Your Kid Will Fail (And That's O.K.)

Your Kid WILL Fail (And That's O.K.) by Ryan Woodruff 

The idea of failure as a requirement for future success has become a popular notion lately in the self-help genre.  In swimming, where there is always 1 "winner" and 7 "losers" in a heat, failure can seem particularly frequent. Though it can be beneficial in the long run, failure can be hard to deal with for both swimmers and parents.  Consider the following:

  • Success is not the same as winning. It is possible to succeed and not win.
  • Failure is not the same as defeat.  A swimmer can fail and still be victorious.

When your swimmer fails, it is important to not blow it up into something bigger than what it is -- a terrific learning opportunity.

How to NOT amplify failure for your swimmer:
1. Keep your eye on the big picture.  One swim or one meet will not make or break your swimmer's career.
2. Study how your kid reacts.  Does he or she interpret the swim as a failure? That matters far more than what we as parents and coaches think. If your swimmer seems to be looking to your interpretation of a performance as a success or failure, encourage him to give his evaluation.
3. Don't make excuses for your child.  Saying things like "Well, the water here is really cold" or "If only you had someone better to race" might technically be true but this takes the control for the performance out of the hands of the swimmer and places it at the whim of circumstance, possibly creating a handicapping belief for future races.
4. If you are disappointed for your swimmer, that's O.K., but don't heap it on him or her.  Meeting internal expectations is hard.  Carrying the emotional baggage of the expectations of others is even more difficult.
5. Avoid bringing up the performance of other swimmers.  One of the great things about our sport is that we have a yardstick of performance that does not depend on anyone else.

A swimmer's career is full of ups and downs, mountains and valleys. A valley is a valley because of the mountains on either side of it. You can help your swimmer get to the peak by not making a verdant valley seem like a desolate canyon.

See my previous parent articles here