Why Sport and failure need to co-exist

Toorak College
Nov 28, 2018 1:32:03 PM

Toorak College Sport Spirit


Sports participation has many benefits for our students, including increased physical activity, developing new friendships, learning to work in a team environment and building confidence. Yet, possibly one of the most important benefits is that it teaches students how to bounce back from failure.

Failure is important for personal growth

Whether your daughter’s team loses, or she misses a shot or fails to make the team selection, failure is inevitable in all sport. As parents and teachers, our first response generally is to shield and protect our children from failure or disappointments in a sport.  However, failure provides a rich opportunity for personal growth to develop resilience and grit, which are key indicators of our ability to thrive. Protecting our children from failure in sport can also set them up for unrealistic expectations in life; the unsuccessful job application, the relationship that does not work out or goal not achieved.  Failure can help students develop problem-solving skills and the confidence to cope with different outcomes. 

Recently, more than 100 Toorak College students took part in auditions for the 2019 Aerobics competition teams.  There were a limited number of successful spots on the team so the girls were prepared for a competitive environment. We spoke with the students about the realistic outcomes and how to also keep the passion and determination alive. Although perceived failure can be very challenging, we have discussed with our students the importance of what they do after they fail.  Will they decide to try again next time? Will they become more determined, or do some practice at home? Can they ask their coach for some feedback on which areas they can work on? I have on my fridge at home a quote from the great Michael Jordan, which emphasises that failure is the key to growth and improvement.

“I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And, that is why I succeed.” - Michael Jordan, former NBA player.


Parents can encourage a positive growth mindset for children

Adelaide AFLW coach, Bec Goddard often reminds her team, “We either win, or we learn”.

As parents, framing failure as a learning experience allows children to understand that making mistakes is a positive thing that we can learn from.  This growth mindset approach allows our children to see how they can improve for the future as opposed to seeing only where they currently stand today.

How can parents encourage a positive growth mindset?

1. Encourage them to have a go, even though the outcome might be a failure

2. Tell them you are proud of them - particularly during those hard moments

3. Believe in them and their capabilities - believe they have the ability to cope

4. Focus on the effort involved in achieving goals, rather than the outcome

5. Be a role model for your child - talk with them about times you have failed and how you have coped and learned from the experience

6. Resist criticism of other students and comparisons - try to focus on self improvement 

7. Encourage your child to try lots of activities - create a home environment that celebrates trying new activities.

How does Toorak support your child?

Recently, we asked our students what they really liked about the Sports program here at Toorak College.  An overwhelming number of students mentioned that the encouragement from coaches was the biggest confidence booster.  Our staff understand that students need support and encouragement, not only when they are achieving great things, but also when they experience disappointment.  Our Sport culture is caring and welcoming, fostering an environment that is about taking risks and approaching perceived failure with a growth mindset.


To find out more about our Sport program, click here

Deb Gardener is the Director of Sport at Toorak College.


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