Strategies to Help Athletes with Fear of Failure (New Research)

Goal Setting

Fear Of Failure In Sports

Are you afraid to mess up during a competition?

Do you perform well in practice but can’t seem to put it together during competition?

Most likely, you are experiencing fear of failure. Fear of failure is the number one  mental game issue we see today.

Fear of failure can have many causes:

  • Fear of the coaches’ disapproval
  • Fear of letting down your team or parents
  • Fear of reduced playing time
  • Fear of costing your team a game
  • Fear of embarrassment

Fear of failure causes athletes to experience anxiety, tension and worry about achieving results in competitions.

Ultimately, fear of failure will destroy your confidence as an athlete and dramatically hinder your performance in competition.

J.M. Wikman et al. (2014) investigated how fear of failure affects athletes and possible solutions to the problem.

In their research, “Effects of goal setting on fear of failure in young athletes” (International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology), Wikman et al. made two important conclusions:

  1. Effective goal-setting strategies can significantly decrease fear of failure.
  2. For long-term change to occur, athletes must consistently apply goal-setting strategies over a period of time.

The effective strategy that the researchers utilized to decrease fear of failure was to have the athletes focus on process goals instead of outcome goals.

Process goals focus on mastery of skills, your mental game, and tactical competition strategies.

Outcome goals focus on winning, statistics, or performing better than another athlete.

The researchers laid out seven goal-setting steps for the athletes: set goals, identify potential obstacles, commit to the process, develop an action plan, obtain feedback from coaches, daily self-evaluation of their progress, and consistently review their goal plans.

Remember, you don’t need to be perfect to perform well or help your team.

If you make a mistake, no big deal, mistakes are a natural part of sports.

If you want to perform better with less anxiety, you need to focus on developing sound technique and mental skills, and then trust in those skills during competitions.

Try these tips to overcome fear of failure through effective goal-setting:

  1. Start setting goals by identifying athletic skills (mental and physical) that will help you achieve higher levels or performance. Develop an action plan, evaluate your progress and commit to staying focused on the process.
  2. You must realize that goal-setting, like all other mental skills, requires consistent daily attention and refinement. You wouldn’t stop training several months prior to a big competition. If you commit to physical and mental training, you will see positive results.

Successful athletes have learned how to overcome fear, perfectionism, and perform with trust in competition!

We’ve created The Fearless Athlete Workbook Program to help you do this.

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The Fearless Athlete

For the last two decades, I’ve been working with athletes and helping them optimize their physical ability by teaching them the secrets of top performing athletes. Now, you too can learn how to regain that child-like fearless attitude.

Mental toughness is what separates the winner from the loser in any competition. Champion athletes train hard in practice, perform without fear in competition, and trust their skills in crunch-time.

The Fearless Athlete program is ideal for any athlete that wants to overcome fear of failure and uncover inhibiting perfectionistic traits; or for any coach or parent who wants to teach athletes to perform with trust and freedom in competition.

1 thought on “Strategies to Help Athletes with Fear of Failure (New Research)”

  1. Athletes can get so in their head that they make mistakes they’d never normally do, simply because they are so nervous about letting their team/parents/coach down. It’s so easy, yet so hard to do, to remember to just play like you always do! Don’t add more stress on yourself than there needs to be.

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