Why Growth Mindset is Important for Swimmers?
A growth mindset is crucial for swimmers because swimming is a sport that requires long-term effort and continuous learning. Through a growth mindset, swimmers can see challenges and failures not as endpoints but as opportunities for learning and improvement. This mindset allows them to keep improving their skills, optimizing strategies, and maintaining sustained motivation and resilience, which are vital for a high-intensity and technically demanding sport like swimming.
For anyone involved in sport, as an athlete, coach, commentator, or fan, the concept of talent is almost always the defining character that we look for. Of course, that is a hugely important trait, but it doesn’t tell us what makes the difference between winning and losing when two athletes of similar talent compete or why somebody with less talent might come out on top.
The answer often lies in the mental approach of athletes. Success is not just about physical attributes but the desire of an athlete to win and also to open their mind to improving their skills, dealing with mistakes, and not fearing failure. Too often the belief was that an athlete simply needed to be a natural talent and this would be enough to fulfil their potential. However, it has become abundantly clear that mindset in sports plays a significant role. This notion that the mindset of an athlete can prove to be a major factor in success was developed from the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, which looks at the power of our mental attitude and how even making the most basic alterations can have a profound effect on our lives.
In essence, an athlete with a fixed mindset believes that their skills cannot be changed, and drawbacks can be summed up as follows:
Avoids challenges due to fear of failure
Believes skill is something you are born with
Gives up easily
The effort is seen as unnecessary
Gets frustrated or ignores feedback or criticism
Feels threatened by the success of others
Feels perseverance will not be any benefit
It is accepted that a growth mindset opens up an athlete to the possibility of improving as they are not afraid of making mistakes. A growth mindset helps an athlete to:-
Believe skills are fine-tuned from hard work
Strive to improve
Take inspiration from other athletes
Seek feedback/criticism to improve
Believe that setbacks help you learn
Watch the language you use.
Swimmers must be mindful of their self-talk to avoid negative self-suggestion because our thoughts and language can significantly impact our emotions and actions. Negative self-suggestions, such as "I can't finish this training" or "I'll never be as good as they are," can undermine confidence, limit potential, and decrease performance.
On the contrary, positive and constructive self-talk can boost confidence, inspire motivation, and assist in overcoming challenges. By shifting the language from negative to positive, such as "I will strive to complete this training" or "I can learn and improve to get closer to their level," athletes can inspire themselves and drive their growth and progress.
Growth Mindset in action
The growth mindset emphasizes starting with action because positive thinking alone is not enough to bring about real change or improvement. Thoughts and actions must be aligned, as action is the crucial way to achieve goals and enhance skills. When we face challenges or difficulties, by adopting a proactive problem-solving attitude through action, we can learn, adapt, and grow from the experience. Additionally, the action itself is a learning process, as we can reflect and learn from our behaviors, which helps cultivate and reinforce a growth mindset.
One of the most effective ways to develop a habit is by increasing the frequency of an action, as habit formation stems from our brain trying to manage repeated tasks in the most efficient way. When we repeatedly perform a task, it becomes increasingly automated and shifts to the basal ganglia, the part of the brain that controls habits.
Therefore, increasing the frequency of action equates to increasing the chances for the brain to convert that task into a habit. This is why it's commonly suggested to start small and do a little bit consistently every day when trying to establish a new habit. Not only can this lower the barrier to getting started, but it can also help us turn these actions into habits more quickly.
Learn how to learn
Learning and practicing deliberately are very important for a swimmer's technical growth.
"Deliberate practice" is a specific kind of training to improve skills and abilities. It's not just about repetition or spending more time practicing, but involves having explicit goals, actively seeking feedback, and concentrating on improving individual weaknesses. This concept was introduced by psychologist Anders Ericsson and detailed in his book, "Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise."
Here are some critical characteristics of deliberate practice:
Focused: Deliberate practice requires a high level of attention and focus. It's not about mindlessly repeating actions but involves mental engagement.
Explicit Goals: Deliberate practice requires specific and clear goals so that one knows precisely what needs to be improved.
Feedback: Seeking and receiving immediate feedback is a critical part of deliberate practice, as it helps individuals understand their performance and areas of improvement.
Out of Comfort Zone: Deliberate practice typically involves attempting skills that one is not yet proficient at, ensuring growth and improvement.