Growth Mindset in Youth Sports

Dr. Carol Dweck, a Stanford Psychology Professor and a top researcher on mindset, has championed praising the process rather than focusing on outcomes (Dweck, 2008). The “process over outcome” often gets misunderstood as focusing solely on the process rather than the outcome. This isn’t what Dr. Dweck’s research has shown (Haimovitz & Dweck, 2017).

Instead, reframe the outcome (good or bad) as an opportunity for growth and acknowledge how the processes contributed to that outcome. In other words, you can celebrate the wins and mourn the losses but look for growth opportunities regardless of the outcome.

To bring this into the sports context. Let’s say your kiddo has been practicing her pull-up jumper for AAU ball. She practiced every day and has shown a ton of improvement all season. Her hard work was rewarded when she hit the game-winning shot in a tournament championship game.

A fixed mindset would be focused on the win and label the player as the “best shooter on the team” or “hero of the game.” These labels may seem true, but what happens when she isn’t the “best shooter on the team” or isn’t the “hero of the game?”

A growth mindset would acknowledge how her hard work contributed to putting her into a position to hit that shot. The coach and parents praise the team’s effort and resiliency to stay in the game. The win would be attributed to the team’s effort throughout the tournament.

Of course, you can celebrate a big win, because it’s fun!


Dweck, C. S. (2008). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House Digital, Inc..

Haimovitz, K., & Dweck, C. S. (2017). The origins of children’s growth and fixed mindsets: New research and a new proposal. Child Development88(6), 1849–1859.




About Joe

Over 20 Years of Experience in the Exercise Industry
Owner & Head Fitness Nut of the joefitness Studio Since 2012

PhD Student – Exercise Science and Nutrition – North Dakota State
MEd – Sport & Exercise Psychology – Springfield College
BS – Exercise Science – North Dakota State

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