Making mistakes is part of life. What’s important is how we learn from them.

As a young football player I played the game in one of two environments. I was either down the local park playing with my friends or I was playing and training with my local club.


In one environment I felt I had no inhibitions, I was confident and free to express myself, in the other I felt under pressure, tight and always had to play it safe.

Why the change in performance? Quite simply the consequence of making mistakes.

In society, young people are often pressured to be perfect. Historically, many coaches, teachers, parents have created conditions for learning that do not encourage errors and if you make mistakes you’ve failed.

What we aim to achieve through our Positive Coaching Scotland programme is to create a culture where mistakes are acknowledged positively. Players must take responsibility and embrace mistakes. It is vital that they do not see mistakes as being down to a lack of ability but are part of the journey to success.

The best games I played, both down the park and on the pitch, were ones where I was confident, expressive and took risks. Yes, I made mistakes during these games but by being positive and focussing forward, I was able to play with a freedom that made me play my best. What had got in my way was the fear of making mistakes and the possibility of looking bad or being shouted at.

Our recent growth mindset work evidenced that we must support young people to see challenges as learning opportunities. A growth-focused individual views a setback or mistake as an opportunity to learn and improve.

If you are working hard to learn and develop new skills it’s inevitable that you will make mistakes. We as coaches/parents/teachers must support our young people to step out of their comfort zones, as this is where our young people learn the most. It is often uncomfortable and scary for young people but we must support and encourage them to feel free to challenge themselves, make mistakes and show resilience.

I experience the same when supporting my daughter with her homework. It can be easy to get frustrated and criticise errors but without her making these mistakes and correcting them herself she will not learn. It is through the process of challenge and struggle where I as a parent can support by praising effort and encouraging her to keep trying.

As adults we all need to create learning environments where young people understand it is ok to make mistakes and see them as essential in order to learn, develop and succeed.


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