It isn’t failing until I stop trying!
You know how sometimes kids say something so profound that you wonder if they really do know more than you? If you have never experience this simple and yet amazing clarity that comes by viewing the world through a child’s eyes then maybe you are not listening properly.
The other day it happened to me at one of the clubs where we support the training of the coaching staff.
Two plump cheeked, curly haired four year olds were trying to rally. This in itself is not a skill that many at this young age can achieve, but they had been on court many times and were athletic little people. I was involved as the outside coach, it’s a role that I often do now, working alongside another coach especially when they have reached the point where they can’t see the wood for the trees.
Coach set a rally of four as the goal and the kids were engrossed in blissful failure. After 5 minutes, of encouragement the coach, declared that we should change the drill as the four years “Couldn’t do it!”
Seeing they were still deep in play and fully engaged I asked the kids what they thought.
“We haven’t finished trying!’ Came the answer from the more precious of the two.
It reminded me that nothing is really finished under 10. There are no finish lines, no kids that should be hailed as the next big thing, and no kids that should be badged performance or only recreational, when they are all dreaming of playing great tennis. The fact is they are all still trying and should be encouraged to keep trying. On this simplest of tasks this coach wanted to stop and make things easier but missed the really point.
Failure is part of the everyday life of a child. Just one year earlier these kids probably fell over every day as their tiny bodies failed to adequately support their Bart Simpson sized heads. Now they are a little over 50% of their full adult height but running around in an adult sized world. Challenge is all around them and there are many things that they can’t do, yet!
When a child is engrossed in a challenging task. Shouldn’t we allow them to continue as long as they are motivated? Two minutes later the rally of 4 was achieved to huge celebrations by the mini amigos. They had climbed the day’s mountain and planted the flag! While it is true that many children may not have stayed as committed to the task as these two, it is the level of engagement and not level of skill that should be the primary driver in how challenging we make a task and how quick we are to move on to the next.