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World's Greatest Coach: Failure

Ask yourself this question: who is the best coach or teacher you have ever had? (Pause for dramatic effect).


For many, this question will invoke strong reactions or emotions. Coaches/teachers can be some of the most influential forces in the lives of children and young adults.

Ask yourself this next question: what trait did that coach/teacher have that drew you to them? Maybe it was an enthusiasm for a subject that was contagious. Perhaps, a distinct knowledge in an area that helped spark your interest as well?

Throughout our playing and coaching careers, we would argue that the best coaches and teachers understand the following: Failure is the greatest coach in the world. Rather than provide a long-winded explanation ourselves, let us break to a blurb from one of Seth Godin’s blog posts:

“No one learns to ride a bike from a book, or even a video. You learn by doing it. Actually, by not doing it. You learn by doing it wrong, by falling off, by getting back on, by doing it again.”

The best coaches and teachers understand that there is not just a chance of failure, but a certainty. The great challenge is helping your students/athletes embrace these obstacles and not be deterred. Imagine if every player approached practices and games with a focus on the process (i.e. how to improve long term), rather than the expectations (i.e. instant results).

Instead of celebrating “winning at all costs” we should celebrate “failure with a purpose”. Attacking our weaknesses like learning to ride a bike: falling down over and over, and getting back up time and time again.

The greatest improvements come after the greatest of challenges. Players have to be willing to fail when attempting to learn a new skill, and we coaches have to patient and willing to navigate these murky waters to help our athletes and team reach a macro-goal.

As Lily Tomlin said, “The road to success is always under construction”. It is a coach’s job to help our athletes view the rocky roads and detours as opportunities for improvement, rather than a red light on their development.

See you on the road!

Matt and Arielle Houlihan

Club Directors


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