Failing Your Way to Success

In case you missed it, Nick Foles (Philadelphia Eagles QB and Super Bowl LII MVP) gave some insight into the role failure has played in his success during the post game interview. At Success for Teams we have great appreciation for the role failure plays in an individual's ultimate success. Foles words are an invitation, almost, for us to embrace the humbling reality of NOT achieving what we initially set out to accomplish because of what that failure does to bring us closer to greatness.

Studies have consistently shown that as human beings our greatest fears are failure, death, and public speaking.

Recently I came across a quote by Marie Curie that read, “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.”

The Mount Ida design college in Massachusetts featured an exhibition in 2015 called Permission to Fail. "The curator asked a group of 50 prestigious designers and illustrators to send in their mess-ups, rough drafts and preliminary sketches so that they could be put on display.” The point is to teach students that the process is messy and that the "great ones" are repeatedly imperfect before creating a masterpiece.

If we can understand the valuable role that failure plays in our success, could we then embrace it instead of fear it? Can establishing a radically different relationship with our own failure truly open up a new world of success for ourselves and our student-athletes?

We think it can.

How do you build failure into your practice plan? As strange as it sounds, we wish you much failure in the weeks ahead and look forward to sharing in your inevitable success.

Take Responsibility for Your Own Confidence

By Tami Matheny, Mental Skills Specialist

It seems that we all want people to give us something, to help us with something or we just hope it appears magically. Take confidence for an example. How many people take full responsibility for their confidence? Lately, I have heard from all ages and genders that I lost confidence because coach didn’t have confidence in me. I have mulled this over in my head and I believe that it isn’t a coaches job to give their athletes confidence. Now that isn’t to say they have no role in it, but more of a supporting cast role- an adding to or building it up even more. A coach should not have a leading role in one’s confidence. If this is the case, confidence becomes fragile and like a roller coaster. It peaks and dips according to what a coach says or does, according to the coach’s mood, and according to the situation. The same can be said for teammates. Teammates comments and actions should not have a leading role in one’s level of confidence.

Another factor that I have noticed effects athlete’s confidence is playing time or whether they start or not. Now, I know everyone wants to start and play as much as possible but that isn’t always the case due to numerous reasons- you aren't as talented as someone in front of you, you aren’t working as hard as you should be, injuries have limited your practice time, lack of conditioning, matchups against various opponents, bad attitudes, and on and on. So the easy way out is to let your confidence take a hit. If you really think about it, doesn’t this ultimately show the coach they were correct in not starting you?

If you want to start taking control of your confidence, start by taking responsibility and putting more focus on what you can control.  For additional ways to increase your confidence, contact us at


Coaching = Teaching

By Tami Matheny, Mental Skills Specialist

The best coaches are teachers as much as coaches.  They teach their players how things should be done on and off the playing field.  What they say and do have longer lasting effect than that game or that season.   How can coaches (even parents) make sure they help their athletes grow?  Here are 2 ways that usually don’t provide long term influence and 2 ways that work.

What not to do:

  1. Criticizing without productive comments.  Complaining, nagging and putting athletes down doesn’t work in the long run.  This means of coaching focuses on the negative they aren’t doing.  As Mary Poppins says, “A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down!”  Its more productive to focus on what they are doing and/or providing solutions on what they need to do to improve. Provide encouragement to get better.  This doesn’t mean you look the other way when mistakes are made.  It means that you change your focus to one that teaches them what to do next time or how to correct their mistakes (on and off the field).
  2. Comparing to teammates. When you compare your athletes to their teammates or former players in a way that makes them feel inadequate you aren’t providing a foundation for growth.  Every parent knows not to compare their children to each other.  This only serves to make them feel worse.  Each athlete brings unique traits to the team.  Just like no two snowflakes are identical, no two athletes are identical. Focus on getting the most out of their uniqueness.

What to do:

  1. Set an example.  Athletes usually are aware when you are saying one thing and doing another.  If you are only preaching to them and not following your words, you won’t make a lasting impact.  Make sure you are walking the walk that you are talking.  If you are true to who you say you are, you will make a lasting impact.  Of all the leadership styles, Modeling Behavior is still the most influential.
  2. Open communication.  Too often I hear coaches say, “Because I said so”.  In the Bear Byrant era that might have been successful but it is becoming a more and more inefficient way of teaching.  Be open to explaining why.  Once athletes know why they still might not like it but they are a lot more likely to support and follow it.  Be open to letting your players talk to you.  Instead of fearing it, create an open line of communication that focuses on finding solutions instead of complaints.  In addition, talk to your players about their life.  After all, ‘real life’ is far more important the sports.  Sports are just the medium we use to TEACH lessons.  Show them you care more about them more than just as an athlete.  Have hard conversations with them that provide a foundation for making smart decisions in the future.

Difficult Conversations - if you avoid them like the plague here are some steps toward a cure

by Betsy Butterick, The Coaches' Coach & Communication Specialist

The most frequent barrier I’ve observed when working with teams on their communication is avoidance of or inability to engage in conflict and confrontation. It’s a plague on success to which no one is immune - head coaches, assistant coaches, players, administrators - and from which programs suffer unnecessarily. I offer the following article as an antidote to the afflicted who find themselves in need of a cure.

There's an exercise I like to do in workshops where I ask participants to raise one arm above their head and point at the ceiling with one finger. I then ask them to start drawing clockwise circles on the ceiling. Once they start, I ask them to keep pointing up and drawing clockwise circles as they slowly drop their elbow, bringing their hand down in front of their eyes, and then below their chin. When they get below their chin I ask, "Are you still going clockwise?" (Try it! The answer is no, and the reason is that your perspective changed. The exercise started by looking at the circles from below, but finished by looking at them from above).

The point here is that when we change our perspective we can have an entirely different experience. If you find yourself fearful of or outright avoiding difficult conversations then changing your perspective around conflict is where we should start. For myself, reframing conflict as "caring conversation" – a conversation I need to have with someone because I care about them - was the beginning of a new relationship with something that many people fear.

The goal as you reframe what conflict means to you is to get to a point where the consequences of not having difficult conversations outweigh your fear of having them. Often the most difficult things to say are also the most important. (Imagine being a doctor and not telling a patient that they have a life-threatening disease because you didn't want them to be upset). That's an extreme example but you can scale it back to situations we encounter every day...

Conflict feels shitty. And, manure fertilizes what would otherwise be ordinary dirt into a nutrient rich place where good things can grow. Challenge yourself to see conflict for what it is - emotionally charged conversation which can either feel like crap or can be opportunities to nurture relationships, build trust, and connect with others in a meaningful way.

Difficult conversations are usually difficult because they involve high emotions on one or both sides. When engaging in a difficult conversation, make things easier by taking the emotion out of it as much as possible. Stick to facts instead of opinions. If you criticize, criticize the behavior, never the person. Use "I" statements in an effort to keep the recipient from closing off immediately or unnecessarily.

The balance to taking the emotion out is to keep the humanity in. During difficult conversations it is important to make the person you’re conversing with feel seen, valued and appreciated. When appropriate, genuinely acknowledge the work they have done, or their effort or intention or whatever it is that you observed them trying to do well (even if they've failed).

Often difficult conversations are challenging because people cling so tightly to their perspective or their side of the story. Whenever appropriate, share your interpretation and then check for congruency. Statements like, "If I'm understanding correctly, what you're saying is ____" or "What I'm hearing you say is _____. Is that right?" Give ample space for the other person to explain but also to feel understood. [You don't have to agree with them, but you do need to make them feel that they've been heard].

As for time and place, the best advice I can offer is to intentionally create space for the conversation to occur. Ask the person you’d like to speak with when they would have a few minutes to chat about something that's been on your mind. Ideally pick an open space to have the conversation – a quiet place outdoors or in a room with lots of natural light. Take steps to remove any physical barriers between yourself and the other person; instead of sitting behind your desk, move your chair to sit on the same side or alongside the other. Once you’ve minimized distractions, barriers, and time constraints around an important conversation its much easier to have open dialogue.

From there, entering into dialogue that allows for mutual contribution toward next steps is what typically results in a positive outcome for all involved.

Coaches, if you’d like to develop your individual skills around engaging in difficult conversations for positive outcome or have me work with your team in this regard, let’s connect. Thanks for reading!