Failure is an inevitable part of human existence. No one has ever been successful at everything they try, the first time they try it.
Yet, as parents we do our best to insulate our children against the possibility of failure in every task they do. In school, many parents provide help above the line with assignments. As kids age, their parents manage their college application process to ensure everything is done well.
We know as parents that failure can hurt. We all hate to see our children hurt, and thus we try to prevent it. But that pain – is a part of building character.
A New York Times Magazine article on Education points out, the loss of the experience is delaying vital character development.
“Whether it’s the pioneer in the Conestoga wagon or someone coming here in the 1920s from southern Italy, there was this idea in America that if you worked hard and you showed real grit, that you could be successful,” he said. “Strangely, we’ve now forgotten that. People who have an easy time of things, who get 800s on their SAT’s, I worry that those people get feedback that everything they’re doing is great. And I think as a result, we are actually setting them up for long-term failure. When that person suddenly has to face up to a difficult moment, then I think they’re screwed, to be honest. I don’t think they’ve grown the capacities to be able to handle that.”
(Emphasis added is my own)
In coaching, we face the same mountain. We need the players to learn to think on their own and stand on the field themselves – and it’s not easy going. Kids will fail to follow the run of play. They will make poor decisions on a throw-in, a corner kick or other action that as an adult player we recognize.
As Angela Duckworth, a PhD cited in the article points out, “…learning is hard. True, learning is fun, exhilarating and gratifying — but it is also often daunting, exhausting and sometimes discouraging. . . . ”
It comes down to a trait the article calls grit. How resilient and tenacious can a person be?
Friday, as part of our practice, I’ll be helping our U8 team set goals for how they play during practice. Some of the goals will be attainable, and probably some they will fail at (at least through the halfway point of practice). With some intervention at the half, they should be able to achieve most of the goals and perhaps change their outlook on the season.
Ultimately, I’m judging their progression this fall on how far they progress in skill. A win would be a great validator of what I’ve taught them and they’ve learned – but I’m looking for the intermediate steps along the way first that will get them there.