This article was provided by Coaches Network.

There is no success without failure. All coaches want to win, but the first steps towards building a winning mentality are embracing pressure and taking on any challenge that comes your way. In order to help your athletes perform their best during the biggest moments, consider these strategies to cultivate courage in the face of failure.

There are a variety of ways that coaches can structure their training to help prepare their athletes to perform under pressure. When athletes have practiced around the situations they will face in competition, they will be more mentally and physically ready for challenges in the future. In an article on, Dr. Cheri Toledo, a Certified Elite Life Coach with more than 15 years of coaching experience at the college and high school levels, explains that making mistakes in practice is key to success in competition.

“Embrace and help your players embrace mistakes; see them as opportunities for growth,” she says. “Because, ultimately, if we’re not making mistakes we’re not growing or improving. Ask yourself if you are creating an environment where your athletes are learning from their mistakes”

Creating an environment where players can learn from their mistakes starts with pushing them to the limits of their knowledge and skill. This puts athletes in a position to learn from their failures. While challenging your athletes to push themselves, provide them with skill-based feedback and praise their hard work so they will know how to improve and will be motivated to continue.

“We learn best when we are not fearful of making mistakes,” Toledo says. “In fact, we learn best when we are pushing the limits or our knowledge and skill, and that’s when we’ll be making the most mistakes. So as you ask players to do new things, expect and accept the mistakes—teach them to learn from their mistakes.”

Along with creating the proper risk-taking environment in training, the next step is to assess how risks can be taken during competition. Often times there is a tendency to stick with the game plan and take a conservative tactical approach, but this can limit the amount your athletes learn from competing and can even put them at a disadvantage. Coaches should ask themselves a variety of questions when deciding whether to take a chance during a competition so that it benefits the athletes, win or lose.

When weighing this decision, Toledo suggests that coaches ask themselves the following questions: “What are the chances that the risk of failure outweighs the possibility of success? Will failing be beneficial to your players’ growth? Are you playing to win or playing not to lose? What is the best decision for this situation?”

Part of this decision-making should also be guided by the desire to get better and learn, more than the desire to win. When coaches allow their athletes to stop worrying about the prospect of losing, they are likely to play with more freedom and self-expression. This ultimately will make the sport more enjoyable for everyone involved.

After practices and competitions, Toledo suggests that coaches debrief their players and staff by asking everyone three questions. This helps to ensure effective communication and gets everyone on the same page. Especially after a tough practice or disappointing loss, it’s import to ensure that you and your athletes are working together to get better.

The questions to ask are: “What did you learn? What can you/we change to get better? How can we have more fun?”

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