The Benefits of a Growth Mindset in Youth Sports

A Conversation with Kelly Gray

What’s a growth mindset in youth sports and how does it benefit young athletes?

We explored that topic in a second podcast interview with Kelly Gray, a former professional soccer player who worked with youth sports organizations for many years. He’s founder of Kelly Gray Sports and South Bay Football Club.

“Put simply, a growth mindset is the belief you can get better with practice. We want players to believe they can be more than they are if they put in the time and work,” he said.

A fixed mindset, on the other hand, is kids’ belief that if they’re not good at sports, they won’t improve.

“It’s the belief that the skills you have are all you will ever have. ‘If I’m not good at juggling, I’ll never be good,’” he explained.

Parents can encourage young athletes to embrace a growth mindset by focusing on the process of playing, not on stats or wins.

Tell sports kids that if they work hard, they’re successful, he says. Don’t tell them “You’ll never get better” or “What was wrong with you today?” That’s not a good way to develop a growth mindset.

Gray says that he wasn’t the most talented player, but was a hard worker. “I outworked everyone. You have to put in the time and effort to learn. As long as you stick with it, you get better,” he said.

He also provided tips for parents about how to help kids benefit from the temporary stop in youth sports due to COVID-19.

“Before (COVID-19), everything was forced. Kids were forced to go to practice and play different sports. This is a good time for parents to sit back and evaluate what kids choose to do.”

This will help parents better understand what their children are passionate about.

It will be especially informative for parents to see which sports multi-sports athletes might seem to prefer during the COVID-19 crisis. Parents don’t necessarily have to take action on this information, but should keep it in mind when sports resume.

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