We generally want to protect our own kids from making mistakes, because we know it can be painful, or humiliating or disappointing. Yet what science teaches us is that it is the mistakes that develop people the most, particularly when they then work out how to rectify it themselves. It’s what I call “mistake momentum”, the ability to freely make mistakes, identify them and overcome them. Most of us don’t like making mistakes, particularly in front of our peers, coach or parents. Yet mistakes are one of the keys to talent and skill growth and development.
The “talent code” is a great book by Daniel Coyle where he states “even though failing at something can be uncomfortable for us, it’s actually the only way to improve. The key is to make mistakes and then correct them”.
Why is this important in coaching? It’s critical because as the coach (or parent) we need to encourage mistakes, because it gives permission for players to try that something a little more difficult. The challenge is not to put down, rubbish or depreciate the mistake, but to recognize it as an attempt to improve. Honor the mistake and then coach the player through the learning process of correcting it. Not simply telling them what to do differently, but inviting them into the discovery process of “mistake momentum”.
Create a culture in your team where mistakes are encouraged, valued and permitted as part of the learning and development process. The issue for a coach then is asking themselves how they can coach their players through mistakes, so that they can develop and improve. When we discourage mistakes, we hinder improvement, creativity and learning, and we feed doubt into a player’s confidence.
Mistakes without learning and correction lack the power to create change and growth, so ensure you are not simply encouraging mistakes, but coaching confidence, creativity and courage through the “mistake momentum” process.