When coaching do we slow a players development and/or impose a false ceiling on their potential by teaching and encouaging them to avoid failure?
Whether intentional or not, teaching players to avoid failure through our words, body language or actions, will hamper a players development. Players must understand failure is a necessary part of their improvement process and they will experience it during the development process. It should not be viewed as making them some how inferior rather it is a sign they are moving in the right direction.
As Pixar director Andrew Stanton, director of Finding Nemo and WALL-E, describes this way of operating, “My strategy has always been: be wrong as fast as we can. Which basically means, we’re gonna screw up, let’s just admit that. Let’s not be afraid of that. But let’s do it as fast as we can so we can get to the answer. You can’t get to adulthood before you go through puberty. I won’t get it right the first time, but I will get it wrong really soon, really quickly.”
Failing quickly to learn fast is also a central operating principle for seasoned entrepreneurs who routinely describe their approach as failing forward. That is, entrepreneurs push ideas into the market as quickly as possible in order to learn from mistakes and failures that will point the way forward. This is an extremely well-known Silicon Valley operating principle. Howard Schultz’s experience building Starbucks illustrates the point. He and his colleagues had to try hundreds of ideas, on everything from nonstop opera music to baristas wearing bowties, to hundreds of different types of beverages before being able to define the Starbucks experience.
Sims, Peter (2011-04-19). Little Bets (pp. 52-53). Free Press. Kindle Edition.
Avoidance of failure means avoiding reaching your fullest potential and often times the quickest way to reaching new levels of success is through failing quickly.
“Toughness is shown in how you respond to adversity. Can you respond without losing your footing and your direction? If so, that shows me that you’re tough. Life is messy. We don’t always get a happy ending, and sometimes the middle isn’t so happy either. You never really know how tough people are until they encounter the rough spots. We’re all tough when things are going our way. We’re all tough when we’re getting the breaks. That’s easy. But the truly tough man is the one who stays grounded in his values and focused on his goals when things are challenging. When things in life don’t go according to plan, the tough man will exhibit a determination to reach his goal no matter the obstacles.” – Tony Dungy in his book Uncommon
Adversity is a fact of any season, game, or season of life. How we deal with adversity is a big factor in reaching our goals. Coaches talk a lot about developing toughness in their team. As Tony Dungy describes above what we are ultimately doing is teaching players to effectively deal with adversity. Below are some simple thoughts for coaches to keep in mind to help their players develop the toughness to deal with the adversity they will face.
- When adversity hits it is too late to prepare. A team must be prepared for the unexpected, understanding they will face the tough call, the bad breaks and the difficult situations. Knowing you will face it you can develop actions to respond to these situations that are borne out of the values and the belief system your team has. Knowing how to react when adversity hits will give playes confidence that they can overcome the difficulty.
- Players mirror the actions of the coach. The first step in preventing players from losing their focus after a bad call, a big play, or a devasting loss is to maintain our focus as a coach. If a coach loses their composure and focus players can not be expected to tkeep theirs.
- Instill confidence it lead to optimism. Confidence is the knowledge of having done. By placing players in many different situations during practice and helping them overcome difficult situations enables them to believe and feel optimistic in times of adversity. They can lean on having overcome adversity before. They are confident.
The mark of a true champion is the ability to maintain single-mindness of purpose when everyone else loses focus.