What is the difference that makes the difference?

Studies into elite figure skating found that athletes regularly attempted jumps beyond their capability. Less elite skaters didnt.

It wasn’t that the best skaters made better jumps, you’d expect that. The elite skater’s jumps were more advanced even when measured against their abilities.

The difference was their willingness to fail. The best skaters allowed themselves to miss & fall more frequently in their training sessions, opening themselves up to greater- more painful learning opportunities than the rest. They had a mindset which enabled them to fail and gain feedback.

Failure can take all sorts forms and meanings for us in our sport. A missed lift, a chicken winged muscle up, not placing ‘well’ in a competition, not being able to perform under pressure, a fall, losing a game, coming last in a competition or getting knocked out. But when we fail, this creates an opportunity to learn – if we are open to it. We learn because we get feedback, which – if we don’t ignore (many people do) we can use to improve.

Know body likes the idea of failing. When I used to fight knockdown, I didn’t particularly like getting punched and kicked in training. I don’t think that anyone did, but you accept it as part of the learning process. You get used to it and you learn not to be distracted by it. During the process you learn to block and move, your reactions and instincts improve as you learn to read signals and adapt your responses. You become a more successful fighter.

Yet if you avoid or are afraid to spar in training, you don’t over come your fears. You miss out on learning to block and move effectively under pressure, progress is limited, you get stuck. You get knocked out again and again, you quit.

Is a fear of failure holding you back on your sport? Are you afraid to enter a competition for fear of not being good enough, not being ready? Are you afraid to fully commit to training, because you can always use ‘time’ as an excuse when you come up short? Do you take the easier option in training, so you can look sleek and cool rather than push yourself and suffer with a more challenging test?

In my last blog I talked about purposeful practice, which is about striving for what is just out of reach & not quite making it. Falling short again and again, with heart and the commitment to keep going until you bridge the gap. The skating research adds more weight to what we know that progress in sport is built on intelligent training and the foundations of failure.