Failure is an Option

By Nick Salen, USA Field Hockey's Senior Public Relations and Communications Coordinator | Nov. 26, 2019, 9:57 a.m. (ET)
The final buzzer of the year has sounded as you begin to reflect on the year. Your season did not pan out as anticipated; playoffs weren’t in the cards or you are still haunted by that missed scoring chance when the team needed it most. Like the laws of physics, while one side may be cheering on cloud nine into the offseason, the equal and opposite reaction is happening as the thoughts of failure sink in. It will sting and be on the mind for what feels like an eternity, but the lessons pulled from the agony of defeat can be more precious than a trophy on display or a medal on the wall.

Odds are at every competition any team can equally experience the anguish of a tough loss when seeking the thrill of glory. Regardless, failure is inevitable for anybody in any sport at any skill level. It is okay to experience once or several times a year. Remember, it does not define you and is not absolute, but rather makes you stronger whether as a coach or player of the game.

The phrase “failure is not an option” is often used to motivate teams and athletes as early as preseason. It can be easily heard thousands of times across your life and sports career, but in reality, one must remember it is a symbol of inspiration when pushing the limit and getting the most out of athletes. At practice and inside the huddle those words ring firm. Off the field they should read: “Failure is not an option.”

When that knot in the stomach happens, realize that sense of failure is a necessary evil in your career in order to develop further. Failure is part of the improvement process and is only long-lasting if you allow it.

Athletes, take advantage of every loss and missed opportunity. There is always a lesson to be learned that won’t show up on film and can be used to motivate, correct and grow. Establish goals from the negative to bolster your commitment to be the best you can possibly be. The amount of times the cycle is repeated is irrelevant in the long run. What is waiting on the other side is wisdom, experience and a competitive edge the next time the sound of the whistle cracks through the air.

Coaches, as a leader it can be just as nauseating as it is frustrating to see the team struggle, let alone lose the big game to a rival squad. Just like athletes on the field you want a hundred percent from the beginning to end of the game. When that doesn’t produce the result you wanted or expected, failure teaches one how to create success and provides clues on how individuals and teams can make that full effort even greater. How to craft that into future positivity varies but is a simple as addressing the problem together at the next team practice.

Yes, we all want to succeed on the field, but it’s not always in the form of a big trophy or banner. More often than not, it takes the form of getting up and trying again and again. After all, without failure there is no way to tell how great one can be. So, the next time that sickening feeling pulses over you, let it come but don’t let it fester. Take the alternative option and learn from it, you’ll be thanking yourself next season.