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The Growth Mindset Framework
for Student-Athletes

A coaches' guide to developing athletes into peak performers using intentional life habits

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Introduction

Building an athlete’s mastery of a given skill is difficult, but there are tactics and resources to help. Preparing for an upcoming opponent can be all-consuming, but creating your strategy is also known territory.

As coaches, what keeps us up at night is often the more human side of our job: How do I hold Blake accountable? What’s keeping Simone from focusing? Why has Noah lost confidence? It’s in the “other 20 hours” when coaches are not with their athletes that they can make the biggest difference.

Teaching life skills, understanding our student-athletes and building meaningful relationships is where coaches make their greatest impact. We are mentors. That’s also how athletes and parents see us. In our recent survey, 89% of parents said they view coaches as a significant influence in their child’s development and athletes ranked coaches as a top mentor only behind family members.

Mentorship beyond athletic skills is also a priority for coaches. In the same survey, 94% of coaches said they valued “soft-skills” over game skills. Building habits to improve accountability, clarity and commitment were the #1 priority for more than half of coaches. Yet, 87% of athletes reported spending less than one hour per week on developing intentional habits while nearly one third of coaches said they don’t have enough time to build meaningful relationships.

This is why Sevwins created the Growth Mindset Framework for Student-Athletes – to help coaches mentor athletes and build peak performance through intentional life habits. The framework is based on a proven approach developed by Greg Moore, top Division I head baseball coach and co-founder of Sevwins. 

By applying the framework, athletes boost self-control and awareness to ignite their growth. For coaches, the framework provides a simple and repeatable approach to transformational coaching. It helps you mentor your athletes by understanding them more deeply, moving beyond assumptions to knowledge, and replacing transaction-based communication with meaningful conversations. 

This guide describes the key components of the Growth Mindset Framework for Student-Athletes and provides a breakdown of each component, including what it looks like in action and exercises you can begin using today. We hope you find the framework and this guide to be valuable and welcome any feedback you have. 

 

Sincerely,

Greg, John and Matt

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Contents

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Applying the Growth Mindset

  • Three Power Habits to Ignite Growth

  • Daily Growth Reps

  • Keys to Success

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Power Habit Two: Assess Mental Skills

  • Lock: Improve Controlled Attention

  • Block: Separate Areas of Life

  • Talk: Communicate with Intention

  • Energy: Attack the Day

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Amplify the Framework

  • Accelerate Effective Mentorship

  • Build Meaningful Relationships

  • Growth Mindset App for Student-Athletes

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Power Habit One: Set Goals

  • Read: Sharpen the Mind

  • Train: Improve the Body

  • Give: Elevate Others

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Power Habit Three: Reflect and Plan

  • Reflect on Experiences

  • Build On: Grow from Victories

  • Work On: Learn from Challenges

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Practical Exercises for Teams

       +  Read and share challenge
        +  Focal point stretch
        +  Elevate one person per day
        +  Read then execute
        +  Separate areas of life
        +  Filler word challenge
        +  Energy inventory
        +  Reflect to grow

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Applying the Growth Mindset

The Growth Mindset Framework for Student-Athletes is made up of three Power Habits reinforced by nine weekly Growth Reps. Practiced daily, the framework provides coaches and athletes with a repeatable game plan to drive peak performance in life and sport. As you use this framework with your athletes, you’ll also develop a valuable shared language which fosters more consistent communication and measurement of progress. 

Applying the Growth Mindset

Applying the Growth Mindset

The Growth Mindset Framework for Student-Athletes is designed to inspire young adults to build critical performance skills. By learning to think strategically, we pay more attention to detail. We become more conscientious of the things that accelerate our growth and understand those that hold us back. Intentionally applying our skills in a continuous seven-day cadence transforms the Power Habits into automatic behaviors.

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Set Weekly Goals

Weekly goal setting is at the core of happy, healthy and balanced people. Improve self-control and direction by setting clear intentions and defining the path to get there. Attainable goals that include specific performance language produce results faster.

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Assess Mental Skills Daily

Raise personal awareness by honing the ability to focus, be in the moment, communicate with others and understand sources of energy. Daily assessments provide a simple form of personal reflection to encourage controlled attention.

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Reflect and Plan Weekly

Fuel continued growth by intentionally considering what to build on and what to work on. Reflect on weekly experiences to learn from success and challenges. Build a plan to accelerate personal growth.

Daily Growth Reps

The Framework defines nine Growth Reps, within the three Power Habits, for your athlete. By practicing these Growth Reps routinely, in a seven day cadence, habits begin to form. Over time, habits become lifestyle changes. We prioritize things that are important to us. We understand how our mind works and fine-tune our decisions. We grow.

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  • Read: Sharpen the mind

  • Train: Improve the body

  • Give: Elevate others

  • Lock: Improve controlled attention

  • Block: Separate areas of life

  • Talk: Communicate with intention and empathy

  • Energy: Understand sources; commit to attacking the day

  • Build On: Grow from victories

  • Work On: Learn from challenges

Keys to Success

To successfully employ the Growth Mindset Framework for Student-Athletes, you need to come ready to play. You’ll get the most out of this model when both you and your athletes:

  • Share an understanding about why you are doing this work

  • Have a desire to thrive (not just survive)

  • Prioritize and make time for human relationships

  • Are curious about what makes you and others “tick”

  • Have an open mind and try new things

  • Are willing to be vulnerable and honest with yourself and others

  • Invest in the process and commit to steady improvement

The following sections of this guide dive into each Power Habit and supporting Growth Reps in more detail. We also provide you with specific exercises to help your athletes practice these critical life skills.

We recommend your athletes track their goals, assessments and reflections to see growth. The Sevwins growth mindset app was built to automate this process, but your athletes can also do this manually using a performance journal.

If you have questions or would like to discuss how to apply this framework with your athletes, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Sevwins.

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Set Goals

The foundation of the Growth Mindset Framework for Student-Athletes is Goal Setting. Building the habit of setting attainable, time-bound weekly goals and writing them down has been proven to produce results faster. Dr. Gail Matthews, Professor at the Dominican University in California, led a study on goal-setting with nearly 270 participants. The results? You are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down.

 

The sections below provide specific guidance on setting Read, Train and Give goals to improve the mind, body and spirit.

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Set Goals: READ

Reading helped Tony Gonzales achieve greatness by learning from the masters who came before him. LeBron James reads an hour before tip-off because it helps him perform. The same can be true for your athletes. When they commit to reading goals, not only do they feed their minds, they train it to slow down and focus on the task at hand. This isn’t anecdotal.

Neuroscience is proving how reading positively impacts the brain and improves mental function. Not only do regular readers take in more information, they develop their brain's ability to structure that information which sets them up for success and higher levels of confidence. Reading has also been shown to reduce stress levels by 68% and improve memory, focus, vocabulary and writing skills. Another study of the brain athletes experienced a 9% improvement in shooting a basketball when they had trained the mind to wind down and rest by reading.

Example READ Goal:
Read "The Infinite Game" for 10 minutes every night before bed.

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Putting READ into Action

  • Commit: Encourage your athletes to find a topic of interest and commit to reading about it everyday.

  • Start Small: Tell them to start where they are and build from there. If the athlete isn’t a regular reader, set a goal of 5 pages per day to start. Or if they already read 20 pages a day, set an initial goal of 30. Instead of a certain number of pages, they can also aim for a set amount of time.

  • Build Routine: Have them choose a time they’ll read and build it into their daily routine. Maybe it’s first thing in the morning, over lunch, before practice or in bed. 

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READ Exercise: Read and Share Challenge

Have your team or athlete commit to reading for seven consecutive days and encourage them to take rough notes about the ideas or lessons they learn in their performance journal. At the end of the seven days, ask each athlete to find someone they think would enjoy what they read about and discuss it with them. 

"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body."
Richard Steele

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Set Goals: TRAIN

Athletes dedicate time to developing their bodies using training provided by coaches or strength and conditioning programs. The Train habit extends beyond what is considered core or required training to focus on thoughtful extensions that lead to accelerated improvement. Encourage athletes to think strategically about what they need to do to improve their physical bodies and set daily train goals that compliment the desired outcome. This will help them better understand their bodies, become self-sufficient and create a plan to achieve peak performance that is unique to them.

Example TRAIN Goal:

Jog 20 min before each strength training. 

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Putting TRAIN into Action

  • Set an Intention: Intention is something we can train our brain to do every single day – it is our “Why”. It’s separate from the results yet it moves us in that direction. Our intention brings us into the present moment. Remind your athletes to set their intention from the start. It is the first motion and is what carries through with each intentional action. 

  • GAS: The G-A-S method can help your athletes prepare to train. First, Gather: get their minds focused with a clear intention. Next, Arm: arm themselves by visualizing what the training will look like and find a focal point (we’ll discuss focal points more in the Lock section). Finally, Set-up: perform the same routine before they begin training. For example, set keys and phone in the locker, tighten shoes, take a deep cleansing breath. 


  • Small Victories: Help your athletes develop the Epicenter approach to growth, focusing on the wins that make them better every day, not the SportsCenter approach, where the focus is on some big shiny and temporary end result. Focusing on the small victories along the way will help build consistent and confident trainers.


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TRAIN Exercise: Focal Point Stretch

Pick 5 stretches to do with your athletes before practice. Use these stretches as an opportunity to develop their Train skill. Have them set an intention and prepare using the GAS method. Prior to each stretch, countdown from 30 to 0, seeing the individual number in their minds. When they notice their thoughts wandering, return to the number (their focal point) and refocus on the stretch. After the focused countdown, engage in the specific stretch. When they’re done, have them assess how they did. What worked? Where can they improve?

"Do today what others won’t so tomorrow you can do what others can’t."
Jerry Rice

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Set Goals: GIVE

Developing your athlete’s mindset of giving versus getting is one of the most important adjustments you can help them make. When they unconditionally give of themselves, they not only elevate others with their kind acts, they will be happier and better able to tame their anxiety

Through giving, they learn about themselves and develop the foundation for empathetic leadership. Simply put – givers thrive.

Example GIVE Goal:

Check in with one friend each night to see how they are doing.

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Putting GIVE into Action

  • Remove the Thorn: It’s hard for your athletes to give when they are full of fear, anxiety, or doubts. A good place for your athletes to begin giving is with themselves. By exploring the pain points holding them back, they can begin to remove those thorns. 

  • Reps of Giving: Have your athletes ask themselves “What can I give?” to a particular person, team, or situation. Each rep counts. It may be in a conversation with a friend, in class, or with a teammate. Wherever it is, encourage your athletes to find opportunities to give. 

  • Deflect Credit & Assume Responsibility: One way of developing the givers mentality is to help your athletes deflect credit and assume responsibility. For example, Payton Manning credited his team and coaches for breaking the all-time touchdown record while Russell Wilson took the blame for the game-ending interception in the Superbowl.

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GIVE Exercise: Elevate One Person Per Day

Ask your athletes to make a list of 10 people. The list can be made up of their family, friends, teammates, or someone they often see at the grocery store. Each day, have them pick a person and ask themselves “What can I give to this person today?”. Have them think about little ways they can help that individual or make them feel good about themselves.

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the  service of others."

Mahatma Gandhi

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Assess Mental Skills

Building upon the goals that have been set, peak-performers hone their ability to be in the moment, focus, and communicate with others. Daily assessments help develop their personal awareness across all areas of life.

Mental skill improvement should be implemented in both daily life and practice situations. When incorporating mental skill development into physical practice, make it a core practice discipline and not something done prior to practice. By dedicating practice time to it and embedding it into physical routines, coaches send a clear message that mental skills are critical to athlete development. Athletes learn the applicability of these skills faster.

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Assess: LOCK

When your athlete is “locked-in”, they are focused. They’re aware of and in control of their attention. 

 

Focus is at the core of mental training – it is the mother of all transferable skills. Your athletes have the ability to build it, and at times it betrays them. But as they develop the skill of focus, making it stronger and sharper, it will betray them less. 

 

Helping your athletes build a relationship with their focus through intense effort will improve their ability to slow the game down, both on the field and off.

Assess LOCK:

Pause, reflect and rate your current level of focus from dull to sharp.

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Putting LOCK into Action

  • Awareness: Improving focus starts with being aware of where our attention resides. Is it on the task at hand, something that happened five minutes before, or an upcoming event? Work with your athletes to become more aware of the level and object of their focus.

  • Remove Distractions: At some point, your athletes may be able to tune out all the “noise” surrounding them and focus their attention. But that only happens when the skill of focus has been made strong and sharp with practice. To build the focus muscle, encourage your athletes to remove as many distractions as possible. 

  • Focal Point: Ask your athletes to choose a focal point. Their focal point is something meaningful and consistent in their physical world they can look to whenever they feel their focus drift. Maybe it’s the stitch of the ball or the lace of their shoe. The focal point serves as a mental cue to refocus their attention.

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LOCK Exercise: Read, Then Execute

For this exercise, your athletes will need a book, and a preferred athletic skill to practice (i.e. shooting free throws, freestyle swimming stroke, tracking a football into the hands).

To prepare their mind to focus, tell them to read one page of their book, paying close attention to every word. Then have them rate their level of focus from dull to sharp. 

Next, leave all distractions behind and practice the selected athletic skill in a very methodical fashion. For example, shoot 100 free throws. With each shot, do the same thing: feet in the same place, same number of dribbles, deep breath, etc. Regardless of the outcome, come back and do the same thing. 

Repeat this exercise for two more days. They will see how the skill sticks, their command of their attention grows, and they’ll become confident in their ability to control their focus.

Finally, if you haven’t yet introduced your athletes to the Concentration Grid, it’s a simple, fun and easy way for them to get their Lock reps in.

"Concentration comes out of a combination of confidence and hunger."

Arnold Palmer

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Assess: BLOCK

Your students move quickly between home, school, friends, romantic relationships, sports, and work. Their ability to be fully present in a given moment depends on how well they are able to separate themselves from the burdens and distractions in other areas of life.

 

Block is also about building life skills during the “other 20 hours” – the time they are not with you for practice or competition. By separating areas of life, they can more easily see how all the parts contribute to the whole, set goals in each area, see what’s working or not working, and recognize patterns.

Assess BLOCK:

Pause, reflect and rate your ability to separate areas of life from dull to sharp.

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Putting BLOCK into Action

  • Chunking: Ask your athletes to chunk up their lives into these distinct compartments: family, friends, school, sports, and if applicable, work. As they move through their day, encourage them to be aware of which compartment they currently reside. 

  • Be Where You Are: Armed with an awareness of the compartment they occupy, they can be more intentional about transitioning between them. Encourage them to find a routine that helps them leave one compartment and be fully present where they are. The exercise below provides an example of one such routine.

  • Mental Mentor: Just as your athlete may have someone they want to emulate in their sport, they can find role models for other areas of their lives. For each compartment, have them identify someone they feel is exceptional in that area. Taking it a step further, encourage them to talk to that person to find out what makes them successful.

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BLOCK Exercise: Separate Areas of Life

At the start of practice, find a quiet space where your athletes can sit or lie down and close their eyes. 

Walk through each area of their life and have them make a mental journal. Prompt them to think about everything going on in that area – the excitements, joys, responsibilities, and stresses. Then have them close their mental journal and set it aside.

Next, have them focus on the current area by visualizing themselves at practice that day, imagining how it feels to be focused on each skill. Give them a minute to do that on their own. When they open their eyes, they will be present and primed to focus on the task at hand.

"Never say never because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion."

Michael Jordan

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Assess: TALK

Communication is fundamental to our ability to thrive in both sports and life. It’s how we connect with others, express ourselves, and ask for help. Communication goes beyond words – it applies to our body language, how well we listen, and an awareness of our audience and situation. 

When communication breaks down, misunderstandings and confusion results. When our communication is clear, intentional and empathetic, we have more meaningful relationships and understand ourselves and others better.

Assess TALK:

Pause, reflect and rate your current level of communication from dull to sharp.

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Putting TALK into Action

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TALK Exercise: Filler Word Awareness Challenge

  • Empathy: Aim to build your athlete’s capacity for empathy. Encourage them to be curious about others and what makes them “tick”. Pay attention to the other person without a strategic end goal for the conversations. By working to understand and share the feelings of another, they will build deeper relationships based on trust.

  • Listen First: The saying “seek first to understand” is a key tenet of good communication. Coach your athletes to listen first with the goal of understanding, without judgement or analysis. Encourage them to ask questions. From a place of understanding and empathy, they will be able to more effectively communicate and connect.


  • Public vs. Private: Good communicators understand when more formal communication is called for, or more relaxed language is welcome. For example, when your athlete is speaking with a teacher or when they are in public, mature, respectful language is required. Help your athletes distinguish between situations and speak accordingly.


To help your athletes communicate more clearly and concisely, challenge them to eliminate “filler words” from their vocabulary. Filler words are words such as “like”,“you know” or “kind of/sort of”. These words serve no purpose in communication. In fact, they detract from the point you’re trying to make. Ask your athletes to notice a filler word they tend to use and count how many times they use it during a day. Simply by becoming aware, they can begin to eliminate filler words.

Use practice time to help your athletes gain confidence in speaking in front of groups. The team atmosphere is a “safe” environment where athletes can hone their public communication skills, and at the same time, allow others to learn more about them.

Prior to stretching or dynamics at practice, ask your players one question about goals, giving, people that inspire them, areas of focus or the team. Remind them to eliminate filler words and be thoughtful about their answer. Have them jog to increase heart rate and come back with an answer to share with the team.

"Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much."

Hellen Keller

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Assess: ENERGY

In sport and in life, our attitude and the energy we bring are two of the few things we control. The Energy rep is about helping your athletes understand how energy levels affect their desire to attack challenges and giving them the tools to take control.

While many sources can contribute to energy levels, it is most often a reflection of feelings and not human biological deficiencies. Even when they’re not 100%, they can give everything they’ve got and learn something about themselves. There are no excuses for a throwaway day.

Assess ENERGY:

Pause, reflect and rate your current level of energy from dull to sharp.

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Putting ENERGY into Action

  • Reflect: Encourage your athletes to take a moment to check in on their energy level and rate it from one to five. It’s okay to be wherever they are that day. 

  • Identify: Sleep, nutrition, exercise, hydration, relationships, spirituality, finances – all of these are sources of energy. They can fuel us or drain us. After rating their energy levels, ask your athlete to identify the sources that contributed to that rating. For example, maybe they stayed up too late and feel “exhausted”. Or maybe they had a great laugh with their friends and are flying high.

  • Attack: Regardless of how they feel, your athletes must attack the day the best they can. By getting to work, and pushing through with all they’ve got, they (and you) will learn what they’re made of. They may also find that through action, their energy level is lifted.

  • Improve: Once your athletes are aware of their energy and what fuels or drains it, they can begin to make a plan and decisions to improve habits that impact their energy level. 

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ENERGY Exercise: Energy Inventory

Ask your athletes to track their energy levels for seven days in their performance journals. In the morning, have them rate their level from one to five and consider the sources that contributed to it. At the end of the day, encourage them to write a brief statement about how they attacked the day to the best of their ability and what actions they will take to increase their energy moving forward. 

"To uncover your true potential, you must first find your own limits and then you have to have the courage to blow past them."

Picabo Street

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Reflect and Plan

Reflection is powerful. By teaching your athletes to intentionally reflect, they’ll quickly create an “upward spiral” of improvement by focusing on the right things at the right time. 

The final two reps, Build On and Work On, go hand-in-hand. They will help your athletes develop a growth mindset: learning how to think about their performance and believing in their capacity to get better through hard and smart work. 

 

To be effective with Build On / Work On, your athlete’s willingness to be vulnerable is critical. Being vulnerable is a superpower that enables us to see areas where we can grow. As their mentor, you can help them recognize that vulnerability is not a weakness or something to fear, but something to embrace. Until we can be honest with ourselves, we cannot improve. Encourage, recognize and appreciate your athletes' (and your own) vulnerability.

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Reflect: BUILD ON / WORK ON

In Build On / Work On, your athlete will reflect on their previous week. They'll assess the personal victories they accomplished or struggles they faced in the past seven days. By reflecting weekly, athletes use a mental framework to learn from their experiences. They are able to develop specific plans to get more wins and attack future challenges.

As their Coach, you provide important guardrails for the success of these final two Growth Reps. While athletes often find it natural to identify more negatives than positives, true growth is the result of honest, balanced and specific reflections. In the end, they must own their growth but you can serve as a trusted and empathetic mentor.

REFLECT:

  • List your successes and define how you will continue to build on them.

  • List your struggles and define how you will work on those.

  • Adjust goals and priorities accordingly.

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Putting BUILD ON / WORK ON into Action

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BUILD ON / WORK ON Exercise: Reflect to Grow

  • Reflect: Encourage your athletes to take a moment to check in on their energy level and rate it from one to five. It’s okay to be wherever they are that day.

  • Identify: Sleep, nutrition, exercise, hydration, relationships, spirituality, finances - all of these are sources of energy. They can fuel us or drain us. After rating their energy levels, ask your athlete to identify the sources that contributed to that rating. For example, maybe they stayed up too late and feel “exhausted”. Or maybe they had a great laugh with their friends and are flying high. 

  • Attack: Regardless of how they feel, your athletes must attack the day the best they can. By getting to work, and pushing through with all they’ve got, they (and you) will learn what they’re made of. They may also find that through action, their energy level is lifted.

  • Improve: Once your athletes are aware of their energy and what fuels or drains it, they can begin to make a plan and decisions to improve habits that impact their energy level. 

Ask your athletes to reflect on the two questions below and write their answers down in their performance journals. You may choose to discuss this as a team at the start of practice or pull individuals aside to discuss one-on-one.

  • What do you think John Wooden, legendary basketball coach, meant when he said “the quality of the person is measured by what he does when no one's watching”?

  • How does hard work help me understand myself better?

 

Additionally, one simple way to begin using Build On / Work On is to ask your athletes at the end of their next competition or practice, “What’s your one Build On? What’s your one Work On?”.

"We do not learn from our experiences…we learn from reflecting on experiences."

John Dewey

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Amplify The Framework

It’s our hope this guide gave you an understanding of the Growth Mindset Framework for Student-Athletes and some tips on how to apply it with your athletes. 

We recognize that being a mentor and developing meaningful relationships with your athletes is not something that happens overnight. It’s difficult, emotionally taxing, and time consuming work. Yet coaches enthusiastically engage in this struggle because we believe in our ability to positively impact the lives of young people. Sevwins was born out of this belief. 


Based on the Growth Mindset Framework for Student-Athletes, our platform was designed to help coaches build meaningful relationships faster while helping athletes develop the three Power Habits. The mobile-friendly app helps athletes set daily goals, prompts them with questions to assess their mental skills, and guides them through their weekly reflections. All of this data is collected and presented in an organized fashion to the coach, helping them see the mindset and better understand each of their athletes.

ABOUT SEVWINS
Sevwins gives coaches the ability to impact more lives. Athletes boost self-control and awareness to ignite growth. And because coaches see the individual athlete, they mentor better. Now, conversations and relationships are more meaningful.

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