The Freedom to Fail As Athletes

As a society, we like to succeed. In the sporting world, this is what drives us.  As athletes, we will do whatever it takes to prepare us for success.  Our coaches want the same, so they push us to our limits. Our nutritionists, psychologists, physiotherapists, and teammates are all on the same page.  We want success. But what happens when we fail? Do we have the Freedom to Fail As Athletes? – Jenny Tait Volleyball player Australian National Team

As a child, I caught onto a saying

“Good, Better, Best. Never let it rest, until good is better, and better is best”.

When I read this now I can see why I originally found it so helpful.  It always gave me something to strive for. But what happened over time, and I’m sure what would happen in many other minds, is that it became a never-ending cycle of never succeeding.  If we are always improving, our old better is becoming our new good and the goal of achieving the best is never possible. I was always shy of succeeding. I was failing. I was failing a lot.

In my volleyball career, which has just reached the ten-year mark, I have only won one championship.  I have played on countless teams, with many opportunities to succeed (win), but have failed. And if we truly think about it, in every competition we are in, only one person or team can win.  Only one succeeds. The rest of us fail.

So why do feel so much pressure as athletes when we fail?

Games and championships, however, are only one small (important) part of any athlete’s life.  We spend so much time training and preparing for these short-lived moments of success or failure.  Training for me involves a lot of broken down movement drills to refine skills and then gameplay.

When training, the broken-down drills are a chance to work on what I’m failing at in a game.  Essentially, giving me a chance to fail. It is a specific time in every practice where I’m given the opportunity to fail over and over to figure out how to change.  The freedom to fail!! And more often than not I do, but I also succeed better than before. I am free to fail, so I succeed.

If you have ever had the chance to coach or watch practices you may notice that some of the greatest moments happen when we are training as a team and when competing against our own teammates with the freedom to fail.

So why don’t we have the freedom to fail in competition?

What I’m learning recently is that we do! But our minds believe we don’t.  If we don’t succeed in a competition we fail, but as I said before most of us will fail because there is only one winner.  

So, don’t be afraid to fail. Realize there is freedom in failing.  We are not perfect. We will strive to be perfect but never obtain it.  So, I challenge you to give it everything you have but know that you have the freedom to fail.

Jenny Tait

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