Normalizing Failure; Why Learning How to Fail is Vital for Athletes

It took Diana Nyad 5 tries to swim from Cuba to Florida. And yet despite failing those four times, that’s not what she’s remembered for. Instead, she’s known for her perseverance – her ability to adapt her strategy and try again. As this is true for Diana, it’s often not the case for the rest of us. So often failure is seen as a negative and something to be ashamed of – this is especially true of our kids. But the reality is that failure can be one of the greatest teachers for our kids. Here’s why:

It Promotes Healthy Risk Taking

When our kids are afraid of something, they will do everything they can to avoid it. This is true in the physical sense, but also mentally too. Fearing failure, a child my lie to avoid having their failure discovered. Or they will avoid the task all together if they are afraid that they won’t succeed – which can mean missing out on fun and exciting opportunities.

Failure is Educational

The old adage of “learn from your mistakes” isn’t just a nice saying, it’s at the very core of why failure is a positive aspect of our lives. Learning to take time and reflect on a situation that didn’t go as planned, thinking about what went wrong and why, and then creating a solution is key to utilizing failure to the advantage. Instead of hiding away failure, normalize it through honest and open discussion free of judgement.

Builds Perseverance

Learning to stick with something, even when it’s challenging, has life long benefits. As parents, it’s often so much easier to not push our kids out of their comfort zone, or to save them from failure or frustration. But giving our kids the opportunity to grow in their perseverance has far reaching benefits in both athletics and education.

Encourages Empathy

It’s said that empathy is one of the hardest things to teach our kids and yet it’s also one of the most important. Learning how to feel what someone else is feeling can be a challenge. But when we’re able to see ourselves in someone else’s shoes, we’re able to experience meaningful interactions in a much deeper way. Great leaders, both on the field and off, are empathetic people. Being allowed to experience failure in a positive way helps to build empathy for teammates, peers, and others too.

Still Not Convinced?

Head over to your favorite search engine and type in “famous athlete failures”. Your screen will instantly be filled with stories of Usain Bolt coming in third in the World Championship 100 meter race, Serena Williams losing at the US Open, and John McEnroe at the French Open losing 5 straight sets. Each of the stories ends with a quote from the athlete about how that failure propelled them to their next win.

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