Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The importance of failing

Plenty of people have written on how failure is part of the development process. Simply put, in order to achieve success, you have to be willing to step outside of you comfort zone, and from time to time that will cause you to fail. What is really important is how you react to failing. Most will tumble, and many will never try again. The success histories we hear about, all involve those who stood up right away, ready to try again!

This swimming season, I was lucky enough to be involved with some failure, and most importantly, with addressing the mistakes, polishing the attempt, and succeeding after another try. The group I work with had a fairly disappointing state meet (with only a couple exceptions). Going in to it, I knew the season had not been good enough, that we had not been training at the level we needed to in order to succeed. In time: I believe this was due to shortcomings from both the kids (who had been successful under a different coaching style before) and myself (who had been successful with a different group of kids). What followed that meet, though, was extremely important and positive: we sat down and talked about our shortcomings. The kids listened to me talk about how we had not been meeting my expectations, and I listened to them talk about what they thought was missing.

I was reminded of a video that has great importance to me (it helped me personally at a time I thought I was 'failing'). You can watch it here.

So what did we do following our conversation? Luckily, we still had one big meet to go, so we got right back at work, and what I saw was a completely different work ethic in action. On my end, I made some small changes on both coaching style and practice design, while on their end they responded by giving me the kind of focus and intensity that had been missing up to that point. With just a couple weeks to train before we started resting, we hit outstanding workouts, one after the other, and by the time taper time came, I was very confident we had done everything we could in the little time we had. The results of our second taper and shave meet were a clear contrast from the State meet, and in many cases the time drops were bigger than they had been for the entire season up to that point! Simply put, I believe we made more progress in four weeks than we had in the 24 before that!

I'm convinced that without the disappointing results of the State meet, we would still be in a limbo, trying to adjust, and perhaps making small gains here and there. Thanks to that failure, we were able to really work together, which resulted in a great leap in performance! Now everyone's looking forward to what the Long Course Season will bring. I have no doubt that we'll be able to keep the lessons learned fresh in our minds, and can only imagine how exciting a full season with that kind of intensity will be!


  1. I'm glad you had a chance to recover. I'm even happier for you that they listened to you and brought their intensity up to match what you needed.

  2. Thanks, Billy! We don't get 'second chances' very often, but in this case I am glad it was there, and really happy about how we all used it.