“Ever Tried. Ever Failed. No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better”
Fail Better. What an amazing philosophy for a coach to embrace when dealing with players. I initially wrote “young players”, but why limit that philosophy to a particular age group? Isn’t it our responsibility as coaches to place players in an environment that is challenging and stretches them as both people and players? This doesn’t stop when a player hits a certain age or level, but must always remain present for growth and development to occur.
“Ever Tried, Ever Failed.” Sadly many players haven’t truly tried because they are afraid to fail or they have tried and were punished for failing and decided it wasn’t worth the struggle. Too many players fall into the latter category because a coach has placed results over development and stifled their creativity by demanding they “play it safe”. Players that play it safe at too early an age are the ones that never develop the skill set to “take a player on” in the final third or look for the half chance in the penalty box. Instead they pass the ball to their teammate because they don’t want to take ownership in case they fail. I’ve watched countless games where coaches and parents alike shout at kids to shoot the ball, but these are the same people that throw up their hands in disgust when a player misses the target or the ball gets saved and exclaim “Billy was open, why didn’t you pass the ball”. We can’t have it both ways.
“No Matter. Try Again.” As coaches, let’s create an environment where our players don’t play it safe and we welcome mistakes knowing that that is how they learn. How you respond to your mistakes is the key. Do you quit when things are hard or do you view it as an opportunity to learn and grow as a player while you practice to correct your mistakes? Can we create a training environment and culture that stretches our players and demands that they persist and persevere through initial failure?
“Excellence is about striving for what is just out of reach and not quite making it; it is about grappling with tasks beyond current limitations and falling short again and again. The paradox of excellence is that it is built upon the foundations of necessary failure.”
Matthew Syed, Bounce p. 129
“Fail Again.” Try something new. Once we accomplish one goal (e.g. performing a scissors move) can we work toward another (taking a player on)? This will mean more opportunities to fail, but also more opportunities to grow. A good coach should serve as his/her teams, and each player within that teams, guide. Can we create a development plan that allows for the satisfaction of reaching certain benchmarks (short term goals), but always keep them striving for more (long term goals). No player is a finished product and no team is ever without room to improve. Let’s not get complacent or static, but continue to move forward. It’s fun to get better, and you don’t do that without striving for more.
A final word on mistakes, everyone makes them, but how we view them and respond to them can be dramatically different from person to person. Here is world famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma:
“If you are only worried about making a mistake you will communicate nothing. You will have missed the point of making music, which is to make people feel something”. Ma goes even further when speaking of his own performances. “I will make a mistake on stage. And you know what? I welcome that first mistake. Because then I can shrug it off and keep smiling. Then I can get on with the performance and turn off that part of the mind that judges everything. And it’s when I’m least conscious of what I’m doing, when I’m just lost in the emotion of the music, that I’m performing at my best.”
Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer
In music, in sports, in all facets of life no matter how old or young, it’s okay to make mistakes. Some of the greatest in their field even “welcome” them. It’s how we respond that matters. Let’s encourage our players to keep making them, but to “fail better” next time. It’s a sign of progress.