Motivational Monday Tip of the Day 

Fear of failure spurs some, destroys others

The great basketball player, Michael Jordan said in a Nike commercial, “26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

From a young age, players hear motivational mantras as, “Do not be afraid to fail,” and “Have no fear,” repeatedly. It is an important lesson that all athletes must learn, because fear of failure paralyzes players’ ability to play freely.

Fear of failure and failure itself are an intricate part of sports, which athletes must learn to deal with.. Ballplayers, who cannot handle failure, or when their fear of it becomes overwhelming, do not last long. Continual fear of failure is a “sports-desire destroyer.”

The funny thing is that it works the opposite way, too, in that it motivates like few other things. I had a total fear of failure and that is what drove me to the major leagues. 

Thus exists – the dichotomy of fear – “Play with no fear, but have so much fear that it drives you to success.”

Ballplayers generally fall into one of these three camps:

  1. The most competitive ones use the fear of failure to work harder, which is a good thing, until they over work and become frustrated.
  2. Other players have such fear of failure that they shy away from competition, which is not a good thing, because they develop a “what’s the use” attitude.
  3. The third group, which is the most desirable one, has a fear of failure that they use as motivation, but they also have the ability to throw that fear away, when playing.

Coaching Secret to Helping Players deal with the Fear of Failure

Therein lays the secret for coaches to help players to deal with fear – practice with fear, play with no fear. Trying to ease the pressure, the first group puts on themselves, and helping the second group to embrace the fear to welcome the competition is the goal of coaches. This is very challenging, but is one of the attributes of the great coaches. They know which players they have to push, so they embrace the competition and which players they have to help ease the pressure with, so they do not push themselves to mental or physical exhaustion.

Coaching that Controls the Dichotomy

The key is understanding that fear diminishes with the proper preparation and increases with the threat of punishment, mental or physical.

  1. Developing fearful players is what practice is about, so players understand that hard work helps ease their game fears. This begins with having quality, action packed practices, that challenge, teach, and “push” kids to improve, within reason, fearing the results of not working hard.
  2. Create fearless players is what games are about – having an atmosphere where kids can “be themselves,” with the ability to play without fear of coaching retribution, when they do not play well.

The dichotomy of dealing with the fear of failure – nothing motivates more and nothing destroys more athletes than that fear – is one of the great challenges of baseball coaching.

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