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The Mindful Swimmer: Applying the Growth Mindset

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

The incremental theory of learning, also known as the growth mindset theory, is the belief that abilities and intelligence develop through dedication and hard work. This perspective fosters a love for learning and creates mental and emotional resilience.

In competitive swimming, the difference between victory and defeat is measured by milliseconds. Perseverance is key. Here are some helpful ways to create a mindset to set your swimmers up for success in the pool.

Setting Goals

Swimmers can set both short-term and long-term goals for themselves. These goals should be challenging but achievable and focus on personal improvement rather than comparison. Swimmers should also understand that reaching these goals will take time and effort.

Continuous Feedback

Give swimmers regular and constructive feedback. Help them understand that making mistakes is part of the process and that they are opportunities for improvement rather than failure. Encourage swimmers to see each race or practice as a chance to learn something new and improve their swimming.

Focus on Effort, Not Just Outcome

Emphasize that consistent effort and practice are what lead to improvement. Praise the hard work and dedication that leads to progress, not just winning races or beating personal records. Motivation can help swimmers develop resilience and a love for the process of learning, not just the result.

Skill Improvement

Develop training that is progressive and slowly increasing in difficulty. Start with basic techniques and gradually make them more complex as swimmers' abilities develop. Technique work can help swimmers see their progress and understand that their skills can improve over time with practice.

Embracing Challenges

Encourage swimmers to welcome challenges, like trying a new stroke technique or attempting a set with more difficult intervals. Motivational coaching can help them see challenges as opportunities for growth rather than obstacles.

Mindset Coaching

Incorporate mindset coaching into training. Discuss the concepts of the growth mindset and incremental learning with swimmers. Help them understand that abilities can develop through hard work and dedication.


Encourage swimmers to reflect on their performances, identifying what went well and what they could improve on. Self-reflection promotes a growth mindset as they understand they can always learn from their experiences.

Prioritize Rest and Mental Health

Swimmers must understand that physical and mental rest is a part of the growth process. They should care for their mental health and understand its impact on performance.

By incorporating these practices into swimming, we can create an environment that drives improved performance and encourages athletes to develop a lifelong love for learning and personal growth.


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