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Big plays happen when you use your head.

Harnessing the power of a growth mindset.

It’s the time of year that students everywhere long for—the end of classes and a much-needed break. But just because school’s out doesn’t mean the learning stops. True athletes know that summer is a pivotal time to train more than just your muscles and build up your stamina. The offseason is also a time to strengthen your mental game and the resiliency it takes to perform on and off the field.

To overcome adversity, the best lesson a student-athlete can learn is how to shed a fixed mindset and develop a growth mindset instead. 

Navigating the pitfalls of the Red Zone

A fixed mindset is an easily recognized hallmark of the Red Zone. What may start as a minor defensive flare-up can quickly spread like wildfire, stubbornly and arrogantly holding you back from performing at your best. When you’re in the red zone, you may feel limited by your thinking, negatively filtering, or lacking creativity in your problem-solving. 

  • It can show up as perfectionism. It’s an all-or-nothing attitude, considering anything less than perfect as a failure.

  • It’s that voice in your head that is wary or resistant to your coach’s feedback because accepting it would mean acknowledging your inadequacies. 

  • It’s a feeling of self-doubt and low self-confidence that can paralyze you into thinking that no amount of effort will make a difference, so why bother trying?

Resetting your brain and embracing the Green Zone

On the other hand, the green zone encourages a growth mindset and opens you up to learning, improving, and bouncing back better.

  • It allows your mind to embrace the word “yet,” especially when you are struggling to master a skill or are overlooked by recruiters. 

  • It sees mistakes as a learning opportunity and fosters a spirit of continuous evolution. 

  • It makes you a better team player by cheering on your teammates whose skills are still developing.

3 simple suggestions to start developing a growth mindset

If you’re ready to change your thinking but don’t know where to begin, here are some small changes that can lead to big results.

  • Focus on the positive. It’s easy to beat yourself up over what went wrong, but try to remember what went right and chalk the rest up as a learning opportunity.

  • Remember why you are there. What got you into your particular sport in the first place? Chances are it wasn’t just because you like to win; it’s because you like to play. Enjoy the game!

  • Support your team. Just because you might have an off practice or game doesn’t mean your whole team is. Cheer on your teammates and show them what it looks like to keep moving forward.

A special note to parents:

Want to help your student athlete develop the resiliency to shake off a fumble or loss? Ask them questions and praise them in a way that can help reinforce a growth mindset.

  • “How did it feel to not give up after missing that goal?” 

  • “How did you motivate yourself to come back after that loss?” 

  • “I really admire how you were able to stay focused despite the calls the ref was making.”

Learning how to tackle problems head-on or recover from a setback can make the difference between mentally sidelining yourself from the action and getting back in the game. It’s a skill that takes time to master, but once you do, you will reap tangible rewards in sports, school, and beyond. 

Take advantage of the summer and start strengthening your mental game at

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