Fail Your Way to Success

My son played Little League baseball for the Briarcliffe Robins between the ages of six to eight. He had one of the best coaches a parent could hope for, Coach Larry. Larry was an excellent teacher, patient and pushed his team to get better every day. The kids learned the fundamentals of playing baseball and most important of all had a lot of fun playing the game. Mistakes were treated as learning experiences and as a result the team consistently improved their level of play.

The Robins became one of the better teams in the league and played for the championship game in my son’s third year. The other team was undefeated and heavily favored and eventually won a tight game despite the Robins playing some excellent baseball.

When the game ended both coaches corralled their teams for a post-game talk. If you had just walked up to the field, you would have thought the Robins won the World Series and the other team lost a lopsided contest. The winning coach chastised his players for missing a few balls in the field and letting the Robins stay close. In sharp contrast, the Robins coach praised his players for playing well and trying hard.

I often wonder how the kids on the winning team fared in coming years. Were they afraid of failing after such a poor experience in Little League? Did they learn that anything less than perfection was not good enough? Did they feel like “losers” even though they won the championship?

Failure gets a bad rap in our society. We label people “losers”, push a philosophy of perfection on ourselves and our children, (I recently attended a little league baseball game to hear parents yelling at their kids when they missed a ball).