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While at swim meet this weekend I attended a talk given by the performance director of swim scotland on defining what exactly is talent and a new view on why junior high flyers frequently do not become senior high flyers. One of the problems they have identified is that in the past they have concentrated on identifying talent based on a swimmer's personal best times (pb: think chess grading) and wasted a lot of resources on a group that always experienced high drop out rates.

There are some obvious reasons why one swimmer appears better than another within a particular age group e.g. when born - rank any bunch of swimmers with the same birth year and you will find the vast majority of the top 10 or 20 will be born in the first quarter. No doubt something similar will apply in chess.

The main factor they focused on in this talk was mindset and because they believe it is such a significant factor it is now part of the selection criteria for the national squads.

In essence they have identified two main mindsets - 'fixed' and 'growth' which all swimmers (indeed the academic work behind it is not sports based and so applies to all of us in most activities) have a mixture of. See page 4 of the following pdf
In summary the 'fixed' mindset basically has at its core the belief that your success is essentially largely due to natural talent, whereas a 'growth' mindset emphasis that success comes from hard work. Those with a growth mindset tend to seek new challenges, are not put off with having to work hard to learn new skills and take ownership of their own success. They tend to be less put off by set backs. Those that have the fixed mindset tend to shy away from doing things that they think may show that they are not talented. If you believe that your talent is innate it is much harder to justify the work to progress beyond whatever level your 'natural talent' gets you to.

As consequence, the growth mindset is to be taught/encouraged in swimming training. One study showed that simply the language used to praise success has a significant impact: those praised in a growth mindset manner ("you've worked hard for that ...") progressed faster than those that had fixed mindset praise ("You are talented").


I think that different kinds of mindset are used in different kinds of sports.

In the case of Swimming to Chess I'd suggest there is little transfer of skills allthough transfer of skill will take place. It's how to get positive transfer which can help chess players become stronger players i.e.


Transfer of Skills

Positive Transfer

This usually occurs when the two skills in question are similar in some way. Having already mastered one of the skills, makes learning the second skill easier. Coaches can aid this positive transfer by making sure the individual understands the similarities between the two skills and by making sure that the basics of the first skill are well learnt so that they transfer more easily into the second skill.

Negative Transfer

This occurs when having learnt one skill, makes learning the second skill more difficult. This more often happens when a stimulus common to both skills requires a different response. For example, a squash player who takes up tennis may find it difficult to learn to not use their wrist during shots. Negative transfer can be avoided by making sure the athlete is aware of the differences and making practice sessions similar to match situations to ensure a larger, generalised motor programme.

Transfer of skills can work both ways, in that a skill currently being learnt may affect a skill previously learnt, or a skill learnt in the past may affect a skill currently being learnt:

Proactive Transfer

A skill learnt in the past affects a skill currently being learnt or to be learnt in the future

Retroactive Transfer

Learning a new skill affects a previously learned skill.

Stimulus Generalisation

The transfer of previously learned skills to a new situation can sometimes be generalised rather than specific to the situation. For example, a performer who has learned to catch a ball playing rugby, may react to catch any ball in the same way. This is not always a positive thing as in a different situation (e.g. football) catching the ball is not within the rules of the game!

Response Generalisation

When a performer has well learned a skill they can begin to adapt the skill to vary it. An example is in cricket where a bowler will vary his or her delivery to try to unsettle the batsman.

Six categories of skill transfer have been identified:

1.Transfer between skills - such as all racket sports
2.Practice to performance - transferring skills learnt in training to a competitive environment
3.Abilities linked to skills - balance to perform a good landing in gymnastics
4.Limb to limb (bilateral) - striking a football with the right or left foot
5.Principle to skill - the principles of defensive play in rugby are similar to football
6.Stages of learning - skills that are learnt in the cognitive phase will then be built upon in the associative

Whilst teaching, particularly in a deprived area, the date of birth did not always indicate intelligence but the most disruptive were often amongst the youngest.

I don't think chess suffers in quite the same way as swimming from the date of birth as grade rather than best time are important.

I think the length of time someone has been playing is much more important at the youngest ages.

I believe in the past when only one representative went tp World and European per age group that consideration was given to playing the second best 'up' rather than someone of the 'correct' age when this was considered appropriate.
Without commenting on your points - which are very interesting - you missed the point that I was making / reporting.
Quote:I think that different kinds of mindset are used in different kinds of sports.

Its a a mindset that enables a person to believe in the notion that ability requires hard work. What did Gary Player say - "The more I practice the luckier I get". How do you become talented? Its not about how you teach specific skills rather whether someone is open to learning them, and open at a deep sub-conscious level. I think we can all think of promising chess juniors who have either given up or not reached the heights expected of them - while no doubt there are many reasons for this happening I do believe having a fixed mindset will be a factor.

This is not really the main point of my post but there are studies that show that date of birth does significantly affect performance in schools - indeed I believe there was one in the news just last week. I would expect a similar affect in chess - grading being an average may help smooth it out but not eliminate it.
It's pretty clear to me that hard work is a much more important factor than natural talent in a lot of disciplines, including chess. However you could say that the desire to improve and therefore work hard is a kind of talent, since obviously some people have it and others don't.
I was also thinking that the ability to apply yourself and maximise your potential is also a 'talent' and should be praised. I've been thinking about George Best since reading Mikes first post. Then Maradona floated accross my mind. I wonder what his 'mindset' was. Perhap better not to know :-)

Young children respond really well to praise. As they get older it becomes less significant as they understand it is just a coaching technique.

In terms of selections for a swimming squad I think objective criteria should be most important i.e. Their times rather than a subjective decision by a coach to how hard they think a swimmer is trying and perhaps a subjective decision as to what they think a swimmer's 'mindset' is.

I do think coaches do like to maximise their own significance and importance when the actual person making the effort and advances and showing talent is actually the most significant.

I am though impressed that swimming in Scotland appears to have a very well structured development programme for it's junior swimmers.

Clement /Angus
The starting point of the talk I went to was to ask the question "What is talent?" and when top achievers are asked they usually give credit to their willingness and ability to work hard, the ability to recover from an upset, support of familly and friends and so on. 'Natural talent' comes as low as 6th.

I recommend the following document, which is a summary of the talk:-

Its created by the Sportscotland Institute of Sport.

All humans respond to praise but the point of the research by Carol Dweck (some good UTube recordings of experiments) show that some 'praise' actually has a negative on a players development. With adults the effect is probably just a little more subtle.

If you are looking to determine who is best today for an event next week then you are right that a pb is a good objective measure but as I said before, if you're looking to try and workout who to back as a future champion it is useless and that was the starting point of the exercise.

Must disagree with you again - coaches and people with experience are vital to a players development, in swimming they are the swimmers eyes. They can see what the swimmer is doing and can explain why and what to do to correct it. It is the same in chess.

I'm not convinced by the article.

My experience of teaching many different games and sports from Primary 1 through to Secondary 6 is that there are definitely people with more talent at certain things than others. The question I've always been interested in having observed that is why that is the case?
My own answer is that some of this is bestowed at birth!! I don't think that comments to a young child that is obviously good at something that they are 'a natural' is a negative comment. I think that creates belief in that individual. Yes, ofcourse 'Coaches' are useful and a good coach will help a talented child develop, but I saw many children when I was coaching/teaching who were hugely limited by my abilities as a coach and others abilities as coaches. If they had the right coach or perhaps just the right environment their natural talent may develop more quickly. Ofcourse the SIS is putting the top coaches at certain sports into coaching the top talent and the chances of them being limited by the coaches is less but! the truly exceptional talent needs freedom to develop that talent and won't respond well to being
told that the talent is insignificant or being with people who may diminish their belief in their talent by saying that all that's needed is a good coach and effort.
There appear contradictions in the logic of the article. Belief in one's talent and ability are pivotal to people having the desire to pursue maximising their ability by effort and challenging themselves to progress.
I've always been interested in how youngsters acquire new skill and develop ability and the relationship between teacher and pupil is ofcourse very important but people should never lose sight of who is doing the
learning and developing.

I think that mindset is the same whatever the sport.
Before I flew to Belgrade last year for the World Blind Championships, I did a Radio interview with the Captain of the The Scotland Ladies Rugby team who were preparing for their World Cup in England.
I was asked what advice I could give and I said that you must win the battle twice. First they must win in their own mind, and this is the more important battle for chessplayers, because if they don't believe this then they cannot possibly win the second battle the one with an opponent..
I would say that this applies in all sports.

Totally agree with that.

Youngsters should 100% believe in themselves and their ability. Especially those who have shown enough talent (like yourself) to represent their country.

In general there is far too much 'labeling' of children. I think it suits others to try and fit people into boxes.

In reality children are very much individuals and each can be encouraged and inspired in different ways.

There are umpteen articles about the negative effects of 'labeling'

I'm thinking of asking some of the know it all coaches for the lottery numbers. Good coaches are flexible and adapt their approach to the children they are helping. They are flexible in approach and recognise they are dealing with a unique talent with each child they work with.

Finally I think there is very little transfer from swimming to chess. Swimming itself is quite unique as it is peformed in water (powers of observation) and clearly effort and training are very important. Talent alone won't do the job. It is also limited in terms of venues where the training can take part and as such the training programmes do need to be somewhat regimented.

The aspiring Chess player could use an online chess site like a massive swimming pool of his/her own to train themselves, try out their skills and experiment with their talent.
Chess being a mind sport.

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