DNA of Adventure Series:
Growth Mindset

(This is the first blog post of the series.)

By Todd Poquette, Director of Adventure

Those of us involved with the Adventure Team often talk about an “adventure mindset.” After reading Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, I discovered this concept is what Dweck calls a “growth mindset.” And it’s a primary goal of the team as we invite kids and coaches to explore and grow with us.

According to Dweck, “People with a growth mindset believe talent and intelligence aren’t gifts. You need to work for them, and with the right strategy and enough effort they can get better at anything.” These people welcome challenges, focus on effort, and create new strategies to improve. They don’t worry about looking stupid but focus instead on what can be learned and applied. Courage and confidence allows them to overcome current and future challenges.

On the contrary, people with a “fixed mindset” believe everyone has a set amount of intelligence or natural ability. If they begin to struggle or make mistakes, they think they must not be that smart or talented – and no amount of effort will help them improve. The result? Avoidance of failure.

Individuals with a fixed mindset have often been praised for “being smart” or “being talented,” leading them to see themselves as special or gifted. But as they get older, face tougher competition in school, make mistakes on tests, and encounter challenging situations, they will begin to avoid anything they might look bad at. It becomes harder to determine how smart and talented a person is if they stop trying and act like they don’t care, so a person with a fixed mindset might take this path.

With the Adventure Team, we encourage and nurture a growth mindset.

DNA of Adventure Series 

In the weeks ahead, we’ll be sharing a blog series called The DNA of Adventure. Written to address frequently asked questions and explore the term “adventure team,” the series will include topics such as:

  • What’s an adventure team?
  • Adventure vs. competition: What’s the deal?
  • Will my kids have to race?
  • What does an adventure team do?
  • The self-supported ethos

Have a question for us? Email todd@906adventureteam.com and maybe we’ll add it to the series.

Growing through Risk

I’m going to be honest with you: Mountain biking is inherently dangerous. Riding a bike requires a certain assumption of risk. This is a good thing. Kids need to experience risk and the sensation of fear, and they need to develop strategies to overcome them. We give kids the space they need to build confidence and tackle new challenges. Some kids will take new challenges head on while others take a little more time. It’s OK. We have time. Doing it in that exact moment is unimportant. Try it on the next ride or the ride after that. I guarantee at some point they’re going to do it. When the emphasis shifts from head-to-head competition and kids can be kids, they have an incredible tendency to support and motivate each other.

Redefining a Win

We have a responsibility as role models (to kids) to consider the unspoken lessons a child learns when we create unnecessary urgency around their ability to perform or not perform a particular task at a specific point in time. Actions, mannerisms, and words in those subtle moments fill their sails with wind and send them down a mindset path. Remember, many  athletic models are designed to reward talent and skill with starting roles and minutes played. Adventure Bike Club emphasizes effort, development, and the journey. Our idea of a win is watching kids go from “I can’t do that” to “Holy cow, coach. I did it!”


Rethinking the End Goal

It’s important for a process to support the desired result. Most sports are played with a specific set of skill positions, a limited number of players on a team, and playing time awarded for skill and ability. I think it’s important to look at this objectively and realize the intent of most sports is, in fact, to win a specific game or series of games. The odds of winning those games will increase exponentially the more you play the most talented kids. That process supports the desired result of winning, and for a select group of kids and families it’s acceptable.

Perhaps unintentionally we start to label kids as best, better, good, or not good enough. Some kids are born with natural coordination, athletic ability, and competitive acuity. That’s not to say if offered the same opportunities more kids wouldn’t develop, or even overtake the “more naturally talented kids,” through work ethic, consistency, and commitment. But the focus to win now means those kids often do not get a chance. NOTE: I do want to commend the many great traditional sport coaches out there who are overcoming these pitfalls. In pointing out these pitfalls, we don’t intend to indict a person, group of people, or even a sport.

Empowering a New Mindset

Our process is simple and the desired result is clear: Empower kids to discover their best selves by learning respect, effort, consistency, and grit. Kids are grouped by age and relative proficiency on a bicycle, and we don’t label them good, better, or best. Everyone is required to ride their bike and give their best effort. No one is sitting on a bench. When opportunity is equal and failure is encouraged, we promote a growth mindset. We do it by providing a support system without coddling and by actively promoting representation – working to ensure men and women are equally represented and working together respectfully in our coaching staff and at the youth level.

Ride on.