Why failure might be the best teacher for youth players

Here in the UK, there is a perception that youth football hasn’t developed players with the technical skills in the same way it has elsewhere in Europe. The FA have worked hard to try and change this with the England DNA future player program.  There is hope that this is will change how we are making our children approach the game early on at the grassroots level. However, there is still this idea that if you aren’t winning, then you aren’t good enough to be playing. And this mentality dissuades a lot of talented players from carrying on. 

Now the argument is not to belittle the importance of winning or that it doesn’t matter. But rather that you learn to accept a loss, learn and practice to overcome the same or similar problems when faced again at a later stage. 

I like to think of failure as a stepping stone, one that enables your players to win when the time is right. Here are some things that you should learn to pick up from failure.


At the heart of failure is the experience that it leaves you with. When we fail, it develops in us a deeper understanding of the game and life in general. The pain of failure alters your frame of mind and pushes you to reflect on things you otherwise might not have. It makes you ask the question “what can I can do different, or what if I do it like this”. When you’re receptive to failure and accept it for what it is you walk away a better version of you. 


We have all heard the famous Thomas Edison anecdote, where he failed nearly 10,000 times before finally managing to create the light bulb. Now had he given up on one try less than the ones he had to attempt to get there, how differently would things have played out. 

It was that one defining attempt, though for the 10,000th time, that marked the threshold for his success. 

Instead of growing disillusioned, he chose to harness what he learned on every try and took that knowledge with him to the next one. We should of course encourage our young players to do the same! Instead of letting them get upset about the failure, try to support them to think about where improvements can be made. Challenge them to see what they might try differently, it might just be that they need to put more practice into and start working on that.


As the cliché goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Every time we deny failure the power to make us give up, we grow a little more resilient to it. And that resilience is what will take your players to that winning game. Resilience breeds success by destroying the illusion that things will materialize overnight and makes you accept that hard work is needed to make things happen.


Our young players are individuals who have an enormous ability for personal growth.  Unsurprisingly we have the opportunity grow more rapidly when we are faced with failure. It makes us understand why we are doing what we are doing, it demands of us to find the strength to pursue our dreams with greater determination.  

Teach your players to embrace failure.  Use it to your leverage, revisit their goals, and most importantly, make an action plan that helps them to improve their game. 

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