“I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ~ Thomas Edison
With success, there will always come failure. It is inevitable. You can’t have one without the other. When I was a young athlete, my coaches would play us against older teams so that we would face stronger competition. His idea was “If we are not losing half the time, then we were not playing against strong enough competition”. Some may argue that this made our confidence weaker by not having as much success as if we had just stayed in the comfort of playing teams our own age. It did quite the opposite. It made us grow up, learning to fight in every situation and made the best of our young talent against the older players.
As athletes, we find ourselves in a periods during our careers when we fail. One thing I find common with athletes of this generation, even at the college level, is many of them are afraid to fail. These players are so petrified to make a mistake that it affects their performance both physically and mentally. Whether it be from a fear of letting the team down, a coach pulling them out of a game, or dreading what their parents will yell from the bleachers, athletes fear not having success. But you know what? Failure is okay. Without failure, how would you have success? When you have success, it is because you learned from your failures and gained a better understanding at what it is you needed to work on.
Now let me be clear, failure is okay as long as it is with effort. MAKE AGGRESSIVE MISTAKES! Lay out for a ball you may not be confident in catching. You will be pleasantly surprised when it lands in your glove. Take aggressive hacks at good pitches. You may hit one out. Get out of your comfort zone and push your limit to see how much you can do!
I have been reading this amazing book titled, The Champion’s Mind, by Jim Afremow, Ph.D. He talks about how some athletes play to win, while others play not to lose. Some athletes play to make plays, while others play as to not make mistakes. If you play not to lose, you are placing yourself in a “no-win” situation. If you play to win, you are making a “no-lose” situation, and if you don’t meet your goal for that day all you can say at the end is “Okay, I just didn’t meet today’s goal.” It is not a big deal if you don’t meet your goal for one day! You are a competitor, you WILL find a way to achieve any goal you set your mind to.
Your success is found inside yourself, it is already a part of you – you just have to discover it.
American Soccer star Abby Wambach said that “You cannot win at everything you attempt at life. You have to be willing to fail and fall flat on your face in order to get glory.” This willingness to make mistakes will release all the pressure you put on yourself and cause you to worry less about what people think. It will allow you to take smart risks and play your own game. GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO FALL FORWARD! Do not be too discouraged after having an unsuccessful performance. Transform losses into new beginnings to have success instead of viewing them as end points. TRUST YOUR TALENT! Avoid perfectionism. There is no such thing as perfect in sports. Let your body do what you train it to do. Get out of your head and into your performance. Trust that all your skills are there because they are!
Know that there is ALWAYS something to improve on. Trust me when I say that even at the professional level we are always working to improve something. As you move from one level of your sport to another, working on improvement never ends because there is no such thing as perfection in sports. Make sure that when you are working do not get discouraged if the improvement is not instantaneous. We all learn at different rates, and there is nothing wrong with that. Do not stop working on something because it gets hard. Be a competitor! The true joy of competing is mastering the skill and translating it into the game. There is no such thing as “I can’t do it”, you can do anything you set your mind to – it may not be exactly at the pace you like or want, but it WILL happen.
SO NOW, write a list of your weaknesses. Go to the cage, the field, and start working on it – master them at your own pace while pushing yourself into a new comfort zone. Push yourself in practice to get out of it. Try new things when something isn’t working. Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged or put pressure on yourself to be perfect.
If I were allowed to give one piece of advice to young hitters it would be this:
STOP watching your stats! You know when you’ve had a great hit. If a great short stop jumped 10 feet and caught it in it mid-air, give her credit and pat yourself on the back for a great hit — it still was a great hit, no matter what your stats say. Do not be results oriented. Focus on the process and the results will come. You will find that when you focus on awards and the glory that comes with it, you will never get it. This is because you focus on the end result instead of what it will take for you to get there. If you focus on the process, the results will happen on their own.
Many young athletes I coach view us professionals as being perfect. They think that we have never failed and that is why we are where we are in our careers. It is actually the complete opposite. It is because we never stopped pushing ourselves to get better. We knew our weaknesses and worked endlessly until they became strengths. We failed and failed and failed and never stopped working to get better. This way is how failure defines you and your success. You have to remain determined when things get tough.
Until next time keep improving and never be satisfied,