"Yes, winning is important...but it's not everything. Players must know when to focus on learning and development versus winning. The winning-is-everything mindset can prevent players from entering into the learning and discovery stage. One attempts to minimize mistakes. The other embraces mistakes as an inevitable part of the growth process."
Everyone knows that endless practice is a huge part of a player reaching their potential. Coaches and trainers provide players with tons of drills/strategies/etc. to improve their skills. I would assume that the majority of coaches are pretty strong and confident in their abilities to develop players with the technical aspects of skill development (e.g. specific shooting, dribbling, conditioning drills).
But there is a part of the skill development equation that has a huge impact on the players results, yet it is often neglected or misunderstood. This key component is a learning climate.
The learning climate created by the coach or trainer may have just as much of an impact - sometimes more of an impact - than the actual drills and techniques used to enhance the skills of each player.
To help you better understand the main differences in climate, we will divide them into a performance climate and a mastery climate. A performance climate is one in which the coach/trainer determines success only by results. Conversely, a mastery climate, is one in which the coach/trainer creates an environment that entices players to constantly stretch beyond their comfort zone with the ultimate objective of learning and development. In a mastery climate, players are praised for their effort and willingness to embrace challenges. Mistakes are considered part of learning process.
The positive impact of a mastery climate in classrooms has been well documented. World-renowned Stanford professor, Carol Dweck, is a popular advocate of the mastery climate (check out her amazing book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success for a detailed look into mastery approaches). But less has been known regarding its impact in a sports setting, specifically basketball. Therefore, researchers created a study to explore the potential impact of a mastery climate in a high school basketball setting.
One hundred and five boys high school basketball players volunteered to participate in the study. The researchers wanted to examine the relationship that the type of climate (mastery or performance) would have upon the intrinsic motivation and attitude about success. Results revealed that the players that perceived their team to be mastery-oriented reported higher levels of enjoyment and the belief that effort leads to achievement. Players that perceived their team as performance-oriented were associated with greater tension and the belief that one's ability is the greatest determinant of success. This view towards success, created by the performance climate, has serious implications for the development of athletes. For instance, players that view success as the result of one's natural ability (i.e. talent) are less likely to put forth their best effort in competitive situations. Since they are being praised based upon results, a performance climate typically demotivates players when facing players with superior talent. (see reference below)
A performance climate may be effective and appropriate in certain situations, but it is NOT the most effective climate when the objective is learning and development. Unfortunately, many athletes are subjected to environments where winning is everything. Winning is important, but we must understand the impact that the winning-is-everything mindset has upon athletes. When players are so focused on winning, they are encouraged and rewarded for minimizing mistakes while maximizing their strengths. This strategy is great for winning, but it's counterproductive to learning and development, which requires players to move beyond their comfort zone and into a learning/discovery zone that is unpredictable.
Players and coaches should be aware of the type of climate they typically operate within. Having the awareness of the climate (and the way in which the players perceive the climate) will allow us to create environments that can promote learning, development, and enjoyment among the players. And ultimately, maximize the potential of the players and the team.
Seifriz, J.J., Duda, J.L., & Chi, L. (1992). The Relationship of Perceived Motivational Climate
to Intrinsic Motivation and Beliefs About Success in Basketball. The Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 14, 375-391.