Friday, September 13, 2013


David came in from soccer tryouts the other day very dejected.

Senior boys soccer try outs.

He is a junior.  A small junior with no real competitive soccer experience.

He is a solid player always much loved by his coaches for his fearlessness and tenacity on defense.

But this was Senior Boys soccer tryouts.

He told us "I was the worst player on the field"

Of course we jumped in "Oh no honey I am sure that's not true"  You are just a junior" "I am sure you just felt like you weren't the best"

But with one tear escaping he adamantly said "I was the worst" "It sucks to be the worst".

Of course my heart was so sad and I wanted to erase it all for him but I checked myself and I said.

"I am so sorry it didn't go well.  And I am sorry you feel you were the worst but someone has to be the worst.  I am sure it sucks".

There was another set of tryouts the next day but at that moment he said there was no point in even going. The coach had ignored him and he had no chance.

I suggested that sometimes its better to finish well even if you finish last but left it at that as he went to shower.

At bedtime that night I asked how he was and he said "I am going back tomorrow.  I know there is no chance but its about my attitude now".

WOW!  What character....a proud and humbling moment.

The next day at work I opened a list serve I am on and there was article on allowing children to fail..... I was of course heightened to the topic and intrigued... I encourage you to read the article but some of the points that caught my attention were.....
Failure is hard for everyone, but interestingly, it's particularly hard for high-achieving students. They don’t know how to deal with this unfamiliar territory. It kills their spirit because their performance is so linked to their self-esteem. I've seen this firsthand as an Ivy-League professor, and it isn't pretty.
We need to teach children great stories of failure. Thomas Edison tried 10,000 different materials before he found the right one for the light bulb filament. Failure?  No, that's data -- lots of it. Or as he put it, he learned 9,999 ways that it didn't work.
I think the article is a bit simplistic and one dimensional but I think it was instructive regarding the need to help our kids re-frame "Failure".

I personally think its also important to sit next to our kids on the stairs after soccer try-outs and agree that it sucks sometimes when things don't go the way we hoped. I think they need to know we are ok with "failure" ,ours and theirs, and ok with the emotions attached to that.

They have been sold Disney happiness and that can be as much of a straight-jacket as having to "be the best", "No 1", "a winner" or "right".

Its such a fine line to walk as a parent - when to push our children towards excellence and to be the best they can be and loving them through stuff that "sucks". On the sports field or in the classroom or in relationships.

David went back to tryouts the next day and he "failed".  He took a risk and he "failed" by someone's definition.  But the coach said "It was brave of you to come back today David and if we get a junior team I will recommend you to the coach".


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