October 11, 2015 in Mental Game

Growth Mindset

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“Growth Mindset” in Goaltending
By Nate Speidel M.Ed. Goalrobber Hockey Schools. All Rights Reserved.

Mental strength
is the most crucial attribute of elite goaltenders – the spotlight often finds them, games depend upon their performance, and media stands poised to capture brilliant moments only a goalie can provide. There’s just something awe-inspiring about a goalie and his task. Unrealized by many, however, are the innumerable hours of hard work backing the highlight reel. The position takes consistent courage, discipline, and laser-sharp focus. Success in goaltending calls for a remarkably dedicated and resilient breed of athlete – because imperfection is inevitable.

Yet according to spectators – and, by association, many goaltenders – the success or failure in our position is easily measured: If a goalie makes the save, he has succeeded. If the opponent scores a goal, he has failed. Such a mentality carries over into practice and produces a kind of “short-term” developmental mindset. As a result, goalies can easily overestimate the value in the immediate rather than remaining “big picture” and whole-person oriented. A patient, long-term approach to development, however, requires a belief in one’s very potential to grow. Enter growth mindset.

“Growth mindset” is a term coined by Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University and an idea to which I was first exposed in graduate school. Dweck defines “Growth Mindset” as a belief that one’s most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work – talent is just the starting point, and value in the learning process supersedes the outcome. Her extensive research shows that such a view creates a love of learning and a resilience essential for great accomplishment.

This ideas is intuitive to most great teachers and coaches. Though to many, it’s not. Either way, putting such theory into practice takes intentionality on both the instructor and the goaltender’s parts. Namely, coaches ought to focus and reward only qualities goaltenders can controleffort, perseverance, character, revision, risk-taking, and creativity. These, in truth, are the attributes underlying all great and time-tested goaltenders and their achievements. As a result, both what we ask of our goalies and the way in which we give them feedback makes all the difference. The message should be “take care of the process and of the controllable, and the rest will follow in time.”

As a response to this newfound understanding, Goalrobber Hockey Schools has compiled a set of “Principles for the Elite Goaltender.” The list is not exhaustive, but we hope it helps to empower and  instill a growth mindset in our coaches and students. These ideas encourage goalies to focus upon aspects they can control. And we, as their coaches and mentors, ought to do our best to acknowledge when they do. In turn, goaltenders will likely feel intrinsically motivated and learn to be self-starters, better goalies, and overall better people:

1.) “We expect great things to happen to us and those around us”

This principle lays the foundation for the long-term developmental model. If embraced well, goaltenders, even in difficult seasons, can know that becoming effective at the position takes time. If we continue to be process-oriented, good things will follow. In addition, positive visualization and mental repetition better ensure our successful execution of desirable technique and tactic.

2.) “Anything worth wanting is worth working HARD for”

Work ethic has one of the most direct associations with growth mindset. The aforementioned statement establishes that hard work is the prerequisite for achievement. Laying this type of foundation chases out erroneous believes that athletes can simply ride on the coattails of their talent. Goalies should expect and warmly invite challenges, meet them head on with hard work, and eventually the effort will pay off. This process is the bread and butter of long-term success as an elite goaltender.

3.) “Our value is determined by how much more we give in service than we receive in payment”   (“Go Giver” by Bob Burg & John David Mann)

“Value” may not be an expected topic in the world of elite athletics. However, we’ve come to believe that this idea may be one of the greatest truths coaches can teach. If our value is determined by how much more we give than we receive as an athlete, we are forced to find ways to contribute to team, coaches, and position. Service can come in many forms. Yet, it always necessitates effort, and some sort of development ensues. These are the types of people who are “coaches’ players” and who will be successful both on the ice and in life.

4.) “We are life-long students of the game”

Learning life-long promotes a sense of curiosity and vibrancy that permeates all areas of living and athletics. As coaches, we would do well to encourage a culture of continual learning, growth, and development – not only for our goalies but for ourselves. The position is ever-evolving and infinitely deep. Humility and studentship is an appropriate response. And modeling these qualities is contagious to our athletes. Goaltenders respect mentors who learn alongside them. Athletes and coaches alike must be students of the game in order to remain relevant and effective in the position.


We at Goalrobber invite you to join in believing these principles to be true and to live, acknowledge, and promote a growth mindset in our athletes. The key to fostering optimal development is focusing on that which the goaltender can control and to embrace the learning process even more than the outcome – to cultivate a “growth mindset.” Learn more about growth mindset by visiting http://mindsetonline.com/whatisit/about/ or reading“Mindset” by Dr. Carol Dweck. To find out more about Goalrobber Hockey Schools and our “Goalie Love” project, follow us @goalrobber.hockey, #goalielove. Thanks for reading and for spreading the love!



Burg, Bob, and John David Mann. The Go-Giver: A Little Story about a Powerful Business Idea. NY, NY: Portfolio, 2007. Print.

Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006. Print.

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