In youth sports, failure rears its _____________ (more on this blank space later) head to varying degrees at just about every training session and game.

There’s simply no way to avoid it. Striking out, missing a penalty kick, a poor pass, a fumble, losing a championship game… The list goes on and on.

As a coach, I’ve certainly been very frustrated at times when my players have made mistakes in the past. There have also been times when I’ve handled their failures very well. I’ve seen parents and spectators handle their kids’ or teams’ failures with both frustration and support.

For you soccer parents reading this, have you ever yelled ‘not to the middle!’ as a player dribbles right in front of their own goal and loses the ball to the other team who easily poke it in the back of our net? 🙂

Regardless of how I or any parents/spectators handled past player failures, they happened and they will continue to happen.


They continue to happen day in, day out.

 The Best Phrase I’ve Heard For How To Handle Failure…

This one really resonated with me. Here’s the phrase…

We should ‘honor failure’.

When I first heard that, it made a major impact on me. If I try to put myself in the shoes of a player that makes a mistake, especially one that leads to a success for the opponent, I imagine that player feels low. When I think back to some of my poignant failures, they don’t feel very good.

I’m sure our young players understand what happened and don’t feel good about it. They get that they made a mistake.


If we, as coaches and parents, can help them assess the failures and learn from them, aren’t they one of the most powerful teaching tools we have?

If we choose to honor failure, I think we handle it in certain ways…

  • Respectfully – We treat the player making the mistake with respect. We don’t make them wrong.
  • Positively – We don’t turn the situation into a negative. We build the player up.
  • Powerfully – We help our young players assess their failures. We help them use it as a tool to learn and improve.

I also think there’s one more element we need to add. We should teach our young players to take responsibility for it. Over time, it doesn’t need to be coaches and parents handling failures for players.

They can learn to take responsibility for failure and manage it on their own.

If we make them wrong when they fail, aren’t we just encouraging them to avoid failing? We don’t want our youth athletes playing safe out of fear of failure. We want them growing and expressing themselves. We want them developing by facing fear and taking on risks. Failure is just a part of the process.


Let’s go back to the top of this post and fill in the blank.

What adjective would you use to describe failure?