Failure Q and A

By Craig Sigl

I’ve noticed people can take great offense to the word “failure,” especially in a youth sports context. So, first, let’s define what failure is?

As a mental toughness trainer who has worked with thousands of youth athletes, by far the biggest problem is fear of failure. I have looked at and examined this concept and the word and
have determined it to be non-useful in the context of youth sports participation and therefore, my definition of it is: “A destructive word OTHERS use to describe events when they don’t achieve their goal or outcome.”

In other words, I teach that there is NO SUCH THING AS FAILURE. It doesn’t exist except as a useless story in your mind. (get rid of the idea of failure and you get rid of the fear of it).

Second, what can be seemingly offensive about this word?
It’s destructive to all athlete’s confidence, young and old, and it’s completely unnecessary to use the word for any situation or circumstance. I teach my young athletes to use deadly accurate descriptions of events that allow for growth and improvement, not destruction. For example:

– Event:
A baseball player strikes out at the end of the game leaving runners on base when a hit would have won it for them.

– Destructive description of event using “failed”
“I was up to bat in the last inning and failed to get a hit costing my team the game. I was a failure.”

– More useful description of the event:
“I was up to bat in the last inning and struck out. We didn’t win. I did my very best and learned something about myself that I will use the next time I’m out there. I’m now better able to handle that kind of pressure having gone through it.”
(Notice no need for the word “failure” in any of that useful description)

Why do parents want to protect their children from failure?
Some parents do this because they don’t want to witness their children experiencing difficult emotions..usually it’s the mother. This is because those parents are extremely empathetic and can actually feel the difficult emotions themselves when their child is feeling them. The truth is, those parents are protecting themselves from the feelings that come from “failure.”

Do their interventions hinder children in the long run? If so, how?
Absolutely yes. The whole point about childhood is to learn how to handle life and the difficulties we face while having a support and guidance network as a back stop. If children don’t get the opportunity to experience the adversity and work through it, they don’t learn the mental and emotional skills they will need as an adult and the consequences are much greater as we get older.

What potential life skills come from failure?
Ultimately, it’s resilience. When an outcome is not achieved and disappointment and other emotions follow, there’s 2 basic ways kids (and all humans) respond:

1. Wallow in victimhood
2. Learn from the event and come back stronger and smarter

Resilience, or the ability to come back from adversity or “get back on the horse after you fall off” is paramount to building confidence. Confidence cannot be built in the presence of fear. When you conquer anything difficult, you don’t fear it any more. This applies to small kids as well as adults.

How can parents help their child bounce back from failure to be a better person and athlete?

1. Acknowledge and allow the child to express and discharge the difficult feelings after the event.
2. After emotions subside, help them see the silver lining to the dark cloud.
3. Inspire them by reminding them of their proven strengths and abilities.
4. Label them as someone who always comes back or is a “comeback specialist”

If you have any anecdotes and points you would like to add, please let me know.

I have a story I tell often about a 12 year old volleyball player who’s goal was to play on a college team. She came to me in tears telling me “my coach hates me” and a long story about how she is treated unfairly by this coach and was bumped down to the “B” team in her select club.

After she finished, I shocked her by saying loudly: “That’s great!”

“This coach is doing you a huge favor. What if you had nothing but nice coaches the whole way until your senior year in high school AND THEN you got a bad coach like this? And you fell apart like this right when you needed to be at your best for recruiters?”

“BECAUSE of this bad coach, you are here in my office learning mental toughness and by the time you are a senior, you are going to be the most mentally tough player around and it won’t matter whether you have good or bad coaches all along the way. This coach is doing you a huge favor at this age! She said my favorite words:

“I never thought of it that way”

I ran through all 4 of the steps above in that meeting and this girl ended up bouncing back and starting on the “A” team.

Craig Sigl’s work with youth athletes has been featured on NBC TV and ESPN. Get his free ebook: “The 10 Commandments For a Great Sports Parent” and also a free training and .mp3 guided visualization to help young athletes perform under pressure by visiting: http://MentalToughnessTrainer.com

Youth Baseball T-Ball Sticker Program

Who would have thought that there would be so much controversy over Tee Ball bats? Well, now there is. From USA Baseball:

Beginning January 1, 2018, participating National Member Organizations will adopt the USABat standard for youth baseball and tee ball bats. Unlike standard youth baseball bats, tee ball bats (lengths 26” and shorter) are not required to undergo lab testing to receive approval under the USABat Program. However, to be approved for play within the participating National Member Organizations, tee ball bats must feature the USA Baseball mark and accompanying permanent text which reads: ONLY FOR USE WITH APPROVED TEE BALLS

Under USABat standards, USA Baseball will implement the Tee Ball Sticker Program. Through the Tee Ball Sticker Program, coaches, league administrators, and parents can order approved stickers to mark tee ball bats that were purchased prior to the implementation of the USABat standard. This program will allow for the continued use of tee ball bats that were produced prior to youth baseball’s transition over to the new standard.

Below are some of the comments from Little League’s Facebook page after the post announcing the new sticker rule. Some didn’t understand that new bats weren’t required, but we included them because their points do apply to higher levels where new bats will be mandatory:

I would be interested in seeing what perks the Little League organization and its officers have received from bat manufacturers and their lobbies over the last few years…. I find the necessity of this to be questionable and to be honest, somewhat laughable as a Little League parent and coach.

Because we don’t spend enough money for 4 year olds to play. No more hand me down bats now. Must have a “sticker” to play. How many parents will have to tell their kids they can’t afford to buy new equipment so they can’t play? It’s becoming a sport that struggling families can’t afford to pay for.

Maybe I’m reading this wrong but they’re essentially “grandfathering” bats for use in tee ball so leagues don’t have to replace their entire stock of bats to comply with the new standard. I know the majority of our league bats only get used at the tee ball level. Not sure why a sticker is needed but I think it’s good that leagues will still be able to use the tee ball bats they already have.

And finally….

I would love to see the idiots who will sign up to check the tee ball bats…HOLD UP KIDS… illegal bat!!! Cmon…. this is a joke right? Is it April 1st?

Sudden Cardiac Death Leading Cause

The leading cause of death among adolescent athletes is tragic sudden cardiac death, according to a study shared with us by our partners at STOP Sports Injuries.org. Please make sure to get a complete physical for your child before the new sports season begins.

World’s children spending less time outdoors than prisoners

This article, courtesy of Amy Packham, Life Writer at HuffPost UK, and video, are both depressing and inspiring. Let’s get our kids outdoors and appreciate the ability to do so!

Angry letter from lacrosse coach

This posted by Tom Ley of Deadspin and contains some off-color wording so we ordinarily wouldn’t publish this. But there is something here about the coach/player/parent dynamic that is all too common in ultra-competitive youth travel sports. This may be over the top, especially because it seems to pertain to a middle school player, but when reading it one wonders where the real truth in the situation lies.

More from yesterday’s post

Below you can read the follow-up conversation we had with the coach who asked us our opinion about what to do about a woman who posted something critical of him on Facebook.

Coach’s email:

Thanks for the quick reply.
 
I coach 9-10 baseball in a small town in Arkansas.  Our games are 6 inning or 1.5 hours long.  We practiced with her son at the catchers position during 4 or 5 practices but decided to go with a couple more boys because he son does not hustle and missed a lot of pitches. 
 
I have copied her post below.  It may not sound like much but I am not used to being criticized.   
 
“Really proud of my (name removed) today!! He’s been bat catcher for the entire 6 years he’s played ball. (Since he was 4.)This year, it’s apparent he won’t get to, even though the other kids on his team don’t really want the position. He had a rough game yesterday between not getting to catch & sitting out 2 innings & was pretty upset & pretty much gave up for the 2nd half of the game. We had a talk on the way home about not giving them the satisfaction of giving up. Today he went out there at practice & did what he had to do, even though tomorrow we have to find out if he has a broken or jammed finger. He didn’t let it get him down, even when he was yelled at for taking off his glove in the outfield when he was hurting… and I never saw tears in his eyes until we got in the truck. I’m very proud of the way he played today & that he didn’t give up even when he very clearly was in pain & upset. He has way better of an attitude about things than his Momma for sure! Way to go son!”
 
Her son took his glove off during the last 3 batters of practice and was just holding it under his arm.  I told him to put his glove back on and that he wasn’t ready.  I was on the 3rd baseline and he was in LF so I wasn’t yelling at her kid. 
 
Any more feedback is appreciated. 

Our response:

I would ignore it and just do what you think is right in terms of playing time/positions. If she does it again, then tell her you would like to speak with her privately. I think I’d also report it to the league just so that they’re aware in the event it becomes an ongoing issue. Real shame what she’s doing to her kid.

New wrinkle to Parents and Playing Time

One of our most-read posts just garnered us question we haven’t heard before. For all the good of social media, there are downsides as well. Parents, don’t use Facebook to complain about your child’s coach. Send and email or pick up the phone. Would you want someone posting a complaint about you at work for all to see? Especially if you didn’t get paid to do your job?

The reader writes:

I just read your article about dealing with parents because one of the mothers of my kids I coach posted a lengthy message on Facebook about her boys playing time.  She was upset that her son had set out 2 innings during our practice game Saturday and that I told him to get his glove on during practice yesterday.  She mentioned on Facebook that he might have a jammed finger but I was unaware of this at practice and nothing was said to me or the other coaches about an injury. 
 
Do you suggest letting this go or should I contact the mother directly?  I had even thought about sharing your article on Facebook without pointing anyone out.  
 
I just want to do what’s best for my team.  I spend countless hours and money trying to make these kids better and have fun.  
Thanks,
Our response:

Thank you for your note. I appreciate you reaching out.

Usually when I receive these types of inquiries I always say that I am only hearing one side of the story and that I’d need to hear the other side to be able to make a fair assessment. So I don’t know enough about what type of league this is, whether two innings is standard, and don’t know what this mom’s issue is with you telling her son to put on his glove.  You say the post was lengthy buy only mention two complaints so since I haven’t seen her post I can only assume there is more.

With that said, however, I can answer your question: You absolutely should contact this mother directly and very firmly tell her that her posting a grievance on Facebook was completely inappropriate. Let her know that in the future, you’d appreciate it, if she has an issue, that she  communicate with you privately and that you’d be willing to speak with her about situations that way but that you are not going to address anything via social media. In a perfect world she understands that she shouldn’t have done that, apologizes, and then you can have a conversation from there. My concern is that she doesn’t feel she was wrong and defends her actions. My advice would be to not get into any back and forth on Facebook and if she persists using that as a forum, get the league involved.

Hope this helps and please don’t let one person ruin the experience for you or your team.