It’s been remarkable to watch from a great distance the impact that former Cashmere standout Hailey Van Lith has made as a freshman starter on the top-ranked Louisville women’s basketball team.

As of this past week, Van Lith was averaging more than 13 points and better than 6 rebounds per game, the latter statistic remarkable because she’s five-foot-seven. In a showdown against sixth-ranked Syracuse, she scored 18 points.

What impresses me most about what Van Lith is accomplishing is how she exemplifies the concept of growth mindset — that a person’s work habits, perseverance and how they handle failure have more to do with what a person can accomplish than one’s raw talent.

From stories going back to her remarkable high school days, Van Lith was legendary for her work ethic and her team focus. Fast forward to this season at Louisville and what emerges is her passion for constant improvement.

In a recent column in the Louisville Courier Journal, Tim Sullivan had this to say about Van Lith:

“Though Dana Evans is surely the Cardinals’ star, Van Lith brings a gritty versatility to (coach Jeff Walz’ backcourt that emboldens the coach to think this team could be ‘special.’”

“The kid’s tough, is she not?” Walz told Sullivan. “She’s everywhere. She is not afraid to get into the mix. She embraces the contact. She actually delivers more of the contact than she receives. But it’s what I love about the kid.”

After she had such a big impact on Cashmere athletics and brought so much attention to the basketball team, it is a joy to see her blossom into a powerful player for such a great basketball team in her first year.

Van Lith also is a person with a big heart. I recall Van Lith donating time to support The Brave Warrior Project that creates programs for kids with special needs and dealing with serious illnesses in our valley.

I’ve been paying a lot of attention recently to this notion of growth mindset as it applies to public education. One great challenge in our communities is how many kids tend to adopt a fixed mindset, in which one believes that talent is something that is permanent.

What researchers have found is that when students have a fixed mindset and are focused only on the outcome (a grade on a test or paper), their confidence rises and falls with success and failure. The pressure of “looking good” can be overwhelming and cause kids to avoid challenging themselves for fear of failure.

We all have varying degrees of fixed and growth mindset, and the extent to which we can build on the growth mindset is the limit to our own happiness and well-being.

Those with a healthy growth mindset get excited by huge challenges and get focused on the effort they need to apply to improve. This is a much healthier frame of mind. The good news is that research is showing we can train ourselves to adopt a growth mindset.

Dr. Andrew Huberman, a Stanford University neuroscientist, has been doing research that shows how a person can use his or her nervous system’s nervous system’s processes to foster a growth mindset. In short, what Huberman found is that people find success using breathing techniques to help put themselves into a calm yet focused state and then getting focused on immediate tasks that brings them a step closer to a larger goal they are trying to achieve. This is exactly what soldiers in special forces do to do their best work under life-and death situations.

Few of us will play basketball as well as Hailey Van Lith. But every person can make significant improvements in any area of life if we choose to adopt a growth mindset. If we want to help our kids, we need to make sure we help them develop that mindset.

Rufus Woods is the publisher emeritus of The Wenatchee World. He may be reached at or 509-665-1162.