Coaches Corner: Growth Mindset in Esports

Written by Coach Greg

“A growth mindset is belief you can develop abilities.” - Carol Dweck

Three years ago I was advised to read Mindset: The New Psychology of Success for a teaching job that I had at the time. This book sums up decades of research by a Stanford University psychologist named Carol Dweck on what is widely referred to as the “Growth Mindset”. Mindset covers the benefits of a growth mindset across many different aspects of life such as business, relationships, parenting, education, and athletics. In regards to education and athletics coaching in particular, Dweck’s research has changed the way a lot of coaches and educators approach these tasks in very groundbreaking and successful ways. As a recent college graduate with only a couple years of educational experience, reading this book helped me improve immensely in my own personal teaching approach. 

When I first read Mindset, I had no experience coaching esports and was thinking about the book from a strictly “educational” perspective. Early on during the quarantine I revisited this book, and with two years of esports coaching experience it was very eye-opening to see all of the connections that the growth mindset has with competing and striving to improve in esports. One of the coolest things about the psychology behind the growth mindset, in my opinion, is how easily it can be applied to almost any challenge in life!

“I believe ability can get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there… It’s so easy to… begin thinking you can just ‘turn it on’ automatically, without proper preparation. It takes real character to keep working as hard or even harder once you’re there. When you read about an athlete or team that wins over and over and over, remind yourself, ‘More than ability, they have character’” - UCLA Basketball Coach John Wooden

If I have learned anything from my experience as a coach with Connected Camps and NASEF, it is that often the most valuable advice you can give to a team is how to practice deliberately and effectively in order to achieve their in-game goals. I think it is easy for young players to not view developing their skills in esports from the same lens as, for example, practicing a musical instrument or studying for a math test. John Wooden took a very growth-mindset-focused approach with his basketball teams (quite successfully with 10 NCAA titles) and is a large focus of the coaching section of Dweck’s research. Just like when we watch Lebron James or Lionel Messi play, when we watch pro gamers and streamers like Shroud or Lethamyr it is easy to just see the “talent” and not consider the hours and hours of practice and dedication that these athletes are putting in off the competitive stage. A big reason these athletes make it look so effortless is because they are dedicated to a consistent practice and wellness regiment. If I take a couple days off from playing Rocket League, its very likely that I will be rusty and make some mistakes. Personally, in these moments the root cause of a lot of my frustration or tilt is not the mistake itself. It is knowing that my aspirations for my level of Rocket League gameplay did not align with my personal dedication and the amount of time I was practicing. When I am trying to improve in a game and make silly mistakes I will find myself sometimes verbally tilting and saying something like, “why am I so bad?”. It is an easy response to have this kind of negative reaction to a mistake, and that's partly because it is easy to forget how much work is involved (regardless of your inherent ability) in order to “get good”.

“Failure is information-we label it failure, but it’s more like, ‘This didn't work, I’m a problem solver, and I’ll try something else.’” - Carol Dweck

It’s hard to cover all the aspects of Dweck’s research in a short post, but a large part of developing a growth mindset revolves around the way we view failure. Getting frustrated or tilting after failing in a video game is a natural response, but as Dweck’s quote points out it is what we do with these failures that allows us to grow or stagnate in terms of development. If I get destroyed in a 1v1 game of Rocket League I can brush it off as “just a bad game” and jump right into the next one, or I could take a 10 minute break between games and watch my replay to see where I messed up and what mechanics I need to improve. Furthermore, if I notice myself making mistakes during a match, I can get tilted and give up or I can try to stay focused and process my mistake in order to strategize for the remainder of time left in the game! Things like VoD review may feel boring at times, but deliberate and consistent practice activities like these are a great example of some of the “character” that is often overlooked in the process of growing and improving in an esports environment!

About Coach Greg

My name is Greg and I am one of the Esports Coaching Specialists at Connected Camps who works with our team of coaches and some of the Rocket League and Overwatch teams competing in the NASEF tournament! This is my fifth season coaching with Connected Camps and NASEF, and I am super excited I get the chance to coach one of my favorite games to play and watch (Rocket League)! I grew up in Santa Monica, CA and graduated from the University of Michigan in 2016 with a degree in Environmental Science. I have always enjoyed working with kids, and spent two years working as a Senior Educator at the California Science Center teaching science to children of all ages! Around the time I started working at Connected Camps, I moved to Chicago, IL where I currently reside.

Gaming has always been a big part of my life, and I love having the opportunity to combine my passion for education with one of my favorite hobbies! I enjoy playing all sorts of games, but I definitely lean towards FPS games, and recently have been playing a lot of Modern Warfare, Overwatch, Escape from Tarkov, and Rocket League! My love of team-based games especially probably started in high school playing Search and Destroy with friends. More recently, games like Overwatch and Rocket League have really captured my attention as a coach and a player because of the intense amount of teamwork and communication involved to be successful. It has been a really fun experience for me to apply what I know when it comes to education in the esports realm where youth are often already very interested and passionate about these games and improving! This season has already been a ton of fun, and I am really excited to help grow our team of incredible esports coaches!