How Mindset Affects Performance In Sports

Mindset and How it Impacts Sports Performance

How mindset affects performance? Is it true that many winners have a winner mindset before the competition? How can we obtain one?

Your attitude and your beliefs shape your results. Your mindset is the foundation of your “mental toughness.” It is the set of attitudes and beliefs that influence how you interpret things and how you can win any situation.

As Carol Dweck says:

“The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.”

A competitive and growth mindset involves being highly motivated to win but not afraid of losing.

For this, the motivation must come from the struggle and from the process.
Having a philosophy of your own helps you review your approach and organize your ideas consistently.

It allows you to be aware of your beliefs and see how they affect your performance.

In this article, we will see how beliefs about oneself affect motivation and type of mindset.

Through an example, we will see how common messages that we take for good can have a negative impact on the athlete’s mentality:

Fernando is a tennis player with good conditions for his sport. He trains daily with his coach and three other players of similar age and level.

For his coach, Fernando has something special. He sees some great qualities in him and does not hesitate to transmit them to him.

He often makes comments like: “you are very talented”, “with your great qualities you can go very far”, etc.

The coach really believes in his possibilities. He hopes that his messages will reinforce Fernando’s confidence and competitive mentality in the face of the great difficulties that tennis will present him (one of the most mentally demanding sports).


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However, Fernando’s performance does not progress like that of his teammates:

-It is irregular in competition, often “letting go” when behind.
-The errors affect him a lot, losing concentration.

It is difficult for him to work hard in training, and he does not accept corrections well.

The messages from his coach, instead of reinforcing him mentally, have weakened him.

Mindset and How it Impacts Sports Performance

According to the perspective of the implicit theories of intelligence, Fernando has developed a Fixed Mindset. The belief that your talent is a stable quality that does not change.

This has huge implications for your performance and progression.

This video from Ted Talks explains how mindset affects your performance:


The studies of Carol Dweck of Stanford University raised two main types of mentality: Mentality growth ( growth mindset ) and Mentality Fixed ( fixed mindset ).

With a Fix Mindset, you view your talent as a static quality that will change little or nothing.

You were born with it. It is your essence. What defines you. You have more interest in showing your talent than in developing it.

With a Growth Mindset, you see your talent as something dynamic, constantly developing.

You don’t identify with it because it is always changing. Motivation comes from the process, from improvement.

Read More: 7 Shocking Mind Issues That Cause Failure

How mindset affects performance?

How mindset affects performance
-You always feel evaluated.
-You need to win to show your talent (even if you don’t progress).
-The defeat hurts more because it confirms that you have no talent.
-Your self-image is linked to the results and the demonstration of your talent.
– Avoid challenges and give up early to obstacles. Often looking for excuses or boycotting yourself ( self-handicapping ) to protect your self-esteem. (Ex. When a player “clears” before an important competition).
-Effort and hard work are not positive or motivating. If you have to work very hard, it means that you are not as talented.
-You have more anxiety problems, and your performance under pressure is worse. Each competition is a defence of your self-image, a match not to lose.

-You are motivated by the need to learn and progress.
-Success is progressing and getting closer to your potential. Failure is not making progress.
– You persist more in the face of problems, adopting strategies focused on solving them instead of avoiding them.
-The effort and the difficulty are positive and motivating. It is the way to get to talent.
-You manage stress better, and your performance under pressure is better.


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The differences not only in performance are clear, but also in learning.

The way you approach corrections and errors make a difference in progression:

  • An athlete with a Fixed Mindset has a bias towards positive feedback, that is, he only listens to what he is interested in hearing. You tend to reject correction and mistakes. In this way, it limits its own progression.
  • An athlete with a Growth Mindset looks for information that helps him improve, even if it is not pleasant. Mistakes are motivating. Instead of sinking you, they encourage you to work harder and better. They are a wake-up call.

In neuroscientific experimental studies, differences are also seen between both types of mentality.

  • In a precision task, subjects with a Growth Mindset paid more attention to correction feedback, which led to better performance after errors.
  • This other study shows that the Growth Mindset is associated with greater connectivity in areas of the brain responsible for adjustments and adaptations after mistakes.


Fixed Mindset and growth mindset
The voltage maps show the Pe difference’s amplitude from 150 to 550 ms in each of the groups. The Growth Mindset shows increased conscious attention to mistakes leading to better fit and performance after failure. Source:


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These two basic types of mindset are not mutually exclusive. An athlete can have a combination of both but to different degrees.

According to this study, More than two opposing categories, it must be seen as a continuum where we can be closer to or further from the extremes.

This implies two things:

1. It is rare for an athlete to be on the Fixed Mindset extreme and not have some degree of Growth Mindset. After all, we are not so bad :).

2. Any athlete will normally have some degree of Fixed Mindset, so there will almost always be room for improvement.

They also depend on mastery, which means, for a specific skill, you can have a Fixed Mindset and for another a growth one.

The beliefs that form these two basic types of mindset depend on the interplay between individual tendencies and environmental influences.

These beliefs are acquired both in the normal development and socialization process and in concrete sports socialization (the sport’s culture, the style and messages of the coach, etc.).


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coach with a Fix Mindset
Although much research with athletes is lacking, studies conducted in the educational context indicate that simple interventions that modify the individual’s messages can be very effective.

The main differences between both mentalities affect motivation and effort.

A rewarding effort is a common strategy for fostering a Growth Mindset, but it is also a mistake when misapplied.

For example:
When a poorly gifted athlete tries too hard and doesn’t make progress. Comments such as: “Good job! You’ve done your best!”

Thus we are not fostering a Growth Mindset.

It is okay for an athlete to make an effort, but it is not okay for him not to progress.

The effort is a consequence, not a cause of the Growth Mindset. The focus should be on learning, not just effort.

After acknowledging the effort, it must be directed towards learning (seeking solutions to problems, proposing alternatives, trying new strategies, etc.).

The mentality begins to change when the athlete perceives that their coach’s most important thing is that they learn and evolve, not just that they strive or win.

If a coach wants to develop a Growth Mindset in his athletes, the first thing he has to do is review his own.

A coach with a Fix Mindset cannot develop a Growth Mindset in his players. You must first change him.

This leads to looking for justifications for the lack of performance and learning.

For example: “This player has no qualities for this sport”; “He has no mentality to compete.”

We must not only look for reasons why athletes do not progress but find a way for them to do so.

The first and most important step is self-criticism and a review of your own beliefs.


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The best result is in movement and change. A Growth Mindset has more advantages because it better adjusts to reality. It is more adaptive.

As  Dr. Dweck says:

“Although people may be different in many ways – in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests or temperaments – anyone can change and grow through dedication and experience.”

Does this mean that there are no limits? Does it mean that any footballer can become Messi or any tennis player can become Federer?

I’m afraid not.

It means that the limit of your performance is unknown and that it is impossible to predict how far you can go through continuous, intense and deliberate training.

This podcast is what you need:

Do you agree?

Written by Saeed Ahmadi

Who am I? A blogger, mindset mentor, personal development coach, content creator, SEO Specialist, digital marketer, entrepreneur, reader by night, and writer by day.

Mindsetopia, my brainchild, is more than a platform, its my vision of a world where everyone has access to the tools and knowledge necessary for personal growth and self-growing.

What really makes me excited is helping people to unlock their true potential. So,I am here to give you the kick you need to change your mind and then your life :)

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