As a coach the following concepts may be the most important things you need to understand in player development.
Gain an appreciation for these ideas and you’ll be better able to lead your athletes toward realizing their full potential.
Plasticity is the ability of an organism—or part of an organism—to adapt to changes and variations in its environment. So, cognitive plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change over time - for better or worse.
While cognitive development is strongly associated with young children and adolescents, recent studies have shown that older individuals who are exposed to new experiences and challenges can still undergo mental growth.
How cool is that??
It’s important we understand our brains can always change and apply this information to how we approach education and skill acquisition.
Fixed vs Growth Mindset
Carol Dweck, the psychologist who developed the growth mindset concept, suggests: “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.”
On the other hand Dweck explains, “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”
Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation
Extrinsic motivation: when an individual engages in something based on a perceived value it’ll provide, or motivated by outside pressures to complete the task.
Intrinsic motivation: when an individual acts with no obvious external rewards.
Example: What’s your motivation for reading this?
Are you reading this out of genuine interest for the topic or are you doing research for an assignment?
What’s driving you?
Now apply this to sport - why are your players there?
Implications For Sport
Consider how these concepts can affect athletes in learning and skill acquisition.
If your athletes can view their mistakes as learning experiences, how will their performance improve?
Will they be more persistent?
Will they become more confident?
Will that confidence translate into higher levels of performance?
If your athletes aren’t concerned with making a mistake - because their mindset allows them to understand mistakes are a natural part of learning - their movements will become autonomous.
Take it a step further—if your athletes are intrinsically motivated to become the best they can in their sport, they won’t allow minor setbacks or the fear of not being good enough hold them back. They’ll be doing it for the love of the game—because they really just enjoy playing.
Guide your athletes toward things they enjoy, encourage a growth mindset, and you’ll be leading them toward realizing their full athletic potential.
You know what while we’re at it just apply these ideas to all aspects of life—I bet it’ll turn out well.
If it doesn’t, let me know.