| | Power Coach: Mindset

Author / John

Power Athlete Radio didn’t become the premier podcast in strength and conditioning (ing-ing-ing…) because of @Luke’s imperious ownership of the airwaves, @John’s life experience, or my face for radio. It’s the mindset we bring right before Luke clicks “Record”: drive harmonious conversation and empty our cups.What originally developed organically finally got a label when Jim Davis introduced Dr. Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset. Just like when you purchase your new, old truck and begin to see others like them all over the road, Dweck’s research suddenly popped-up in conversations with Logan Gelbrich, Melissa Schilling, Adam Hansen, and peaked when Luke and I interviewed Dr. Cara Miller.

Fixed on a Growth Mindset

Mindsets are self beliefs regarding basic qualities like intelligence, skills, and personality (1). Like Bedrock, this simple concept can unleash powerful growth if leveraged correctly. We’ll discuss why later, but first, the basics. Dweck introduces two categories:


People with a fixed mindset believe their qualities are set in stone, which creates the urgency to repeatedly prove themselves – in the classroom, career, or relationship – with what only they already have. They believe talent alone creates success, without effort (1). These individuals view situations as opportunities to confirm, not develop, intelligence, personality, or character.


People with a growth mindset believe their basic qualities can be cultivated and developed through hard work and effort (1). Dweck nails the difference using the poker analogy. Growth minded individuals see the hand they’re dealt (qualities) as their starting point, while Fixed-growth-ers focus their energies towards convincing others (and themselves) their dead man’s hand is really a royal flush.

After our discussion (read: “forced” introspection) with Cara, I dove into Dweck’s research, applying it to my coaching journey. More times I care to admit, I was constrained by a fixed mindset. While I’ll never know what applying a fixed approach cost me professionally, I know very well its emotional and developmental toll.

This article will dive into three such situations so you don’t make the same mistakes during your coaching journey.

Weight in the Hand is Worth Two in The Rack

My first year in the college strength game was unique in that I literally walked in to a paid assistant coaching position. By year end, I selfishly wanted to prove my worth by leading a team so I applied to DI lacrosse schools with open strength positions.

During that process, I focused more on keeping up with Strength Scoop or prodding colleagues to contact schools on my applications list rather than assisting training sessions. I wasn’t present in the moment.

Mindset Direction

Most of my focus was on the X’s and O’s of strength. It took a lot of rejection (and reflection) to realize this was only a piece of the puzzle. Establishing a base level of knowledge and coaching skill is essential, but developing relationships among your peers and valuing your current position is more critical for long-term success. My growth was limited when I was assisting teams because I fixated on finding another position rather than going all-in at my current job!

As extremely tempting it is to be targeting your next big goal, focus on growing with the people that give you the most opportunity to learn, in that moment, and lean in, not only getting to know them as a coach, but also a potential job refer… PERSON!  I meant, get to know them as a person!

Turf Isn’t Always Greener

I received only one call for a new coaching position. This school’s assistant coach said I was, “impressive, but didn’t know anyone…” The fire of proving myself fueled by dejection, I switched from full-time to internship applications. More readily available, I secured two summer internship opportunities: 1) a DI school with a first year lax program and a small, established staff, which meant the opportunity to coach, and 2) a football intern position at a Power 5 school with a full staff, which meant limited opportunity to coach.

Still fixated on “not knowing anyone”, I opted for the Power 5, aiming to validate my coaching from the highest position in the industry.

Mindset Direction

While choosing football opened my world to world class athletes and coaches with whom I still connect and learn from to this day, there’s no denying the decision was made with a fixed mindset. Per Adam Hansen’s Outsmart Your Instincts, following our heart may actually be a combination of cognitive biases, access to information, past experiences, and personal relevances. To re-highlight his quote, “Go where you increase the likelihood of being truly remarkable – or even better, indispensable.

Don’t focus on playing polo-shirt game, and do not settle into your circle. Connect with as many different types of coaches as possible – widen your circle, not your resume. Look for more challenges like assisting with S&C research, hitting coach clinics, or if traveling, email a college coach for a drop in workout. When faced with a career decision, slow-play it and remember why you are there. Respect the moment, but don’t forget why you’re there. Be a Power Coach open to all ideas. When opportunities come to you, “who you know” will naturally take care of itself.

Trust The Process

Throughout this separation stage of my coaching journey, I spent weekends walking the earth with some supernatural aides in John, Luke, and Ben teaching CrossFit Football courses. While this appears as all fun and drinking games on Instagram, I assure you there was an intense, steep learning curve to sprint up.

To say the CFFB course was dense is a gross undersell. Any previous attendee will liken the ingestion of its content to drinking water from a firehose. One of the many challenges was developing the ability to present science class info with a birthday party delivery. At first, I struggled, often spending the flight home kicking myself for misspeaking or missing powerful points in a breakout.

The Crew’s high standards were maintained via feedback shared immediately following each course. Fortunately, I still had my Gtown athletes during the week and could apply the feedback multiple times before the next call up from John. Like any new skill, I needed reps, so I take ‘em whenever, wherever I get ‘em.

Mindset Direction

Frustration is a sign of progress – a signal the mind is processing complexity and requires more time and practice. It can also crowd your mind, sapping your ability to see the forest for the trees. Even after a year with the Crew, Luke dropped the hammer on me during a course in Ireland for missing the connection between our [video_lightbox_vimeo5 video_id=”157492989″ width=”960″ height=”540″ anchor=”Side Pillar Hip Drop Starfish”] and change of direction. I had taught the movement over a hundred times and was so bogged down by details, I couldn’t see the larger picture.

That long flight home from Ireland, I genuinely could not believe I missed the connection between that one warm up movement and COD. BUT, instead of drowning my sorrows in a flood of questionable script-writing known as Fast 6, I used the energy to map out every connection I could.

Finding your voice, learning to communicate, or comprehending information can be frustrating, but trust the process. Look at your expectations of your athletes. How would you guide them through practicing a skill? Apply one side of Raph al Ghul’s coin, “Be the athlete you want to coach.” This growth mindset will facilitate the learning process until things fall into place.

Empower Your Performance: be the coach you want coaching you

“The mind of man is capable of anything – because everything is in it, all the past as well as the future.”- Joseph Conrad

I could wrap this article up with a positive appeal for a growth mindset, but instead, I challenge you to take the same introspection Cara Miller thrust upon Luke and me in Episode 248.

Find a moment you were dealt a bad hand. How did you choose to react? Were you a victim, did you write off the other person, label an athlete, take criticism as an attack? If so, how did it play out long term? Are you still working with that athlete? Most likely not.

A fixed mindset gains nothing and risks everything. Instead, try the flipside of Ruiz’s coin, “Be the coach you want coaching you.”  by adopting a growth mindset.


  1. Dweck, Carol S.. Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success. New York : Ballantine Books, 2008. Print.
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John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.

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