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

Ten Powerful Turn-Failure-Into-Success Strategies

By Bill Cole

Henry Ford believed that “Failure is only an opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Woody Allen says, “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying anything.” And Winston Churchill held that “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” All these great men know that dealing with failure successfully is part of a winner’s mind set. Here are my top ten mental strategies that winners use to keep them strong and take them towards success.

1. Winners Realize That Every Human Being Makes Mistakes: Richard Whately said, “He only is exempt from failures who makes no effort.” Even seemingly perfect, famous people make mistakes every day. If they fail, so can we. And we can move on from those errors to reach our potential.

2. Winners Attempt To Make Fewer Mistakes: “The greatest general is he who makes the fewest mistakes.” Napoleon Bonaparte was right. In sports, the team making the fewest errors usually wins. Most battles are won through error containment. Make your mistakes, but limit when you do them and how often.

3. Winners Correct Their Mistakes: St. Augustine said “It is human to err, but it is devilish to remain willfully in error.” Confucius said, “A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it is committing another mistake.” Winners take mistakes as an opportunity to make good, to move on, and to learn from the situation.

4. Winners Take Responsibility For Their Errors: “Do not blame anyone for your mistakes and failures” Bernard Baruch meant that to grow and change, we must see all of reality and we must deal with that reality. The first step in gaining control over our errors is admitting that they exist.

5. Winners Don’t Make The Same Mistake Twice: “He that’s cheated twice by the same man is an accomplice with the cheater.” Thomas Fuller said this to encourage us to learn from a mistake, vow to never repeat it, and to move on without reservation or fear of making other mistakes.

6. Winners Fail Fast And Move On: Business guru Tom Peters says “Only with failure can you verify wrong ways of doing things and discard those practices that hinder success.” Winners cultivate an attitude of “lead, follow or get out of the way”. They are voracious for success, and devour any mistake that can take them closer and faster to that success.

7. Winners Create A Lifetime Self-Coaching System: Baruch said that “The art of living lies less in eliminating our troubles than in growing with them”. Develop a self-coaching system that helps you see your errors, define them, accept responsibility for them, improve them and to do all that with a positive attitude.

8. Winners View Failure As Just A Detour, Just a Delay: “I think and think for months, for years. Ninety-nine times the conclusion is false. The hundredth time I am right.” Albert Einstein knew that persistence was key in being “creative”. The answer did not just drop out of the sky. He worked at it. He stayed with it.

9. Winners Know That Failure Is The Teacher Of Success: John McEnroe says “The important thing is to learn a lesson every time you lose”. McEnroe won more than any other tennis pro of his era, yet even he knows that errors are the sign-posts to success.

10. Winners Know That Admitting Failure Shows You To Be A Secure Person: Pro golfing legend Lee Travino said, “We all choke, and the man who says he doesn’t choke is lying like hell. We all leak oil.” The person trying to project an image of perfection is setting up a fragile reality, ready to burst at the wrong time. Be secure in your human imperfection. It’s easier than building an image that can’t be maintained.

Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on sports psychology, peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps sports teams and individuals achieve more success. He is also the Founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association, an organization dedicated to advancing the research, development, professionalism and growth of mental game coaching worldwide. He is a multiple Hall-Of-Fame honoree as an athlete, coach and school alumnus, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published author of books and articles, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports and big-time college athletics. www.SportsPsychologyCoaching.com
Copyright © 2000-2008 Bill Cole, MS, MA

Everyone Fails on the Path to Success

By Jeffrey Rhoads

At some point or some level, all athletes eventually fail. Great players, defined by their last moment heroics, have also succumbed to challenges they could not overcome, obstacles too big, and personal shortcomings of character or performance that resulted in failure. As eloquently expressed in the famous baseball poem, mighty Casey does not always bring joy to Mudville.

You should understand that the failure to convert the big shot, and other similar disappointing moments are a common bond among all competitive athletes. Every athlete has experienced the bitter moments of a personal failure or a devastating loss, sometimes forever altered by the event. When you try and fail in these key moments, you are experiencing the same set of emotions that all of your sports heroes have gone through. Stars such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, have all experienced personal moments of dejection and loss.

Also understand that putting yourself in the position to take the big shot, and having the courage to do so, in itself is an admirable quality. Regardless of the outcome, these moments reveal a positive aspect of your character-reaching for the prize instead of giving in to a fear of failure. You will eventually learn that the disappointment of failure is usually preferable to a lifetime of regret for not facing a challenging moment.

These failures, both real and anticipated, can also have a positive effect. They provide you with the motivation to prepare, giving yourself the best chance to succeed when you face these special moments. Always attempt to translate any fear of failure that you may have into constructive actions.

Finally, recognize that these types of failure are the necessary flip side of your greatest successes. If you don’t try, you’ll never enjoy the incredibly satisfying and fulfilling emotion associated with winning your heroic moment.

Embrace your athletic failures as an educational and necessary part of the journey. As LeBron James says, “Don’t be afraid of failure. This is the way to succeed.”

Jeffrey Rhoads has coached youth sports for over 25 years and worked with all levels of young players. He is the author of The Joy of Youth Sports: Creating the Best Youth Sports Experience for Your Child. His blog, Inside Youth Sports, can be found at: http://www.insideyouthsports.org.