Legendary basketball coach Jim Valvano was quoted as saying,” Never give up! Failure and rejection are only the first step to succeeding.”
Even with these important words of wisdom from the late, great, coach, failure can still cause so much pain for young athletes and their parents.
It’s inevitably going to happen. At some point in your child’s life they will experience failure. There will come a time when your child will fail at what they are trying to achieve. They will miss a game winning shot in a basketball game, will give up the game winning hit or give up a goal. By every definition of the word, they will fail at something at some point in their life. In the end, that’s OK.
The first step to overcoming failure is to erase that word from your vocabulary. Failure can be a very destructive word that is used to describe events when goals are not achieved. I believe that we should be teaching our athletes that there is no such thing as failure. Failure is just an opportunity to learn and get better. If you get rid of the idea of failure in your mind you are then able to get rid of the fear of it.
Getting hung up on the failure, the fear of failure or focusing on the wins and losses can distract the athlete from learning. Failure can be one of your child’s greatest teachers. We learn best by making mistakes or experiencing disappointments and then growing from them. Defeat and disappointments are an integral part of sports and life.
After experiencing a disappointment in sports or life, athletes can do one of two things. They can either feel bad about themselves and the outcome of the event or they can learn from it and come back stronger and better equipped for sports and life from it. Resilience is paramount to building confidence. Athletes must be able to learn from the past but focus on the present.
Trying to protect your child from experiencing failure, like discouraging them from trying out for a team or trying a new activity, or not letting them handle their own situations, takes away valuable life skills and learning opportunities. Children who are over-protected from failure often do not obtain the skills necessary to deal with it. This is the great thing about sports, so many of the skills needed in life can be learned through your child’s participation.
An important thing for parents to remember is that long-term success is always more important than short-term results. Failure gives your child important feedback and it is not something to be feared or fended off.
So even if your child misses a game winning shot in a basketball game, gives up the game winning hit or gives up a goal, your child will become a more equipped person and athlete by learning from what happened and knowing how to handle similar situations next time.
4 THINGS TO HELP YOUR CHILD LEARN FROM FAILURE:
1. Acknowledge and allow your child to express their feelings after the event.
2. After emotions subside help your child work through what occurred, focus on the positives and what can be learned from it.
3. During the days following remind them of their proven strengths and abilities.
4. Help them bounce back by reminding them that they always do.