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Mistakes Lead to Greatness


Turning a quitting mentality into greatness: How much of an edge would we have over other teams if our team could bounce back from anything, love learning, always be focused on positivity and building together?

The old tough love approach to coaching is at the forefront of our youth participation decline. That drive we have to make them better by focusing on, calling out, and shaming mistakes may in fact be driving them into a pit of hopelessness.   I learned this first hand, I used to be a coach that prided myself on corrections, the pursuit of perfectionism. And what I had at the end of all that was a very talented, skilled team of girls that couldn’t wait to quit because they felt inadequate.  Kids are learning through mistakes, that’s how every day will look to them – mistakes and lessons over and over until they become hopefully well rounded adults with life and mistake recovery experience. How often do we forget that it’s our job to help them seek  answers, different perspectives, and to help them grow?

Failure and Growth look the same. They both are uncomfortable, involve mistakes, falling short of our goal. But one leads to quitting, the other leads to greatness. What kind of athletes do you want?

What perspective do we offer our athletes when they fall short?  Are we pointing out the mistake, calling attention to where it went wrong and leaving the attention there? Are they leaving that interaction or that mistake feeling defeated and inadequate? Does it make them want to give up? Did we even address it at all?  Growing hurts, it feels the same sting of failure. But with the right leadership that failure can shift into motivation, or conversely it can tear them apart and drain their confidence and future performances.

Depending on their perception of mistakes, a player can either hang their head or dig deep and become more skilled. Two very different outcomes from the same situation and we have the ability, as coaches, to shape that perception. Pretty amazing! And how often we forget to use that responsibly….

How do we turn failure, the feeling of hopelessness, into a feeling of empowerment, motivation and learning? Celebrate mistakes instead of punishing them. Ouch, hard to do! They messed up, we practiced it over and over and they get on the field and do it wrong! Incredibly frustrating, but not just for us coaches.  They are likely frustrated with themselves as well, we have to keep steering them in the right direction until they can do it on their own and then and only then is our job done.  They will beat themselves up over it, our job if we want strong teams with motivated players, is to empower and lead, not to judge or punish.

Opportunities to turn a Failure Perspective into a Growth Perspective – Turn a quitting mentality into greatness:

  1. Pre-Practice Talk: These are the skills we are working on today. Think about what you personally need to focus on the most and think about that every time it’s your turn to go. Report back to me at the end of practice any improvements you notice in yourself and your teammates. Don’t forget to call out improvements you see in your teammates as we practice today as well.

  2. Post-Practice talk: Who messed up today? Tell us about it and then tell us one important lesson you learned from it that you will apply tomorrow.

  3. Pre-Game Talk: What lessons did you apply at practice this week that will help you today? What are our strengths and how can we use them together to be as strong as possible? What would you like to focus on the first half? What are our advantages as a team?

  4. Half-time Talk: What opportunities do you see to improve the second half – what can we do better? What are we doing really well that we should continue (no matter how small)? Who has more energy they can throw on the fire to bring up the heat? Where is the other team struggling and how can we use our strengths to combat them?

  5. Post-Game Talk: (regardless of a win or loss) Where did we excel? Who made a mistake and then made a correction before the game was over? Did we make any mistakes where we don’t know how to fix them? What do you think we did the best, and where do you need more help at next weeks practices? Whose fire burned brightest – who gave the most effort today?

Build a team that Grows through adversity instead of crumbles, build players that are mentally tough, think about how to get better and who have a strong growth mentality.  Coaches have an incredible opportunity to shift mind sets, perspective, and provide the tools these kids will use for success far beyond sports.  At the end of the season, what will they take away from your leadership focus? It’s our kids jobs to try over and over again, to make mistakes so they can learn what works and what doesn’t. If we go into coaching with the mindset that these players are here to make mistakes, and that we are here to help them recover from mistakes, then frustration goes significantly down and our focus can be on building mentally strong and prepared athletes.

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