The bitter pain of failure

posted by Jeff | Monday, March 8, 2004, 1:24 PM | comments: 1
My volleyball kids had their first tournament yesterday, and it was a miserable failure.

You may have seen in previous entries that I was (am) very excited about the potential for this team. They're enormously talented, reasonably tall, and generally good kids. This tournament, and specifically our pool, had two of the top teams in our region (which consists of Ohio and portions of the surrounding states). Lucky us!

The good news is that we started out keeping up with these teams, never getting more than a few points away from them. Then midway through the first game, my kids would tank. In fact, they tanked so badly that they gave up their last match to an absolutely horrible team that had lost every match. We won only one match the entire day.

It was clear to me even before that point that they have a confidence problem. Individually, these girls are all enormously talented. Unlike the kids on these "power" teams, they don't have the experience of playing for a team that wins consistently in high school, or on a good club team. It's not that they want to lose or play poorly, it's that they don't have the expectation and faith in themselves to know they can get the job done. There wasn't a team at this tournament that we couldn't have beat or at the very least kept it very close.

In various other parts of my life, it has recently become obvious to me that the thing I fear more than anything is failure. It's the reason I don't take a lot of risks. Seeing this team tank like that felt like failure at the time, but after having some time to reflect on it a little, especially considering I identified one of the core problems they're having, maybe I haven't failed them.

The next challenge is not teaching them some plays or sharpening a skill, it's figuring out how to get them to believe in their own capabilities. This is new territory for me, because I'm used to having kids that are fairly average in their abilities. When I look at them, I think of all of the underdog sports teams that they make movies about. There's all of that potential there, but someone has to make them realize it, or guide them to self-realization.

In some ways, the tournament reminded me of one we had later in the season last year. We had won several in a row, then went to this tough event (same location), and had a pretty bad day. This time, hopefully, I can expect the positives and the wins to come next.

I've not changed my opinion about qualifying for nationals. It can be done.


Ricky, March 9, 2004, 3:13 PM #

Good luck Jeff! Being a coach as well, I know what you mean. You'll get it done. Again, good luck to you and your girls!

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