Dear parents: I want your kid to fail
Yes, you read that right. I want your kid to fail. Specifically, I want your kid to fail in basketball, and the earlier he or she can start failing, the better. I am so convinced of the positive value of failure that I believe you, as a parent, should actually hope your child fails. Why? Because it’s the only way they can truly succeed in the game and beyond.
Basketball is perfect for learning how to deal with adversity and failure. The consequences are minimal compared to many circumstances our players will face as adults. And relative to those truly trying situations, the pressure to find a solution is low. It’s the perfect venue to learn from mistakes, to develop a sense of responsibility, to learn how to communicate with adults, and to practice conflict resolution.
Imagine a player who experiences adversity and struggles during a long losing season but learns to battle every game despite the odds. Envision this same player, tired and exhausted from a long semester, battling through the last few hours of a college exam. And can’t you see it now, this same player as an adult bouncing back after a bad week at work, when the sales numbers just didn’t meet company expectations?
But for some reason, our culture doesn’t embrace failure. Instead we shun it and attempt to do everything in our power to protect our children from it. Rather than enduring that long, losing season, we look to move homes, change associations, or find a “better” club team. We will argue better than any elite defense lawyer, debating the meaning of every word the coach spoke, instead of letting our players learn to be accountable for their own actions.
I understand some parents might say, “But the coach treated my player unfairly! I’m not a crazy parent. I’ve asked around. The coach made a poor decision and unfairly punished my player.” First of all, I don’t believe there is a coach who is completely fair. At some level, whether it’s in regard to the attention they give to each player, the allocation of court time or enforcement of rules, the coach will make a decision that’s unfair. But do we not face unfair situations outside of sports, and isn’t it worthwhile to learn how to deal with them?
If you’re a parent, I hope you at least consider this advice. There are times when a parent needs to protect their child. However, these instances are quite rare. In the majority of cases, the best solution is for the player to take control of the issue. If they are allowed and encouraged to do so, they’ll learn a lot and be better basketball players, students and people as a result.