I got the opportunity to spend a couple days with a JV softball team up in Sacramento this past season. I got to observe two practices and a game. I was taken aback by the passion, drive, and enthusiasm these girls have for their sport.
As a freshman in high school I played varsity ball and I never got to experience the JV level. These girls don’t have dreams of playing in college; they aren’t obsessed with beating out the girl next to them to get a look from a college coach. These girls just simply love the game. They love to play and want to spend as many minutes on the field as they can. They eat up coaching and ask for more of it when they don’t get enough. Their sole desire is to improve. Every ounce of their mental capacity is focused on the task at hand. They are supportive of each other to a fault. No matter how unsuccessful a teammate is performing they are genuinely supportive. They are patient, kind, and extremely encouraging. This is the atmosphere I’ve been striving to instill in my teams for years. They really accept every player for who they are and aren’t judgmental of their skill level. They just want everyone to try their hardest all the time, and they do! They work hard without a peep from their coaches, it’s all them all the time.
It was an amazing display of a mastery climate created by the players themselves.
My biggest question is why? Why has this atmosphere been so effortlessly created on this team? I think the answer lies in the research of Carol Dweck; the difference between the growth and capacity mindset. Individuals who posses the growth mindset are constantly looking to improve, they believe that with hard work anybody can improve at anything. These people welcome failure, and challenges, because they are opportunities to learn and grow. Capacity mindset is a whole different ball game. These folks believe that abilities are set. You either have it or you don’t, there isn’t any real opportunity for immense improvement. These people avoid failure at all costs, they are constantly trying to put themselves in situations where they can show off their talents because they need to prove themselves. They need to reaffirm their abilities to others consistently because there is no room for improvement.
Without the pressure of having to prove themselves to a college coach, the JV girls are able to embrace failure and focus on learning and developing their talents. Where as the varsity girls get caught up in always trying to look the best so college coaches don’t notice their flaws or weaknesses.
This is a pretty broad statement; all varsity athletes have a capacity mindset and all JV athletes have a growth mindset. That’s not exactly what I’m saying. I’m inferring that maybe because most varsity athletes have been talented since they were kids, they may have been referred to as “natural athletes”. Well, as a natural athlete, the talent you have isn’t something you worked for, therefore you aren’t in control of improving it. However, athletes who weren’t always the greatest, probably weren’t ever told this, and they learned from a young age that they were going to have to work hard to be able to play ball at a competitive level. They learned that hard work and repetition lead to improvement.
Although I made varsity as a freshman, I was never considered a “natural athlete”. In fact, most thought I would never play in college. I had to work really hard for the successes that came my way. Looking back, I’m thankful that I didn’t have “natural talent”, it made me take control of my ability and push my way to the top. It’s something that still impacts my life today; I may not be the best at what I do, but I am constantly looking for opportunities to learn and better myself. Where I am today is just a starting point, I am in full control of developing my abilities to get to the top of my field.
Quote of the day:
“Don’t tell me how talented you are. Tell me how hard you work” Artur Rubenstein
Hey Coach Z,
Just came across your blog, and I’m happy I did. 🙂
So far this one is my favorite! We are always reminding our girls that hard work will beat out talent, and to never give up. It’s been a bumpy road for Madison with a coach telling her at age 11 she is “uncoachable” and has a bad attitude, then landing on some teams with difficult coaches…but she never gives up and never stops working!
Glad I came across your blog, and I’m glad Madison has you helping to coach her too!