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Embrace the benefits of failure

Thursday, November 16th, 2017 posted by LWGS

Embrace the benefits of failure

There was a comment recently on a social media platform that stated a parent of a 12 year old child had made a complaint to a golf coach, because her child had felt like a ‘’loser” after losing a team chipping contest. The parent was so mad that she was contemplating withdrawing the child from the golf programme.

This reaction, although understandable, was disappointing. Admittedly failure is not in general a nice feeling, so you can understand why one may want to avoid failure, and/or protect ones children from experiencing it. However, there does seem to have been a generation shift in regards to our desire to avoid failure.

The ‘PC brigade’ has wiggled its way into sport over the last few decades. This can be seen during events when all participants are handed out medals, playing games like basketball and netball where no score is kept, so there is no winner or loser.

However, a desire to avoid failure is likely to hold back ones progress. Failure presents us with feedback and gives us an opportunity to learn and grow. We progress through our responses to failure.

For example:

- There is the famous quote from Michael Jordan “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the games winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”

- James Dyson tried and tested 5,127 prototypes on his way to developing his revolutionary new vacuum cleaner design. Essentially, James failed 5,126 times. He now has a net worth in excess of £5 billion.

- When a plane fails, there is a thorough non-blame investigation into the issue and new procedures are developed from the findings to prevent further accidents in the future. Through this process flying is now one of the safest modes of travel.

Of course no one wants to experience failure as it is not a very enjoyable feeling and disappointing, but when we do we can use that experience to learn and progress. We could avoid failure by quitting, and research into participation showed that many young athletes dropped out of sport due to a lack of enjoyment.

This is one of the reasons that the non-competitive sport games mentioned above were developed. The notion was that if you remove competition, you could remove failure, which would decrease the drop out in sport. However, the science suggests that participation medals tend to devalue the reward for those who actually work hard, and the people who finish last feel embarrassed, as they understand they don’t deserve the medals.

We need to foster a culture of growth, by testing ourselves, subjecting ourselves to failure; we set the stage for growth. Rather than remove failure, we need to educate our young athletes (and parents), that failure is a normal process of growth. We should encourage reflection, and stress the importance of producing a positive response to failure, and how the process of improvement and success is scattered with periods of failure. We don’t need to try and avoid errors, but see them as opportunities to learn when they do occur as part of our participation in a sport.

If we never receive feedback (e.g. failure), how would we ever know whether we were doing something correct or not?



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