Why Fear of Failure Leads to Tentative Play

Fear of Failure

Are You Afraid to Fail?

More and more, athletes I work with on the mental game come are held back by fear of failure. Fear and fear of failure are a constant source of stress or anxiety that sabotages your or your team’s performance.

In sports, most of the fear athletes have is based on their perception of the importance of a performance or game AND what they assume others think about their performance.

The immediate fear is about avoiding poor results or fear about the negative consequences of a poor performance.

Athletes worry about letting their team or a coach down. They worry about disappointing a parent or not performing up to a parent’s expectations. They worry about many things that are often not under their direct or immediate control.

Most of this worry is unnecessary or just conjecture.

What’s most important is to know what type of fear holds you back. Fear of failure often is often rooted in what you assume others think about you, which we call social approval. Here are some top sources of fear:

  • Fear of losing a match, game, or race – you badly want to win
    and are afraid you will not win.
  • Fear of negative social evaluation – you fear others will view
    you as a failure in sports.
  • Fear of embarrassment – you are afraid to embarrass yourself in
    front of others if you don’t perform well.
  • Fears of letting others down – you do not want to let others
    down such as a coach, parent, or teammate.
  • Fear of not performing up to others’ expectations – you worry
    about not meeting others’ expectations for you, such as a parent.

Do any of the above fears sound familiar to you? The first step in managing your fear of failure is to understand the specific source of your fear so you can deal with it head on.

For example, if you realize you’re afraid to let down your parents with a poor performance, the obvious solution is to learn how to play for yourself instead of others. Of course, easier said than done when it comes to changing this behavior.

Fear of failure is linked very closely to perfectionism. Many perfectionists hold high expectations that can set them up for failure. But a strong characteristic of perfectionists is that they focus too much on avoiding mistakes and failure.

When you think too much about avoiding mistakes, you focus on what not to do and perform more tentatively or controlled — thinking this will help you overcome the fear. But over control does has the opposite affect (a tough lesson for perfectionists).

I work with a lot of students who have fear of failure and perfectionism. For that reason, I’ve developed some specific mental game solutions to help perfectionists overcome fear of failure.

(1) We recently added a new e-book to our online mental training program at Peaksports Network: titled, “I Can’t Make Mistakes: How to Overcome Fear of Failure, Perfectionism, and Lack of Trust.”

You can check it out all out member here:

Sports Psychology & Mental Toughness E-book Library

(2) I’ve also produced a program, part of The Confident Athletes series, titled, “The Fearless Athlete” that helps athletes overcome fear of failure, perfectionism, and lack of trust.

“The Fearless Athlete” program, has been getting nice reviews:

“Since getting The Relaxed & Fearless Athlete programs for my son, I have seen a 100% improvement in his approach to each game. His results are outstanding this season…as compared to last year.”
~Mark McCormick

You can check it out “The Fearless Athlete” program here:

“The Fearless Athlete”

Your Confidence Coach,

Dr. Patrick Cohn

p.s. If you become a member of Peaksports Network, you receive 30% off “The Fearless Athlete” and most other Peaksports.com programs. So you might consider both options:

Sports Psychology & Mental Toughness E-book Library

p.p.s. Peaksports members can login and download this new e-book

“I Can’t Make Mistakes!” Ebook

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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.

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