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  • Jack Fleming

The Goldmine Effect Part 3: Secrets of Youth Talent Development

Secret 3: Genetics & Talent Might Get You in the Door, but Mindset Keeps You Improving

Why frame it as either talent or practice?

  • If you don't have any talent or fit the gene pool, there's no getting in the door.

  • Once you're in the door, the great separator is practice.

  • The more complex the task, the more separation there is as they practice.

"A successful mindset equals viewing your victories as a beginning not a conclusion."

We all know the beastly 12 year old, who drifted off into the abyss by the time they were 18 or maybe even sooner. What happened to them?

Possible Plateau Reasons

  1. They (parents, coaches, athlete) started to believe in their own hype, then everybody caught up.

  2. They relied on their maturity, because they didn't have to improve their ability, then everybody caught up. They slipped into auto-pilot because it's all they knew.

  3. Their was a short term view on development.

  4. Their was a fixed mindset towards improvement.

In no way am I placing blame towards a 12 year old child, or their parents, or their coaches for that matter. However the system placing high value on results, along with the combination of the interactions between these 3 parties creates a self-fulfilling prophecy towards microwave success in the near future.

As the coach, especially at a young age we have an influential impact on whether an athletes attitude towards the game is directed towards growth or they believe it is already fixed.

Suggestions for Improving Young Athlete's Mindset

1. Don't Be Obsessed with Having Performance Goals

  • Don't get me wrong, I think having an aim is important.

  • But what if your team doesn't have enough talent to win? Will that make the season a failure?

James Clear writes about in Atomic Habits, the three layers of goals or habits:

  1. The first layer is the outcomes - we want everybody to return to sport the following year, we want to make the finals, we want to win the gold medal.

  2. The second layer is the processes - the systems that drive change. We will arrive to practice 10 minutes early, we will dedicate 20% of practice to defence.

  3. The third layer is the most powerful, the identity based habits - these uphold your beliefs about what your group believes to be true about your team. These are also often tied to values. We are the fittest team in the league, we pride ourselves on respect.

Our identity based goals or habits are about who we want to become, and that is so powerful.

Example - U14 Diamond Valley Eagles 2020

  1. Identity - Work Ethic, Friendship & Teamwork. We call these our values.

  2. Process - Commit 100% to the choices we make, Use the Rule of 3, Communicate Effectively. We call these our non-negotiable behaviours, they are a micro-cosm of our values and a focus in every practice.

  3. Outcomes - Make the Classic, make the finals. The group mentioned these as goals on day 1, they were never mentioned again.

If anything we have shifted our outcome to a pursuit of excellence - "Doing the best we can, with what we have, in the present moment."

2. Praise Resilience, Effort & Resolve - Not Results

  • "Great job Johnny" every time the shot goes in doesn't tie anything to the process or the intent of how he got there.

  • Maybe he threw it over his head and it was luck that it went in, do you want that to be repeated?

Tip: Reward the decision, discuss the execution.


  1. "The difference between a good shot and a bad shot is whether it went in or not."

  2. "Sometimes you just have to take the win and get outta there."

Use Affirmations Over Praise Where Time Allows

  • More appropriate on the bench, or after practice, or when the player is out of the drill.

  • Affirmations are observations of what's there for the athlete to take ownership of.

  • Praise is an external judgement.

Praise - "Well done, you used the gaps in their defence really well today. Keep up the good work."

Affirmation - "You somehow saw the gaps in the defence today."

  • It's an invitation to talk more.

  • Helps the athletes to encourage themselves

We want the athlete to be less reliant on the coaches judgement.

The Beckham Effect - Excerpt from Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed

David Beckham is one of England's finest footballers ever. He has scored from an astonishing 65 free kicks in his career, when you consider such a low scoring game and the difficulty of these kicks it is incredible.

"When people talk about my free kicks they focus on the goals, but when I think about those free kicks I think about all those failures. It took tonnes of misses before I got it right."

When Beckham was 6 year old he would practice in his back yard doing keep-me-ups, and he was pretty average only getting 4 or 5 in a row. In 6 months after hours in the backyard he got that to 50. By 9 years old, it was 2,003 keep-me-ups in a row.

Then he moved onto free kicks. His Dad would stand between him and the target, so he would have to bend the ball around him. His father Ted said "after a couple of years, people would just stop and stare. He must have taken more than 50,000 free kicks in that park. He had an incredible appetite."

As the coach we can have a profound impact on an athletes mindset that can shape their attitudes for the rest of their lives, by just thinking about how we look at success and failure.

If you've got any advice for me - please let me know!

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