into this powerful mindset, dive into the work of Carol Dweck. It can change any person, athlete or organization for the better.