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Overcoming a Fear of Failure In Youth Sports


It seems crazy that a fear of failure could actually lead to more failure, right? But sometimes athletes are so afraid of making mistakes they freeze on the field and actually end up making mistakes they would never make otherwise.

A little pressure is good because it forces athletes to step up their game, but if you let the pressure get to your players it can suck the fun right out of the season. 

Here are three lessons we need to teach youth athletes so they can overcome their fear of failure:

Embrace mistakes.

In baseball, if you fail 70 percent of the time, you have a really good chance to be a Hall of Famer. Mistakes (and losing) are just part of the game. So instead of living in fear of failure, help your team embrace the mistakes. One fun way to get kids used to failing is to have them play backward.

If they are a righty, have them bat lefty. Put your star scorer in the goal. Only allow them to shoot baskets from one spot on the court. The more odd and uncomfortable the restrictions they more likely they are to mess up, but that’s the whole point. Get them okay with making mistakes and moving on while still having fun and their fear of failure might not hold them back any longer.

Focus on something other than the final score.

Even though most youth sports teams are assigned randomly (so hopefully there is a roughly even distribution of talent), some teams are going to lose more than they win. And while no one likes losing, losing game after game after game, makes it very hard to keep the excitement and passion alive in your players. So how can you overcome failure when your team loses more than it wins all season long?

One soccer coach had this to say on LinkedIn

Last fall,I had a team of U10 players that we played up to U11, due to competitive restrictions on the league. The league had a 7-goal mercy rule, but I elected to never use it. We lost all 8 games in that fall season. Our average goals allowed was 11, while goals scored was 2. The kids don’t want to stop early. They don’t like losing, but what was important was making sure that the score didn’t matter. What matters was that they don’t quit or give up on each other. I made them aware we were playing older, more experience teams. Even though the scores were awful, we played better every week. I didn’t lose any players during that season even though we always got blown out. 

Pay attention to what you can control.

You can’t control how big or small the umpire’s strike box is. You can’t control where the defenders are in the field. You can’t control how fast or strong your opponent is. So don’t waste time and energy worrying out things you have no way of changing. Instead, focus on the things that you can control and you can improve and let go of everything else. You can control your stance, your own position on the field, your reaction to what is going on around you. Pay attention to those things and don’t let everything else get in the way.

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