Growth and fixed mindset; what can you do with it as a trainer or gymnast?
23 april 2021 
3 min. read

Growth and fixed mindset; what can you do with it as a trainer or gymnast?

Everyone has probably heard of the word ‘mindset‘. If you open Facebook or type the word in Google, you will be bombarded with ways to change your mindset. In sports, growth and fixed mindset seem to be two important concepts. But what do these concepts mean exactly? And more importantly, what can you as a gymnastics coach or gymnast do with it?



A long time ago, Carol Dweck conducted a study on two groups of children. Both groups had to perform an easy IQ test. The groups were, after taking the test, approached in 2 different ways. One group was told that they were very smart and intelligent and therefore probably did very well (the intelligence group). The other group was told that they had worked very hard and the result was a consequence of that (the effort group). Next, both groups of children had to perform a new test.

They were given two options; a difficult test from which you can learn a lot and which gives you opportunities to grow or an easy test which would go well anyway. Which test do you think the intelligence group chose? And the effort group? 67% of the intelligence group chose the easy option. 92% of the effort group chose the difficult version. After this, both groups were given an impossibly difficult test. It turned out that the effort group worked longer, worked harder and had more fun doing it. As the final test, both groups were offered the easy test again. The effort group performed 30% better on this test than at the very beginning. The intelligence group performed 20% worse.

Mindset matters!

So, as you can read above, it matters how you think about yourself or how others approach you. Because in the example above, the effort group is not better or smarter than the intelligence group, they were just approached differently and therefore thought of themselves in a different way. This can already be seen as the 1st practical tip when it comes to mindset: rewarding your gymnast for her/his hard work can sometimes be more effective than telling them how good they are.

Growth and fixed

With a fixed mindset, you think that intelligence is fixed. You do not take on challenges because you are afraid of failing. With a growth mindset, you approach problems and challenges as opportunities to learn.

  1. Goals within a fixed mindset are, for example, appearing smart (at all costs), wanting to do better than others and avoiding challenges. Goals within a growth mindset are learning (at all costs), wanting to improve and accepting challenges.
    2. Within a fixed mindset, little effort is put into something; it has to come naturally. Within a growth mindset, hard work and effort are key.
    3. In a fixed mindset, mistakes are hidden away, feedback is ignored and people give up quickly. A growth mindset is characterised by learning from mistakes, confronting shortcomings and trying again and again.
    4. A fixed mindset sees the success of others as a threat. A growth mindset is one that learns from the success of others and is inspired by them.

Developing a growth mindset

  • Give compliments on the process and on the growth rather than on the intelligence (wow, you worked hard for that, you’re making a lot of good steps, rather than how good you are at this)
  • The power of ‘not yet’! I can’t do this yet, I’ve tried but I can’t do it yet, I’m not good at it yet…
  • Focus on the future; what can you do now to be better prepared next time?
  • As a trainer, explain to your gymnast what learning looks like
  • Introduce a role model. This could be an older gymnast from the club. How did he/she achieve success? What did he/she encounter when it comes to setbacks?
  • Create a culture in the room where making mistakes is allowed


A task, which of course you can do more often:
Think back to a moment in which you had a setback…
Now think about that moment as a challenge to grow, learn and become stronger. Focus on your thoughts and feelings when thinking about how you can benefit from this experience.


The above information was obtained from a PowerPoint presentation given by Remco Koopmeiners (University of Amsterdam). Much of his information comes from his book.

An interesting film about mindset:

See more tips on creating the right mindset on the Gymnastics Tools Platform.

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