Water polo takes many different physical skills, and conditioning and mental awareness. To become good, some say it takes 10 years of consistent practice. Then there is the theory it takes 10,000 hours to become excellent at anything.

Given this distant goal for those in their early years, we need to encourage a mindset and set of values that helps the player stay happy and motivated. A growth mindset is one that is founded in continuous improvement rather than focus on innate skill. Even experts with a growth mindset will continue to seek ways to improve their game.

How do we stay happy and motivated? We choose small, incremental steps and we work together. We understand that even by failing at a small step we can learn how to improve. Failing at lots of small steps with adjustment after each, helps us progress. At each step we learn a little more. When we learn how to work to improve each other as a team, we gain respect for each other, and this builds trust and confidence. We work together transparently up and down from coaches to players from more experience to less. It is this overall collaboration that makes it more fun.

How do you as a player embrace this mindset? Become a “student of the game”. Try to make sense of not only what, but why, we do certain fundamental drills. Nothing is a stupid question if seeking understanding. Keep a notebook so you don’t lose your questions as well as helping yourself retain knowledge. Draw pictures, write words, whatever works for you. Learn what indeed works best for yourself.

And pass it on. If you can teach a less experienced player a skill and break it down for them to understand, you yourself get better at it. Their questions create a collaboration that helps both you and the team in general. You don’t have to be a naturally gifted teacher, as you can work to improve at it like everything else. People learn different ways, visually, verbally, kinetically. Learn about how each other learns best and that may come to help the team someday when we need a fast adjustment.