We’ve all heard the expression, “you have to fail to succeed.” Losing a game, getting scored on, not playing one’s best; these are all common occurrences in youth soccer. How can we use those experiences to better our teams? As coaches, how can we create a healthy perspective about winning, losing, and adversity that supports individual and team improvement?
As coaches, we are privileged to be in a position to teach and inspire our youth to love sports and to return each year. We impact their development, teach them about teamwork, and contribute to their improvement. Teaching them how to handle adversity is a great way to enhance and foster their improvement and development.
In our society, winning is plastered EVERYWHERE and we learn early in life that winning must be important. Adults also get lost in the shuffle that “winning is everything.” It's a natural part of competition without questions. Unfortunately, kids start to adopt that same mentality and as a result may not know how to handle adversity or losing.
The funny thing is that most kids would put winning way down on their list of why they play a sport. They often list making friends, having fun, and enjoyment higher then winning. And most pro athletes would list adversity as one of the main reasons they are now successful. Teaching youngsters about finding opportunities for growth in both winning and losing will help them develop the right skills to handle those scenarios now and in the future in both sport and life.
One of my favorite approaches is the FEEL and DEAL approach. No matter what situation we’re faced with, feel and deal means to feel what we’re going through, then to deal with it. Learn from it, and then move on. This can be especially helpful when facing adversity. Every experience provides opportunities for growth.
It’s winning and learning not winning and losing
Creating a healthy perspective about losing and adversity can help youth in these ways:
Below, you’ll find a few tips how to talk about and approach adversity:
Encourage a growth mindset.
-The growth mindset says that we are all learners throughout life. Taking risks and making mistakes are necessary for growth. Our outlook about risks and mistakes can dictate our mindset and behavior. Encourage the growth mindset in your players, and try to live this as a coach.
Remind your team that winning isn’t everything.
-Do we want to win? YES! Is winning the most important thing? NO! Winning is a byproduct of many other things including preparation and effort. Even when we do those things, we still may not win.
-Mistakes and challenges can be the most teachable moments. Teach your team how to embrace and learn from them. Adopt the growth mindset, where learning comes from all experiences.
Talk to your team about failure and adversity.
-What is failure? What is adversity? What does it mean? How do we behave or respond to it? In the early stages of your season, define what failure and adversity mean and how to approach them. Check in and reinforce those themes regularly.
Ask more process related questions.
-What did we do well today? What was the most fun about today? What can we do better next time? Why do you think that didn’t go as well today? What did we learn? Give them a voice while providing some constructive feedback of your own.
Check your reactions to “mess-ups,” adversity, losing, and winning.
-What is your body language saying? What words are you using and how is your tone? Are you only cheering for good or positive performance behavior? Youngsters can quickly recognize conflicting words and body language, so be aware of how you’re reacting. Remember, they learn how to react to and approach these scenarios mostly by watching adults so the key is to be a good example.
Focus on what’s IN YOUR CONTROL.
-This is true for both coaches and players. Stay focused on things you can control like effort and preparation. Avoid worrying about things outside of your control, like outcome, opponents, and referees.
Practice positive self-talk.
-Helping youngsters develop good self-talk habits will help them approach sport and life with a “can do” attitude and not get too down on themselves. When you hear a player say a negative statement, ask them to rephrase it with something positive. The same goes for coaches; rephrase language to be positive or constructive.
Overall, it’s about balance. Kids are like sponges and develop their coping strategies towards winning and adversity based on what they observe in the grown ups that have the most influence in their lives – parent, teachers, coaches. Teach them to focus on the steps it takes to learn new things rather than the final results, and most importantly be a good example of this yourself.
How do you define success?
Is it by winning? By beating another? Is it by achieving your goals? This is a question that every athlete, coach, parent, employee, employer, and performer should ask themselves. I think most of you would agree that confidence is a major component of performance. High confidence can result in high performance, and vice versa. How you define success can have an affect on your confidence level.
Let me explain.
If you are the kind of person who measures success by winning and losing, you are probably very disappointed with a loss, which in turn affects your confidence and motivation. Because you’re so caught up with losing, you’re missing out on the many positives and opportunities for growth that come along with it.
Try this: Adopt the mindset that it’s WINNING AND LEARNING not winning and losing.
Taking a step back to recognize that there are positives that come along with losing can have an important influence on your confidence level. Changing what success means can change everything, and give you a better perspective about outcomes. You can and should be learning from every experience, win or loss, triumph or setback. Michael Jordan has a great outlook on success...
"I've missed more then 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
Don’t get me wrong, everyone wants to and should want to win, but winning doesn’t have to be everything. If success is defined only by winning or other external factors, most of us are probably disappointed a lot. Such wonderful growth can come from losing. Winning is a byproduct of many other things like preparation, effort, and hard work. Even when we do those things, we still may not win. So try not to get caught up in the notion that winning means success. Success comes in many shapes forms, and our definition of success is a choice.
Over the next week, take some time to evaluate how you define success. Ask yourself what’s most important to you. Winning? Beating others? Achieving your goals? Self-improvement? Overcoming a challenge? By recognizing how you define success, you can begin to make changes to your performance, and see a difference in your motivation and confidence level. The key to all of this is that you are in control. How you define success is a choice.
A good book to check out about success is John Wooden and Jay Carty’s Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks For a Better Life.
“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.” – John Wooden
Hey! I'm Katie, and I specialize in Mental Performance. I believe greatly in mindset and the role it plays in life.