Fueled by failure
By Greg Bach
Olympian Andrea Duran, one of the greatest players in the history of UCLA softball, was fueled by failure as a young player new to the sport.
Those struggles and disappointments that accompany learning new skills in a new sport didn’t drive her to quit.
Instead, it inspired her to work harder – a powerful message to share with young players in any sport who are tangling with adversity.
“My first year playing I think I struck out almost every time I went up to bat,” Duran says. “Failing that much could have either discouraged me or fueled me, and it definitely did the latter. Instead of succumbing to my failures I worked harder and did everything that I could to strike out less.”
The Selma, Calif., native stuck with the sport and her skills evolved. She was later named UCLA’s Female Athlete of the Year and the PAC 10 Player of the Year, as well as won a silver medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
“The key to failure is having a short-term memory,” Duran says. “Get over it fast, learn from it and continue to work hard to give yourself the peace of mind to work through that failure.”
TRUST THE PROCESS
Mental toughness is a tricky concept for kids to grasp. But if coaches can teach their young athletes to learn from those strikeouts like Duran did, they can become more effective – and confident – hitters through patience and practice.
“I think the biggest thing that helps with confidence is putting in the reps and work during the week so that you have the peace of mind in the game,” she says. “If and when you fail in the game you have to let it go and look to the next pitch or the next at bat to succeed.”
As coaches, help your players understand that failure is a big part of competing, especially in sports like baseball and softball where even the game’s best hitters fail far more than they succeed.
“Your greatest teacher is failure so learn from your mistakes so that you can succeed at your next opportunity,” Duran says. “Failure is part of the game. No one is perfect or will be perfect so embrace the process and believe in yourself, your abilities, and the work you put in.”
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