Can your child pitch a 70mph fastball? Or serve a tennis ball like a young Serena Williams? Have they worked hard to become the best scorer on their AAA hockey team, but their school work is often done with little attention and at the last minute?

Did you know that an athletic mindset can be applied to academics as well? The same thought processes and skills that make your child brilliant at athletics can work for them in school too!

Many GT kids are talented when it comes to academics, but they may not be interested in their schoolwork (as it’s easy or boring), or they may not have developed proper study and time management habits, as they haven’t felt the need to!

Gt.school is designed to empower GT kids by teaching them that mindset is the key to motivation and success. At gt.school we teach what we call an “athletic mindset” approach to academics.

Many experts believe that mindset distinguishes the best athletes from those that have talent but don’t become the top in their field. Athletes that believe that they can get better through practice, exhibit mental toughness, and visualize themselves succeeding at their goals often outperform other athletes (Dweck, 2014, Richardson, 1967, Duckworth et al, 2007).

We can apply that “athletic” mindset to academics as well, to help students learn study skills, practice what they learn daily, set ambitious goals, and achieve more!

An athletic mindset is composed of essential life skills

At gt.school we believe that an athletic mindset arises from the mastery of core life skills, all of which are necessary to develop in order to cultivate the proper mindset. Life skills are abilities that help people succeed in all areas of life. Unlike knowledge of facts, which comprises so much of conventional education, life skills can be applied to an infinite number of situations.

At gt school, the life skills we teach that help develop an athletic mindset are:

  • Taking Ownership

Great athletes own their success. They are passionate about their sport and internally motivated to improve their performance. They take personal responsibility for what they want to achieve.

Similarly, gt.school helps students dig deep to identify areas they are truly passionate or excited to learn about so that they begin to take ownership of their goals and learning path.

  • Ambitious Goals

Research shows that goal-setting is effective for achievement, whether in sports, work, or academics (Locke & Latham, 1991). On top of that, difficult goals actually work better than easy or “try your best” goals (Locke et al., 1981)!

Olympic athletes are master goal-setters. Champion swimmer Michael Phelps sets goals for the beginning, middle and end of his season. His coach Bob Bowman says “he may be the most goal-oriented person on the planet”. As a child, Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas wrote her goals down on a vision board.

At gt.school, we are strong believers in the transformative power of big goals, and we teach students at gt.school our framework for evaluating and stretching goals to the point of inspiration and excitement.

  • Learning to Learn

Learning to learn means realizing that learning and developing your skills is a dynamic process that never ends, and each person is responsible for their own learning and growth. It also means realizing that you can improve your skills!

Athletes who know how to learn and have the right attitude towards learning are constantly focused on improving and developing further. They believe their abilities can improve and are moldable, rather than believing that their talents are static or innate. This is called a growth mindset and as psychologist Carol Dweck discovered, it makes a huge difference in how people perform in sports and academics over the long term (Dweck, 1999; Dweck, Walton, and Cohen, 2014).

At gt.school, we teach students that their abilities are not fixed and their motivation to learn and grow can be one of their greatest assets.

Figure 1

“Understanding the Growth Mindset” by Jonathan Lu, Published May 18, 2017, retrieved 23 March, 2022. https://sites.dartmouth.edu/learning/2017/05/18/understanding-the-growth-mindset/

  • Mastery Mindset

This life skill emphasizes mastering basics before moving on to subsequent skills or steps. In sports, athletes always learn the most basic skills before proceeding to more complex skills. Not only that, but they ensure that they master those skills before attempting something more difficult. Can you imagine asking a young gymnast to do a triple back handspring before they have learned how to cartwheel?

At gt.school, we believe the same approach should apply to academics- students should learn and master more basic concepts (for example addition) before moving on to more difficult concepts (algebra). This ensures that they always have a solid foundation on which to build their learning.

  • Daily Practice

One of the most recognizable things that elite athletes do is practice. Every. Single. Day. Rain or shine, they are committed.

Sam Snead, one of the best golf players who ever lived, once told Golf Digest, “People always said I had a natural swing. They thought I wasn’t a hard worker. But when I was young, I’d play and practice all day, then practice more at night by my car’s headlights. My hands bled. Nobody worked harder at golf than I did.

Elite athletes also practice deliberately, with specific goals for improvement. Deliberate practice is highly structured. Specific tasks are invented to overcome weaknesses, and performance is carefully monitored to provide cues for ways to improve it further. Deliberate practice requires effort and is not inherently enjoyable, however athletes are motivated to do deliberate practice because it improves performance (Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch-Romer, 1993).

Basketball star Kobe Bryant used to have a very clear goal for practices: 800 made jump shots. He was deliberately focused on developing the skill of making baskets, rather than the amount of time he spent practicing- the time he spent doing it was irrelevant.

Figure 2

Characteristics of deliberate practice (Ericsson et al., 1993) and deliberate play (Côté et al., 2007) in sports.

Students also need to be committed to their learning, and that means studying or practicing daily. At gt.school we teach students how to develop healthy study and time management habits. We teach them to think about the quantity, quality, and consistency of their studying or work efforts.

When GT kids develop good study and time management habits, their performance can soar!

Coaching promotes the development of life skills

At gt.school, academics and life skills instruction are combined with one-on-one coaching from top-performing athletes and athletic coaches. Our coaches have overcome obstacles and reached high goals through motivation, deliberate practice, and a growth mindset. They also know how to motivate and support students in their development of these life skills.

Why do we coach? The science behind coaching

Research shows that athletic coaching imparts psychological benefits for athletes who are coached. A good coaching relationship helps athletes increase their confidence and self-esteem (Chen, 2014), improve their mental preparation and goal-setting (Ullah et al., 2020), heighten their enjoyment of sport (Belleza, 2021), and increase their autonomy by encouraging self-monitoring and performance reflection (Coatsworth and Conroy, 2009, Goffena and Horn, 2020).

Cote et al (2010) describe the psychological benefits of expert coaching as a “4 C’s framework”: competence, confidence, connectedness, and character/caring. Competence is an individual’s perceptions of his or her abilities in specific domains. Confidence is the degree of certainty an individual possesses about his or her ability to succeed. “Connection” is the positive interpersonal relationships originating from the need to belong and feel cared for. Finally, character/caring refers to an individual’s moral development and sportspersonship (Falcão, Bloom & Gilbert, 2012).

Applying coaching benefits to academics

Is there any way students can benefit from all these extraordinary coaching impacts?

Absolutely! The psychological benefits that athletic coaching provides can be applied to academics as well. Coaching essentially helps to develop life skills in athletes, and life skills are transferable to many different domains.

The self-confidence boost that students can receive from coaching helps them to take ownership of their learning and develop a growth mindset. The improved mental preparation and goal-setting helps them to set ambitious goals. The increase in autonomy ensures that they learn to take ownership of their learning and develop effective daily study habits.

The life skills that coaching develops then drive increased academic achievement!

Integrating academics, life skills and coaching

gt.school integrates life skills and coaching to help students improve their mindset and motivation.

Our initial skills challenge teaches students Taking Ownership, Ambitious Goals, Learning to Learn, a Mastery Mindset, and Daily Practice.

Weekly one-on-one coaching with successful athletes then supports students to develop these life skills.

We believe an “athletic mindset” is key to motivation and success, and, ultimately, to unlocking GT kids’ potential!