Category Archives: Mistakes

Why Being Wrong Feels So Right


The battle between right and wrong is constantly being waged between friends, spouses, coworkers, and teammates.  But what happens when both sides believe wholeheartedly that they are right?  And what happens when those folks are on the same team?  Or a coach and a player have dramatically different views of what’s happening on a team?

In a thought-provoking TEDtalk, Kathryn Schulz gives us the lowdown On Being Wrong.  And what is “wrong”, really?  It is anticipating one thing, but something else happens instead.  I’m sure Wylie Coyote thought he was right to chase the Road Runner off a cliff…until he realized he’s run off the cliff.  Until wrongness registers with us, being wrong feels just like being right.

Our players are no different than we are…we always think we’re right, as do they.  So imagine a scenario where a player thinks she should be playing more than the coach does, here’s the progression of her thinking:

  1. Player thinks coach is ignorant.  The coach just doesn’t know their stuff or hasn’t taken the time to study the available information.  Once coach looks more closely at their playing ability, coach will make them a starter.
  2. Player thinks coach is an idiot.  Now the player acknowledges that the coach has the information and has done their homework, unfortunately the coach is just too dimwitted to understand what’s right in front of her eyes.
  3. Player thinks coach is evil.  The player realizes that the coach knows her stuff and has processed all available information and still thinks the player isn’t a starter.  Now the player believes the coach has a personal problem and is just being mean.  The player should be a starter, but the coach is so awful and spiteful that she just won’t let the player get more court time.

This sounds funny, but according to Schulz…it’s also science.  We trust in our feelings of rightness, unfortunately feelings aren’t that reliable.

Here are some other scenarios where right and wrong play themselves out on a team:

  1. A player is making poor choices in their personal lives.  Whether it’s a volatile relationship, an eating disorder, or inappropriate personal behavior, we’ve got to understand the player thinks they’re right.  Our job is to shed light on their situation so that there is a realization that takes place.  We have to help them realize how their behavior is affecting the team, the coaching staff, and their ability to give maximum effort in practice.
  2. Coaches are human too.  Sometimes, there are those rare occasions when the coach is actually wrong about something.  We don’t like to admit it, but that’s exactly what we have to do.  Maybe you were wrong about a game plan for an opponent, admit it and change things up.  Maybe you thought a player would be amazing and she just isn’t.  Or maybe you made a change to your offense that you thought would take your team to greatness.  Whatever it is, if we can squeak out a “maybe I was wrong”, we can model good behavior for our teams.
  3. It’s not as bad as we thought.  We’ve all got a team that seems to have our number.  And like it or not, our teams build things up in their heads (they’re so good, we’ve never beaten them, they always beat us, that one girl is amazing) about what will happen in competition.  But sometimes they’re wrong about not being able to step up…sometimes we win those games against teams that “should” beat us.  This is the only time when being wrong is a good thing!

Essentially, we all think we’re right…until we realize that we’re wrong.  Hopefully this information will help us navigate the distance between right and wrong more intentionally.

3 Actions You Can Take Right Now To Make Your Team Excellent


We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. –Aristotle

I want my athletes to get as good as they can possibly be while they’re with me…and I’m sure I’m not the only coach who feels that way.  So when I stumbled upon an article called, The Mundanity of Excellence by Daniel Chambliss, I knew that I wanted to bring it to you guys.  It’s a study on swimmers, but I think it can not only be applied to team sports, but to us coaches, folks in the business world…anyone who wants to be better!  The author defines excellence as the consistent superiority of performance…I think that’s a goal we can all get behind!  So let’s check out how to be excellent.

Here’s what our athletes need to do in order to be excellent

  • Make qualitative improvements. So what does that mean?  In the article, the author talks about how excellence doesn’t come solely from making quantitative adjustments…by just doing more of an activity.  It comes from making targeted adjustments within that activity, much like I talked about in The Secrets To Greatness Are Within Your Control.  It would be silly for us to tell our athletes that they just need to pass more and more to get better…if they’re passing the ball behind their heads!  Yes, they’ve got to do more, but that “more” should be in the context of making adjustments as necessary.  Doing more of the correct thing will yield great results.  Other examples of qualitative improvements could be eating healthier, trying harder in the weight room, or practicing with more intensity.
  • Practice excellence with the little things. As a swimmer quoted in the article says, “people don’t know how ordinary success is.”  Excellence seems to be the meeting together of a bunch of small things that, when done well and with consistency, create a superb athlete.  Those things could be going to the trainer, taking warmup seriously, focusing in on the minor angle changes that need to be made to take a pass from really good to perfect.  Doing those things daily will put your athletes on the road to excellence.  As the author says, “winning is nothing more than the synthesis of a countless number of little things.”
  • Find motivation every day. Athletes on the road to excellence find the everyday things (going to practice, warmup drills, etc.) fun, rewarding, and challenging…they’re able to make them into challenges.  The author tells a story of a swimmer who was fiercely competitive, who made everything into a race: who could get dressed the fastest, who could get to the pool the fastest, who could finish their warmups the fastest…he just loved to compete.  This desire to win in practice helped him to develop a habit of winning and made competition ordinary.  Therefore, the big swim meet really was just another meet, because he was so used to competing every day.  Because there was no significant change in his approach to practices versus meets and his training mirrored competition…he became excellent.

I hope that we’re all able to get our teams fired up about this concept…that being good isn’t reserved for some secret society of athletes.  But for those who are willing to consistently and attentively work at it.

The 5 Stages Of Accomplishment


A friend of mine just finished up her master’s degree.  I stopped at the store (in a panic because I was running late) to pick up a card that would adequately tell her how awesome I thought it was.  And I came across one that had the five stages of accomplishment written on it.  I loved it and knew that I would bring them over here to you folks.  Check them out and see the wisdom that you can get from a simple greeting card.

Here are the 5 stages that our athletes will go through when they’re learning something new.

Denial: I can’t do it. When you stop a player mid-drill and say, “Hey, why don’t you try pointing your arms where you want the pass to go?”  Most player’s immediate reaction will be that they can’t do it.  No matter if they nod or say “ok, Coach!” or don’t acknowledge you at all…they’re freaking out a little.

Uncertainty: Maybe I can do it. After you come back around and give them a little love for the effort (not necessarily the result, because that’s probably still pretty bad), they start to get a little bit of confidence.  Not a lot…but just enough to move the meter from “positively canNOT” to “maybe”.  That’s progress!

Resistance: There’s no way I can do it. Inevitably, they’ll fall on their face and try to go back to doing things the way they always did…before you tried to “fix” them.  There can be lots of excuses at this stage:  (sassy) another coach told me to do it another way, (techie) I looked online and saw that your way was wrong, (sad) I’m just not good enough to do it the right way so don’t waste your time, (annoying) I tried it your way, but I like it my way better.  Whatever the excuse, our jobs as coaches is to remind them that patience is a virtue.

Panic: Aaargh! What if I can’t do it? This usually happens right around game time.  Practice is one thing, but games are altogether different and they probably think that they’re going to make a fool of themselves in front of their friends and families.  At this point, they know that they can perform the skill most of the time…but worry about the possibility that they’ll screw up.  And royally.  That’s when the wise coach tells their player that they will, in fact, screw up…and that’s ok.  Mistakes?  Not a big deal.  Trying something new?  Great, big, huge deal!

Acceptance: All right! I did it! Let’s party!! If that player gets into the game and tries that skill that you’ve been working on…celebrate.  If they perform that skill well…really celebrate!  Of course this doesn’t mean that they’ll perform correctly every time, but knowing that they did it once should give them the confidence to keep trying to get better.  And if our players get better every practice and every game, then our team’s can’t help but benefit.

So what do you think? Does that sound about right for the stages that your athletes go through until they’re comfortable with a new skill?

8 Ways To Help Your Team Overcome A Weakness


Every team has a weakness, just like every player has a weakness.  Every offensive scheme has a deficiency…as does every defensive system.  The best way to camouflage those weaknesses is to be honest about them and figure out to minimize them.  Here’s a step-by-step plan to do just that…enjoy!

8 ways to keep from beating yourself and get on the road to success

  • Admit that it exists. You’ve got to identify your team’s weakness before anyone else does.  Once you’ve identified your shortcomings, you can style your offensive and defensive schemes around hiding it.
  • Be specific. Whether you’ve got a slow-footed setter or a hitter with a poor armswing, you’ve got to be specific with yourself and your coaching staff about how other teams will try to beat you.  And then give those athletes tools to overcome their deficiencies.
  • Set quantifiable goals. Using our hitter with the poor armswing as an example, you could give her measureable times to come in and work on her mechanics.  During season, you’d like her to be able to verbalize what she’s doing wrong 100% of the time…and to perform the skill correctly 50% of her opportunities.
  • Seek advice and guidance from others.  Sometimes we can’t see what’s right in front of our faces.  We think that we’ve got it together, we can see our weaknesses, and know how to fix them.  But then we sit down with our assistants and they bring up something totally different.
  • Assess regularly. The whole purpose setting those quantifiable goals that we talked about earlier was to be able to assess ourselves and our success.  Does our hitter understand what she’s doing wrong?  Can she feel it as she’s doing it?  Is she able to self correct?
  • Challenge the weakness.  Perhaps your hitter is great in drills, but she struggles with transition in game-like situations.  That’s your new focus with her.  If you don’t challenge her…your opponents will.
  • Keep a journal. Or keep your practice plans.  You’ll just need a method to go back and look at your athlete’s progress and the plan you had for her.  This way, when you’re frustrated because she’s still not getting better…you can reflect on just how far she’s come.
  • Be patient. Developing bad habits takes time…and so does breaking them in order to build new ones.  You want to correct your hitter’s armswing not only because she’ll be a better player for you, but also because she’s risking getting seriously injured.  Helping her with that is worth the time, right?

I believe that this method will work at the individual as well as program-wide level.  Good luck!

Skill Development: It’s Easy As 1-2-3


“People don’t know how ordinary success is.” –Olympic gold-medalist swimmer, Mary T. Meagher

Outstanding.  Elite.  Excellent.  Success.  Those are words that we use to describe what we want for our athletes.  We want the best for them and we want them to excel above all things.  But what if it were easier than we thought?  What if success was just doing “a lot of ordinary things very well”?  I’ve written about Daniel Coyle and his book The Talent Code before…I think it’s great.  He’s also got a blog and this article is based on a post he’d written giving a tongue-in-cheek representation of what athletes should do to be unsuccessful.  Let’s check out the three ordinary things that our athletes can do in order to increase their skill development and slowly but surely…become great.

The 3 things that we can do to help our athletes and their skill development

1.       Learn to love mistakes. We’ve got to give our athletes a love of watching video.  Not just to study up on the other team, but to study up on themselves.  As Coyle says on his blog, “let’s start with a well-established truth: many top performers are obsessive about critically reviewing their performances.”  He’s not just talking about a one-time viewing…”obsessive” seems to indicate a stronger level of commitment.  It’s the desire to constantly get better that drives these athletes to search their technique, their movement, their response to their surroundings.  It’s this desire that will make them a better athlete.

2.       Become ritualistic. This is one that made me feel better about all of the superstitions we carry on our team.  Certain girls wore the same headband all the time, my assistant wore the same shirt every game, I decided in my head that our team won when I put on makeup.  Clearly these things had no influence on the game and we all recognized that…but it didn’t stop us from doing those things!  But lo and behold, Coyle says “these behaviors are usually described as a superstition, but I think that misses the point: their ritual is their unique way of prepping to deliver a performance.”  So while it may seem silly, it’s everyone’s way of putting their game faces on.  Make sure that your team has individual rituals (headbands or listening to certain songs) as well as team rituals (warmup music, cheers) to get their brains into competition mode.

3.       Watch others and learn. I think all of our athletes understand that they’re not the first folks to play their sport…and that maybe someone else knows how to do something better than they do.  And if they don’t know, you should tell them!  Show them video of folks doing what they’re struggling with so that they can internalize the technique.  Have position practices where only your setters (or whatever position) attend and then just drill, drill, drill.  It will allow your younger players to watch the veterans and allow your older players to develop their leadership skills.  As Picasso said, “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.”  Copying (stealing) technique is a great way for your athletes to develop their skills.

Imagine if your athletes did these three things every day…and how good they’d become!  So give them a call or send them a text and let them know just how simple it could be to get really, really good.

Good Is The Enemy Of Great: How Perfectionism Is Killing Your Team


It’s amazing that people admit to being perfectionists. To me, it’s a disorder, not unlike obsessive-compulsive disorder. And like obsessive-compulsive disorder, perfectionism messes you up. It also messes up the people around you, because perfectionists lose perspective as they get more and more mired in details.  –

Most sports don’t require perfection from their participants, so where does this idea of being perfect come from and how can we get rid of it?  I was over at reading a great article titled, “Perfectionism Is A Disease. Here’s How To Beat It”, when it hit me that many times our athletes are saddled with this problem and need to be freed of it.  So let’s look at how we can help our teams understand that continual improvement, not perfection, is the goal.

**Three ways to combat perfectionism on our teams**

We learn through our mistakes. “If we don’t want anyone to know we make mistakes, which is how perfectionists tend to behave, we are actually hiding our true selves.” As coaches, we’ve got to be sure to create a practice environment conducive to making mistakes.  After all, if they can’t make mistakes in practice, where can they make them?  If they’re going to get better, they’re going to have to test their limits and that will involve making mistakes.  I talk about this very thing in my post, 3 Reasons Why Making Mistakes Is Vital To Your Team’s Success.   I wonder if this is what happens to those “potential” players who never seem to be as good as advertised…

Set your sights on being a hard worker, not perfect. “A lot of times perfectionism is a way to avoid focusing on goals.”  In my post, So You Want To Be An Excellent Coach?, I talk about the theory that it takes about 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to gain expertise in a field.  What that means for our athletes is that they just need to put in the time and be committed to being good.  It means that when they’re willing to work on the skill that is lacking, time and elbow grease will reap rewards.  This perspective takes every excuse away.  There’s no more, “well, Susie is just a better athlete than me”, but rather, “Susie was just willing to work harder than me.”  And that’s not an excuse, that’s just sad.

Create a super teamy team. “Teams do better work when everyone on the team likes everyone else.” Getting along goes a long way to helping people to accept their team roles, creating great team chemistry, and smoothing out the rough edges of a season.  The cornerstones of John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success are hard work and enthusiasm and the other three blocks that make up the base are: friendship, loyalty, and cooperation.  The whole idea of the Pyramid is that the things that helped Wooden’s teams win ten national championships in twelve years are represented on the Pyramid…with the most essential items at the bottom to make up the foundation.  I wrote about it in my post, How Watching Toy Story 3 Can Teach The Essentials Of Teamwork.

Let’s all agree to battle the perfection infestation by creating coaching philosophies and environments that help our athletes get better and challenge themselves.

Click here and you can get Coach Dawn Writes articles emailed directly to your inbox!  It’s free and easy…and you won’t get spammed.  Scouts honor.

Tom Hanks Was Right…There’s No Crying In Sports


Here is Pet Peeve #249:  players that cry in practice.  You’re probably thinking, “oh Dawn, you’re so heartless, sometimes there’s a good reason for crying…stop being so mean!”  In my mind though, there’s never a reason to put self before team and that’s exactly what crying in practice or a game does.  Now, I’m not talking about tears that are the result of an injury or yay-we-just-won-the-championship tears…those are both acceptable reasons for crying in sports.  I’m talking about the tears that stem from frustration, anger, or just plain lack of knowledge as to how one’s behavior affects others.  Let’s look at why I have such a strong opinion about crying and what you should do when faced with a crier in practice.

4 Reasons Why Tears Aren’t The Answer

1.       It’s selfish. When a player cries in a practice or game, they’re saying that their interests are more important than the team’s…plain and simple.

2.       It’s distracting. When there’s a player that cries, the team and coach have a decision to make:  do we attend to the emotional player or do we get work done here at practice or our game?  That’s not fair!  Their teammates shouldn’t have to debate whether they’re being awful people just because they want to focus on the task at hand.

3.       It shows lack of respect. The crier doesn’t respect the work that the coach has put into practice planning, because we’ve got a time schedule to keep.  They don’t respect their teammate’s focus or desire to get better at practice.  And in turn, if it’s not nipped in the bud, the crier could lose the respect of their coach and teammates.

4.       It shows lack of control. There’s no age that’s too young to start teaching our athletes how to manage their emotions.  After all, isn’t that the beauty of sports?  They’ll learn how to win and lose with grace, how to earn or lose a starting spot, and how to succeed and fail in front of others…it’s great!  It’s also our job as their coaches to teach them how to handle life’s ups and downs without it negatively impacting the lives of others.

So You’ve Got A Crier…Now What?

1.       Explain the points above. If you don’t explain those things, they’ll just think you’re being mean…which could spawn more tears (*sigh*) and an exponentially higher level of frustration for you as their coach.  They need to understand that those four things above are contrary to any sort of team success and because of that, you can’t let it slide.

2.       Acknowledge whatever their situation is. Their boyfriend broke up with them, they failed a huge test, they’re playing at an amazingly awful level…whatever it is, you get it, right?  You understand why they’d want to cry, why they’re frustrated, and why they feel like they can’t handle it anymore.  You get it…you just won’t tolerate it, because you and the team still have work to do.

3.       Remind them that they’ve got a mouth. They’ve got to use their words.  You’re a reasonable human being, right coach?  If they came to you with a legitimate problem or concern, you’d listen and the two of you would work it out together, right?  Let them know that you’ll be there for them…but only when they can behave like an adult.  You love them and care for them, but poor behavior is poor behavior and it’s not to be tolerated.

4.       Give them a break. Sometimes the crier can get themselves together and refocus.  Sometimes they can’t and you might have to give them a break.  But it’s got to be legit…you can’t hold it against them!  You can’t say on one hand: come to me like an adult and I’ll listen and we’ll work it out…and then when the crier tells you the problem, you yell or scream or are just generally pissed.  Maybe you make them finish practice with the understanding that they’re going to be terrible, or maybe you send them home knowing that they’ll be better the next day.

So there you are folks, this is a tough one for a lot of coaches…tears are powerful and disarming.  But stand your ground and turn the situation into a teachable moment.

How To Spot A Loser…And Keep Them Off Of Your Team


When you hear the word “loser”, you think of awful people with no ambition in life.  But that’s not always the case, sometimes they are incredibly talented, charming, and fun people to be around.  Sometimes they’re your captains, your leaders, and the people of influence on your team.  They’re tricky, those losers.  They can sometimes even look like winners (for more on winners, click here)…until you delve a little bit deeper.  Both winners and losers are skilled, but losers have an innate quality that will eat away at the fabric of your team.  Want to learn how to stay away from those losers?  Well, read on!

10 Traits Shared By Losers…and Feared By Coaches

1.       Indifference: While winners are passionate about their sport and getting better at it, losers are just “meh”.  They’re the folks you look at and think, “if only they would work hard, they’d be so good.”  But they won’t work hard, because they’re fine with just getting by.

2.       Disorder: Winners thrive on discipline…of mind and body, while losers are free wheelers.  You may think that your player is a winner because you haven’t done anything that negatively impacts them.  But bench them for a play or sub them out of a game and you’ll see that they are unwilling to follow the game plan…which will of course lead to disorder.

3.       Selfishness: Losers are selfish, it’s all about them.  If they do something great in a game, they’re excited and seeking out high fives.  But if they make a mistake, they withdraw and reject any efforts by their teammates to console them.  These are the players that make it difficult to maintain any sort of team chemistry.

4.       Disrespect: While winners spend tons of time studying film and finding out how to be a better athlete, losers slide by on natural talent.  As the rest of the team is scouring over their scouting reports pre-game, the loser sits in the locker room texting their friends…they don’t respect the game or the effort that is essential to become good at it.

5.       Narrow focus: You can tell a winner that their teammates are essential to the team’s success and they’d agree, but a loser?  They’re so focused on themselves and what they need that they may have forgotten that they even have teammates!

6.       Fear: Winners take chances while losers hold back.  Losers are afraid to take risks, so they do things that they’ve always done that have always worked…they are firmly entrenched in their comfort zone.  Their coaches will scratch their heads wondering why the player hasn’t gotten any better, but unfortunately they will be the dreaded player with “potential” that is never realized because they’re afraid of making mistakes.

7.       Weakness: Sometimes losers can camouflage themselves as winners…until crunch time.  While winners will rise to the occasion, losers inevitably shrink under pressure.  They don’t mind being “the man” when everything is great, but when you need them to make their free throws…you can’t find them.

8.       Freedom: Leadership is something that winners willingly take on, but losers will shirk this responsibility.  Don’t get me wrong, they may be a captain, but that certainly doesn’t make them a responsible leader.  Losers want the freedom to slack off on their summer workouts, go halfway in the weight room, and be contrarian in practice.  With all of that freedom, who has time to be a leader?

9.       Defeatism: As we talk about these losers, I don’t want you to think that these are bad people.  It’s probably quite the opposite, you probably really like them.  Sometimes a player becomes a loser because they’re soft-hearted and can’t let go of a mistake or a loss or a criticism.  They ruminate, they play it back in their heads over and over…they’re so stuck in the past that they’re of no use to your team in the present.

10.   Reality: Losers can only see what’s in front of them.  The winners on your team can close their eyes and see their goals coming true in the future.  Losers only see what is instead of what could be.

There you go coaches…now stay away from those losers!

Helping Your Team Bounce Back From Disappointment: The Raw Egg Or Tennis Ball?


The Detroit Lions haven’t won a road game in three years and were on the verge of doing just that until the unforeseen happened.  In the final seconds of the game, the Lions’ backup quarterback threw a long pass and their star receiver leapt in the air, caught the ball, and celebrated his game winning touchdown.  Then the official blew the whistle and signaled “no catch” because of a little known possession rule that the receiver had violated.  As a closeted Lions fan, I was disappointed that my team was unable to break their losing streak.  And as a coach, I wondered what I would do to keep my team focused, motivated, and forward-looking after such a heartbreaking loss.

Disappointment is built into athletics as well as life, and it’s how we deal with the disappointment that is important.  What if we, as coaches, could influence the lens that our teams view disappointments through?  Well, I believe we can!  It’s our job to frame disappointments (losses, injuries, etc.) in a way that empowers our teams rather than renders them helpless.  That’s where the title of this article comes from…it’s the choice that our athletes confront every time they face adversity or a disappointment.  They can be the egg that is completely crushed when it’s dropped or they can be the tennis ball that bounces back.  So check out my ideas for bouncing back from a disappointment so that one disappointment doesn’t turn into many.

3 Strategic Tips To Help Your Team Bounce Back From Disappointment

Bounce back tip #1: Include the entire team
Whether it’s a basketball player who misses her free throws or it is the football player from the example above, they were not the only reason that your team lost the game.  Just as it’s never one player’s responsibility for a win, neither is it one player’s fault for a disappointing loss.  The first thing a coach can do after a disappointment is to remind the team that they are indeed a team and that they rise or fall together.

Bounce back tip #2: Look to the future
No matter how sad, mad, pissed, surprised, or whatever emotion your team feels after a disappointment, they can’t change it.  They can cry, they can scream, they can stare in disbelief…but the result remains the same.  The disappointment is still there.  So what’s a coach to do?  Look ahead and use the disappointment as a jumping off point.  Whether your athletes need to learn the rules of the game (using my football example from the opening) or how to manage their emotions in crunch time, those are great places to start in terms of turning a disappointment on its head.

Bounce back tip #3: Correct the mistake
If your volleyball player missed the match point serve so severely that you know she was just scared to death of the moment, it’s time to add some pressure situations in practice so that she can tighten up her mental game.  We can’t recreate the pressure of game-time competition, but we can give her tips to manage her thinking so that it’s positive rather than negative.  We’ve got to equip our athletes to bounce back from the disappointments that are sure to come over the course of the season.

Those are my simple tips for helping your team to bounce back from disappointments.  The choice is truly theirs.  They can be the egg–crumbling at adversity–or the tennis ball, which will keep bouncing back no matter how hard the fall.

3 Reasons Why Making Mistakes Is Vital To Your Team’s Success


Trust me, if you aren’t making mistakes, you’re not learning — or, at least, you’re not learning enough.
The Miracle of Making Mistakes

I enjoyed this article because it has been my mantra as a coach for as long as I can remember and I can’t imagine that there are too many coaches out there who want the sort of timidity that comes from playing it safe.  That quotation above is from an article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), which I’d highly recommend you read by following the link.  The fun part of my job is getting across to my players that there is joy in making mistakes and that those mistakes are the best way to get better and here’s how you can teach the same lesson.

First:  Learn to take risks
The opening of the HBR article talks about our obsession with perfection:  from getting A’s in the classroom to avoiding getting in trouble with mom and dad…we’re hard wired at a young age to not make mistakes.  So it’s our obligation as coaches to explain that mistakes are a part of the game and that neither you nor they should expect perfection.  I usually tell my team that if they make twenty five different mistakes, that’s great!  But making twenty five of the same mistakes?  Not so great.  They should take risks and make new mistakes every day.  As the German proverb says, “you will become clever through your mistakes.”

Second:  Learn to manage their emotions when taking risks
Using volleyball as an example, how will your players learn that their heart will be pounding out of their chests when they’ve got the serve and it’s match point?  How will they learn to manage their breathing, their thoughts, and their self-talk if you don’t put them in those pressure situations (in practices and games) and coach them through it?  And that’s the key.  It’s our jobs as coaches to equip them with the tools that they need to successfully navigate risk-taking.

Third:  Learn how to turn failure on its head
This is where your athletes learn that making mistakes will pay off for them.  If they’re challenging themselves to master new skills, they’re going to fail because it’s new.  But if they keep at it, they’ll fail themselves forward and acquire a new skill that they can use to challenge competitors.  Imagine if a baby decided that it could do everything it needed to do by crawling everywhere…how limited would their lives be?!  The same is true for athletes!   It’s our jobs as coaches to challenge our athletes and to give them enough knowledge in practice that they can self-correct mid-competition…and I believe that knowledge is the key to taking smart risks and making smart mistakes.

How do you encourage your team to make mistakes?  Do you think you create an environment where your athletes feel comfortable making mistakes?