Failure or Growth?


Failure by definition “a lack of success”.

A definition of success “an accomplishment of an aim or purpose”.

These very definitions conclude, failing is working towards aim or purpose and for one reason or another not accomplishing. Is failure a probability, of course.

Nevertheless, failure is not always self-induced, failure is a result, a result that someone decided to quit. The word is all too often brought up in everyday conversation, especially within youth sports. What is evident is that there is a misinterpretation of what it means to “Fail”. It’s so easy to label individuals or teams, if they didn’t make a specific team or lost a match. One does not fail until they say “it’s no longer worth it and QUIT.”  According to National Alliance for Youth Sports, 70% of children in the United States (USA) quit organized sport by the age of 13 (2016), for one reason or another they decided enough was enough. They decided to end their pursuit towards an aim or purpose. Who’s to blame for this failure?

If you are moving forwards, learning, developing, making mistakes you are not failing, only growing and striving towards reaching your potential. Reaching your potential isn’t easy or straightforward, you’re going to have your up’s and down’s, a poor game, poor practice session, have a sense of fear and doubt’s but this is all a part of the whole process. Growth is about embracing being uncomfortable and adapting to adversity and overcoming the struggles. Ultimately, failure is realizing that growth isn’t worth it anymore due to lack of support, motivation, pressures to compete, dedication etc. and deciding to give up. There is always a way to win, not merely by the outcome of a practice, game and/or league, it’s about recognizing and celebrating every step of the way, a new skill, improved knowledge (technical/tactical), reflection, being a great teammate, trying something new in a game, not giving up during practice or game etc. Culturally we need to adopt a “bigger picture” perspective towards youth sports and appreciate growth within reaching one’s potential.

Yes, we should appreciate the mere fact a team can win, draw or lose as they continually participate within the youth sports, but repeatedly we observe players and coaches treating a “loss” as an indication of failure. They state “All kids want to win”, the previous statement may be true, however, in many cases across the country, the desire is greater from the ego of the coach or the reputation the parents may want to uphold. How many games will youth players remember when they look back when they were 5,6,7,8, or 9 years old? Not many, I would guess. Every individual will most certainly carry forward with them the values, advice, feelings, knowledge they developed along the years. Some may disagree with that, consequently here’s some evidence, 3 years ago, Washington University in the USA asked children why they played sports? 90% answered with “Because it was fun”.  Then they were asked what made sports fun? Here were their top answers:

  1. Trying your best
  2. When the coach treats a player with respect
  3. Getting playing time
  4. Playing well as a team
  5. Getting along with teammates
  6. Being active
    You might ask what number did winning come in at? Way down in 48th position…..

Frequently we continue to witness, a culture where youth players and parents are sold on the seldom “Winning=Successful”, I for one appreciate when a team wins or loses a game, but we should identify and acknowledge the long-term processes, the performance, the learning elements, and all the controllable aspects that contributed towards a match outcome.

This learning cycle/questions/reflections should always happen regardless of the outcome:

  • Did they have fun? What was fun?
  • What did they learn? How? When?
  • How did they perform?
  • Try anything new? When? Where? Why?
  • Being good team-mates? How? When?
  • How many decision did they make? When? What Happened? Why? Who?
  • Would they change anything about their performance? The game? Why?

Ignoring the outcome isn’t what’s proposed, it’s a part of the game and we want children to compete and that’s great, but it’s removing the culture or winning at all costs, refusing to fail and giving up based upon pressures and making mistakes, we should positively encourage and support our next generation of youth players within their period of growth.

Without commitment, you will never start, and more importantly, without consistency, you’ll never reach your potential. It’s not easy and the road isn’t even straight, if it was easy there wouldn’t be a Cristiano Ronaldo or a Lionel Messi, therefore keep practicing, embrace the struggle and learn from victory or defeat and never give up because that is FAILURE.

“Keep moving, keep working, keep learning” – Denzel Washington

The Sporting Influencer


One thought on “Failure or Growth?

  1. Yes, I agree 100% and for this reason, I quit my club because they never believed in this mentality.
    All they wanted my team to win by scores…..


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