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Pressure, Expectations and Failure as Fuel!

Mindset Made Simple Tip #55

Hero or Quitter?

This seems to be the question over the past week, all surrounding one of the best athletes on the planet.

How does someone like Simone Biles get to this point in her career?

I have a lot of thoughts…and from reading social media and listening to commentators, we all do!

However, my thoughts don’t matter (and neither do the aforementioned opinions).

What does matter is that we learn something from watching the greatest gymnast of all time succumb to the pressures that come with performing on the biggest stage in the world.

We are all responsible for our choices.

We are all responsible for our actions.

Ultimately, our decisions determine our destiny…or maybe it is our disciplined action that determines our destiny (we will talk more about this in a future tip).

However, pressure and expectations are REAL!

Can we control expectations? NO!

Can we control if we “win”? NO!

They both fall on the “uncontrollable” side of the “controllables” list I use with my teams.

But tell that to your amazing, yet frustrating brain when you are trying to do something that has never been done before…or when you are trying to do anything that puts you in the spotlight!

My opinions on Simone Biles don’t matter because I am not in her skin. I have NEVER experienced, nor will I ever, the pressures of her world.

You may say (and I have, too) that when an athlete gets to the top of the world, he or she should expect pressure and fight in the face of it.

Hundreds of other athletes are doing so. Some win, some lose. But they are putting themselves out there for the world to judge.

Djokovic had some thoughts on the subject. Then he, too, came face to face with the pressures and a few broken rackets and a drop from the doubles competition.

The one thought I will share about Simone Biles and others who made decisions that seem to fly in the face of the spirit of competition is that...

We have created this!

We have made success critical to self-worth.

We have huge expectations of our kids in 8u (and even younger I have found since becoming a parent) and beyond.

We have provided a steady flow of unnecessary stress, pressure and, unfortunately, mental health issues for our kids, and it happens younger and younger every year!

When college athletes get death threats for missing field goals in the big game.

When scoring systems are changed to keep others from hurting themselves.

When sub-par efforts are rewarded or excused and simple participation garners trophies.

When valedictorians are forgone as if we all don’t know who the smartest kid in class really is, so we don’t’ hurt the feelings of others.

When these things happen and we don’t let people fail and accept it as part of life, or even more importantly sometimes, realize that there is someone out there better than us and that is okay, we are doing our world a HUGE injustice!

We have taken a great opportunity on how to “get back up” out of sports.

We turn failure into a fatal experience.

I remember my first trip to the ASA Softball (now USA Softball) Nationals. There were 150+ teams there. My first thought was, how can this be a national championship if there are more than 50 teams here…thinking we have 50 states…you see where I am going here?

But not only was that tournament going on that weekend, there were other “Nationals” going on all around the country.

So, we have multiple NATIONAL CHAMPIONS every single summer. How is this possible…and why?

According to our sports-crazed culture, we all HAVE TO WIN! (Don’t get me wrong, I love sports – remember my football shoes at 3? 😊).

I am not saying that winning isn’t important. IT IS!

However, everyone can’t win. BUT EVERYONE CAN LEARN!

But if we don’t let our kids fail and then learn how to recover, sports are not nearly as effective a tool for growth as they should be!

Kids quit. They transfer. They make excuses. (Big people do all of this, too). And instead of providing the tools to deal with fear, disappointment and failure, we continue to heap expectations upon them, start a new team so they can be a starter or make up a new trophy to be sure everyone is a winner.

The truth is this – we don’t always win, no matter how hard we try! And every performance does not deserve a trophy.

And this is GOOD.

If everything is celebrated, how will we ever truly reach our potential?

Failure is GOOD. And if we teach our athletes to use it as FUEL, we will all be better in the long run!

Here are a few ways we can use our failure as fuel!

1. Expect it! – The only way we won’t fail is if we don’t ever try anything new. If we understand that failure is merely finding ways that don’t work as Thomas Edison said when inventing the lightbulb, we take the pressure off instantaneously. If we are to try something new, we will fail! Even if we do our VERY BEST, we are not guaranteed a win.

2. How am I responsible for my failure? – If we teach ourselves to ask a few questions about our failures, we can learn great lessons on how to do better the next time. What was my role in this? Was I present? Did I have a positive mindset? Did I give it all I had? What could I have done better, or could I have contributed more? Did I allow outside factors to affect my performance? Did I focus on the process?

3. Look for the lesson! - I am sure you have heard the saying: we win or learn! Even a quick evaluation of the situation can be very helpful for future performances. A failure is normally not a total disaster. In fact, you could have been awesome and your competition was even more amazing! But making notes on what you did well, what you can do better and then making a plan for how to be better assures the loss turns into a positive lesson!

Reframing how we look at failure can release some of the pressures and even out some of the expectations that exist, whether self-imposed, real or implied!

I have no idea what Simone Biles if feeling, but I am pretty certain the fear of failure has reared its ugly head as she works through her Olympic experience.

Our society likes winners. So do I!

If that is truly the case, we need to make it known that even winners lose. They fear failure. They lose confidence. They want to quit. They feel pressure.

Then we need to provide them with the mental performance tools to help them deal with the reality of performance.

Reframing failure is a small step in that direction!

Enjoy the remainder of the Olympics and the realities that Jim McKay made famous...”the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!”

Have a great week!


P.S. As you plan for 2021-22, don’t leave mental performance to chance. Let me help you implement a plan as detailed as your daily practice plan. Let’s set up a time to talk about how we can build your team’s mental toughness. Give me a call or text at 234-206-0946 or send me an email at

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