Growth Mindset in Sports

Physical education, games and sports are a vital and integral part of a fully rounded holistic education. I also believe that for many children they also provide some of the most powerful and transferable experiences of what it means to be an effective learner. A child who develops a strong inclination towards a particular student quickly learns the natural connection between effort and outcomes – the more I train and apply myself, the better I become and the more success I can achieve in the sport.

So, as the concept of ‘Growth Mindset’ has developed over the last few years, it was important that specific attention be paid to its application in the area of sport. So, I was very pleased to see from this article that a book has been written on that subject;

Mindsetworks – Blog – Put Me In Coach – Growth Mindset in the World of Sports

Whilst I’m very keen to read the book, the article suggests that the writers have done a good job. One of the points that struck me was one where from time to time i’ve deliberately chosen to have provocative and thoughtful debates with teachers – how should children be chosen for school sports teams? All too often, the child with the high level of innate early talent gets called up for the team over the child who may be starting from a lower base, but who has the growth mindset and potential to work and strive to develop the technical skills.

The other thing the article talks about is the areas where sports coaches can sometimes have ‘blind spots’. Whilst they may pride themselves on a growth mindset approach towards the children and their technical skills and competence in the sport, they may harbour fixed mindset attitudes towards things like resilience, motivation and mental toughness. It’s important that coaches recognise that these are all things that can be learned and tailor their approaches accordingly.

Higher quality coaching that utilises and harnesses the power of growth mindset thinking can ensure that more children get more rich and rewarding experiences from their engagement with games and sports.

Being A Well-Rounded Kid Pays Off

I love it when scientific research confirms what I and many other educators have long believed, justifying a holistic approach to child development and a schooling that gives children exposure to a diverse curriculum that places emphasis on physical pursuits and the arts alongside more academic subjects.

For many years my favourite phrase on the subject has been – it’s all curricular!

So, firstly, here’s an article from the :LA Times, reporting on the latest research that highlights the educational, learning and mental benefits of regular physical exercise and involvement in sports:

LA Times – To Do Better In School Children Should Exercise Their Bodies As Well As Their Brains

So, strong evidence to support ideas of a healthy body in a healthy mind. What I’ve been concerned about in the past (and remain so) is that too m uch of our approach to physical activity in school is still working like a filter, meaning that many children are opting out by the Secondary years. It needs to be for every student, all the time, as part of gaining the habits of a positive healthy lifestyle.

Secondly, here’s scientific evidence for the mental benefits of engaging in music making – faster brain development as a result of music training:

Medical Xpress – Researchers find that children’s brains develop faster with music training

Just as a balanced nutritious diet leads to healthy physical development, so we are learning more and more about the benefits of a balanced mental diet.

Get Outside!

Here’s a report which, whilst initially shocking, is not really at all surprising;

TES – Sir Ken Robinson Urges Schools To Help Increase Outdoor Playtime For Children

We can only begin to imagine what the implications are from this in terms of both physical and mental health. I even find myself wondering whether this has a whole set of implications that I and many others haven’t thought through yet. many in the medical field have suggested that, as science and medicine have moved forward, today’s generation of young children is the first with the potential to live a life beyond 100 years. What if the result of mistakes in childhood lifestyle, diet, exposure to sun and lack of physical exercise mean that they are actually the first generation that will see a shorter lifespan than those older.

There is no excuse for this. It shouldn’t happen. Do we have the willpower and the sense to arrest the negative trends?

Learner-Centric Approaches to Physical Education

I’ve written in the past about my belief that physical education should be treated as an important and relevant part of learning in school as much as any academic subject. It is absolutely NOT a period of light relief from the real learning, a break or even just a way to get children to let off some steam and physical energy, so that they concentrate better in the other classes. As we acknowledge the significant interrelationship between mind and body, we have to give PE its rightful place in school.

In the past, and especially in my experiences in India, the low importance given to PE has meant that very little regard is given to understanding how to integrate modern teaching pedagogy, practices and methodology in to the PE domain. Too many compromises are made in the professional development and accountability of PE teachers. Worse, too many school leaders haven’t bothered to take the time to understand the role and importance of PE and too many schools use PE teachers as glorified policemen to handle control and discipline, especially when the children are together in large numbers for assemblies and other gatherings.

So, when I come across good resources in this area, I’m always glad to share them. This is a really good podcast that I came across recently. It’s an interview and Q & A with Dr Stephen Harvey on the subject of Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU). I would urge that not just PE teachers, but also school leaders, other teachers and even parents can gain considerable understanding of what’s possible when it comes to developing PE programmes that are motivating, engage all students ad lead to growth, development and learning for every pupil;

Dr Stephen Harvey – TGfU – Podcast

(For those who want to take their understanding further, there are some useful references on the summary page and in the podcast itself)

Kobe Bryant – Sports Inspiration

There are good reasons why the world has long looked to top achievers in the field of sports as inspiration for success, whether in personal life, business or any other pursuit.

The willingness to focus and put in more effort than peers is something that’s very transparent when there’s a sportsperson who takes it to a level beyond others. There can always be risks associated with putting individuals on pedestals, but there are some who hold up to scrutiny. One such athlete is NBA basketball player, Kobe Bryant. His commitment to practice and preparation above and beyond other players is legendary.

Business Insider – Kobe Bryant’s Insane Work Ethic

The Truth About Exercise

An excellent BBC documentary that explodes some of the myths we've all learned about exercise, fitness and managing weight. Well worth watching.

Also, vitally important to ensure that we're giving the right messages and information to children, while they're at the best stage in their lives to create positive habits that they can maintain later.