Sometimes when I am at practice, I get embarrassed and frustrated when I don’t do well. Maybe I can’t get through a hard 4-wall, or maybe I fall during a relatively simple footwork drill. During these moments, sometimes I realize the thoughts that creep in my mind are alarming: “Maybe I would be happier if I played for a less competitive league, where I didn’t have to work so hard to be successful. Maybe I have reached the limits of my physical ability and there is no point in trying to get better.”
However, I have started adjusting my mindset when I am in these situations: “It is exciting that I am pushing myself to my physical limits! It is awesome that I’m on a team with such amazing 4-walls!” Having this type of mindset can change the way we feel during practices and bouts, and keep us constantly growing as athletes.
Dr. Carol Dweck, from Stanford University, has identified two different mindsets that athletes tend to have (and that reflect my two thought processes above): the growth mindset and the fixed mindset. In a fixed mindset, you believe you have certain amount of inherent ability, and that’s it. You avoid failure at all costs because only success confirms your ability. In a growth mindset, you believe your ability can be improved through hard work. So you believe that failures help you learn and improve, and you thrive on challenging situations. Determining which mindset you may have and learning to change your practice and performance methods might help you achieve more success as a derby athlete.
Dr. Dweck outlined three important components of the fixed vs growth mindset:
(1) For people with a fixed mindset, they believe that looking successful is much more important than learning new skills. Roller derby players with a fixed mindset might not try new things or push themselves out of their comfort zones because they are afraid to fall or look silly. On the other hand, if you have a growth mindset, you will continue to challenge yourself even when you might not succeed. You are much more interested in learning new skills as opposed to never failing.
(2) People with a fixed mindset believe they have innate abilities and as a result may think that they don’t need to practice that much. They don’t like to challenge themselves or push themselves too hard because for them success is a matter of whether you have talent or not – if you don’t have talent, practice won’t help. People with the growth mindset, however, realize how important it is to push their bodies to their limits and exhaust themselves from time to time. In derby, there are quite a few of us that will do hard off-skates workouts right before going to practice. Sure, we may not be able to perform as well as we usually do at practice, but we know this tired training is exactly what we need to succeed at tournaments. People with a growth mindset think of long-term benefits of their hard work, even if it means physical discomfort.
(3) People with a fixed mindset do not cope with mistakes or losses well. Since they feel as though they have innate abilities to be successful, any mistakes or losses are taken very personally; it is an indication that they don’t have skills. They shut down when they do something wrong, blame everyone but themselves, and do not learn from mistakes. However, if you have a growth mindset, you take mistakes and losses as learning tools. Since roller derby strategy changes throughout the season, it is essential to watch footage, reflect on bouts, and learn how to improve your past mistakes. Without this growth mindset, your play will become stagnant and you will not be able to keep up with the top players.
If you are reading through this and are suddenly worried that you have fixed mindset, don’t worry! Dweck’s research has also shown that you can change your mindset. By identifying how you feel about certain situations and adjusting your outlook and goals, you can learn to embrace the growth mindset in roller derby. So next time you find yourself avoiding a drill because you don’t want to fail, or getting mad at someone because they pointed out your mistake, try to change your mindset and remember that getting feedback is the only way you will grow. Embrace your mistakes as chances to learn, challenge yourself even when it means failing in front of others, and push the limits of your physical capabilities!