The Art of Failing

I remember my first ever Nationals race being petrified and genuinely nervous of what could happen: “will my trunks fall down?”, “will I miscount my lengths?”, “will I complete the race?” etc. All of these were not to come true (fortunately for the crowd) but I was so pent up about doing something wrong, I could not envisage what REALLY could happen – “could I set a new pb”, “could I win a medal” etc.


I think this is what some of us can suffer from regularly – we see the negativity and it can stop us succeeding. Unfortunately, most people nowadays avoid the aspects that can cause a failure and thus only place themselves where they feel most comfortable. This, ultimately, allows themselves to succeed but never pushing our limitations of what they REALLY can do. Wayne Gretzky (a famous ice hockey player) once said: “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”.


I think in swimming, as in life, failures happen – and frequently. This frequent failure is not something to shy away from, but, contrastingly, the opposite viewpoint should be taken. We should embrace when things go wrong and learn from those failures – as this is truly how development happens. The more you strive for something new and fall short; the more you learn from why that happened and can better it for next time. “Failure is success in progress”- Albert Einstein.


How can we apply that in training and racing?


·        I would recommend every swimmer experiment with new ways of being efficient in the water or a new race tactics – some may need the coaches’ help with this. Trying out what works and doesn’t will refine your stroke and race ability for years to come.


·        New challenges such as a bigger meet, a harder training session, a new stroke/distance in a race are all ways in which we can learn to be successful – not avoid through fear of failing.


·        Set goals that will inspire you to great things and learn along the small setbacks.


·        Lastly, never forget to celebrate every new milestone. Breaking out of the “ordinary” you into a new extra-“ordinary” you, is something that is always something worthy of a pat on the back.



In HST, a “growth” mind-set will be high on the agenda of aspirations for each athlete. This will serve to be the main crux for each squad and child’s development. Be positive over the negatives and remember success is not void of failings but the accumulation of learned failings.