One the roles of a youth sport coach is to create an atmosphere where kids are comfortable to move beyond their comfort zone and discover their potential. To do so, it is imperative that organization leaders and coaches clearly communicate their expectations at the start of the season. Without development objectives that are age appropriate, players and volunteer coaches are more likely to fall victim to ego-centric goals. Ego-centric goals determine success by judging ourselves based upon social comparison (i.e. win-loss record, individual statistics, and comparing ourselves with teammates or against our competition). Researchers have labeled ego-centric goals numerous ways, including performance goals (Dweck, 1986) and ability goals (Ames, 1992). Evidence suggests these type of goals can be detrimental to the development of youth athletes. One of the primary issues with ego-centric goals is that they are dependent on many factors that are beyond an individual’s locus of control. A better option for youth athletes is to adopt goals that are mastery-oriented. Mastery-oriented goals determine success by the amount of effort an individual dedicates towards the learning and development of a skill or goal. Researchers have labeled these types of goals as mastery goals (Ames, 1992), learning goals (Dweck, 1986), and task-oriented goals (Nicholls, 1984). Creating a motivational climate that is mastery-based has been proven to enhance skill development and the individual’s sense of control.
Theeboom, De Nop and Weiss (1995) studied the effectiveness of a performance versus mastery teaching program in a youth sport setting for children attending a summer sports camp (which included baseball, basketball, soccer, swimming, wrestling, martial arts, and track & field). The purpose of the study was to examine the children’s enjoyment, perceived competence, intrinsic motivation, and motor skill development. Children between the ages of eight and twelve were split into mastery or traditional (i.e. performance) teaching groups. Results indicated that children in the mastery group reported significantly higher levels of enjoyment and exhibited higher levels of motor skills than the performance group. In addition, in-depth interviews revealed that participants in the mastery group reported higher levels of perceived competence and intrinsic motivation. Results from this study suggest that the ability for coaches and youth leaders to create a mastery climate would improve the overall experience and skill development of youth players.
So how can you help players on your team create mastery goals?