There are two ways to win and feel successful in sports. The way we typically think of winning, Scoreboard Winning, means that we have outscored our opponent. The other way to win and feel successful is to take a Mastery Approach. This type of winner focuses on effort, learning, and recovering from mistakes. Being a mastery winner is more important, more satisfying and should be the end goal. Positive Coaching Alliance uses an acronym, ELM (Effort, Learning, Mistakes are OK), to keep coaches, athletes and parents mindful of a Mastery focus.
Effort is an important measurement for success because it measures what you can control, instead of focusing on what’s out of your hands. If an athlete or team is giving their best effort at practices and games, then they are working toward mastering their sport and that is a win. A team that loses on the scoreboard with maximum effort can still take pride, while a team that wins on the scoreboard but didn’t try hard might not feel as satisfied.
Coaches should emphasize learning as a core goal during practices and games. Players who learn new skills and talents are en route to mastering their sports. Winning on the scoreboard can be a byproduct of players learning and improving.
Finally, assuring players that mistakes are OK will free them to pursue more learning and improvement. Athletes who are afraid to mess up will never feel comfortable trying something new or adjusting to changes as they occur in sport. To help players recover from these mistakes, coaches can also develop a mistake ritual to help them move forward and focus on the most important play – the next play.
To help relay this information, use this sample script for teaching the ELM Tree of Mastery to your athletes.