One of my all-time favorite quotes comes from old-time actress Mary Pickford, who said, “This thing called ‘failure’ is not falling down, but staying down.”
How true is that? In my mind it’s one of the big things that separates the successful fastpitch softball players from the wanna-bes. As I’ve said many times (and it’s not an original thought to me), fastpitch softball is a game designed to break your heart. Failure is built into its very fabric.
In most sports, you’re either successful or you come out neutral. For example, in basketball or soccer you can run around and work hard, guard your opponent or handle the ball without negative consequences. But in our sport, the opportunity to fail is all over the place. One bad bounce, one poor umpire call, one swing and miss and you’ve failed. Then you have to go out and do it again!
Some kids today can’t handle that. They’ve been told their whole lives by their parents that they can do anything. Their support system is designed to allow them to experience success after success. So when the outcome isn’t what they want they aren’t ready for it and have trouble handling it.
But that’s not failure. That’s life. Failure, as Ms. Pickford said, is not falling down but staying down. That is one of the most important lessons fastpitch softball can teach. It’s all about your perspective.
A few years ago I read a story about three-time Olympic gold medalist Lisa Fernandez. She said the first game she pitched, around the age of eight, she hit 20 batters and walked another 20. She cried and was ready to give up pitching. But her mother wouldn’t let her. She set a new goal for Lisa, telling her next time hit 19 and walk 19. She didn’t ask her daughter to be perfect, just to try again and work on doing a little better. She got back up and the rest, as they say, is history.
Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky had a great failure quote too — “You will always miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” How true.
Whether you’re a parent or coach, be sure to help your player(s) understand what failure really is, and what it’s not. They’ll find they enjoy the game a whole lot more, and they’ll carry the lesson with them the rest of their lives.