Being a parent is one of the toughest things I have done. Coaching is similar. You want the best for your kids but sometimes what’s best is what hurts a bit.
My Boy’s Challenge
I have a just turned gangly tall and upstanding just turned 13 year old and he’s looking at a tough time to make the middle school basketball team. We have been doing some prep work for him to give his best shot at tryouts, but, unbeknownst to him, I am trying to help prepare him to potentially cope with the frustration that will occur if he doesn’t make the team.
His school is pretty stacked so height and endurance alone won’t get him a spot on the squad. For this team, you have to be able to play in constant motion, play inside or out, handle the ball, etc. You need a diverse skill set which comes from a combination of specialization, ability, and hard work. That’s a tough mix for a kid who has spent more time playing minecraft, running and swimming then balling. The point I am trying to make here is that we hate to see folks we love suffer, especially our kids and also, in my case, my athletes. However, it is necessary in life to become the best versions of ourselves that we strive to be.
Failure Has Positive Impact
Failure can be good in many ways for us but it has to be welcomed as part of the learning process. It can’t be seen as a destination but as a stop along the way. Seeing some of our athletes going through a rough race or a DNF can be difficult so I wanted to remind you all as a psychologist, an athlete and a coach, that messing up is a good thing in many ways. Here are some of the ways I wanted to mention:
5 Reasons Why Failing is an Important Part of Growing Up and Becoming a Better Athlete
- You learn way more from failure or a bad race than a good race. My worst experiences in endurance sports were going into Ironman (IM) Coeur D’Alene in 2011 and IM MD 2014 wanting to Kona Qualify and Podium the race. Both events crushed my dreams. By T2 at IM CDA, David Eckles, my Sherpa for the race, will tell you that my goose was cooked. I was walking by the mile 1 marker on the run. 25.2 to go and I am already toast. IM MD 2014 was the same by mile 2 and I was even more fit and ready for the day. But, alas, it wasn’t all for nought. IM MD 2015 was where I slowed the bike down, ran well, and got my much coveted Kona slot. I took way more lessons from those tough two races than I did the prior races to them where I did well and raised my expectations to unfortunate levels leading me to become complacent and softer mentally.
- You can’t avoid failing if you’re trying for something worth something. Accept it. It’s just “part of the process”. If it’s worth something, it’s going to be hard. And if its hard, its worth more than those easy deals. I am so impressed by my mature women set. Then there is Taylor Lewis aka HFT who is going for a 100 mile run knowing full well she may fail. She is ok with this as you should be facing whatever challenge you want to overcome. Be proud that you are out there taking risks, and not being a baby. It just might pay off in spades. If it doesn’t happen, that’s to be expected even when you cover all bases in your preparations.
- PG Wodehouse in his Jeeves and Wooster books wrote that suffering or failure builds character. I think as “character” builds, you get closer to goal attainment. Your mental fortitude growing is key as you need that for the “bigger” days. Me getting beat down in Idaho and Maryland, made me stronger for Maryland a second time. I knew I could fail, and I knew I could handle adversity, but I didn’t want to. Again, each experience helps you along the way, which leads me to #4.
- Failure leads to improvements. This reminds me of Lorand Batten aka 5 at IM Cozumel and Courtney Connolly aka Wicked at IM MD 2018. They didn’t fail. They struggled for sure. This made them double down their commitment and forced them to review every place they could find time. There are central areas of improvement and peripheral areas. I call these the margins and we have focused on the main areas and the margins for this year and the future!
- You will appreciate the good days so much more if you have bad days. Thus, failure leads to a much more satisfying experience than someone coming in and having those results without the agony. When I thought I was out of the KQ game and gave up my hopes, it made it so much sweeter when it happened.
So there you have it. You may feel down and out. You aren’t down and out. You may be on the cusp of bigger things like achieving your goals. You may be worried, but that worry is ill placed. Anything that doesn’t go quite like you hope may just be part of the process. Thanks to each and everyone of you for considering taking and taking risks and making lemons out of lemonade. It will taste that much better if you do!