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Failure: The Best Motivation

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The world is an extremely competitive place. Whether it be applying to college, finding a job or competing in a sporting event, hard work and persistence are necessary to achieve the results we desire. The thought of not getting what we want can be the motivating force that drives us to perform at a level we didn’t know we were capable of reaching. Failure is unnerving. However, in many cases, it ends up benefiting the individual. That was certainly the case for myself.

Growing up, soccer was always my primary sport and I dedicated most of my free time either practicing or thinking about my next game. Looking back, I can’t thank my parents enough for the substantial amount of time they spent driving and watching me play year round. Nowadays, they always talk about how much they miss doing it, which makes me feel a little better.

Club sports are becoming more prevalent in today’s society and are widely regarded as necessary, in addition to school sports, if your child hopes to play at the collegiate level. At the age of 12, I was fortunate enough to be selected to a well known and successful club soccer team based near my hometown. I developed close friendships with the players and the coaches on the team and I became a better player each year. As a result of my improvement, I was a member of my high school varsity team by the end of my freshman year. I felt like nothing could stop me and I would continue along this smooth soccer journey forever. Thankfully, that would not be the case.

During my sophomore year, while playing for my high school’s varsity team, I was slide tackled by an opponent and broke my leg (and my shin guard). I was devastated. I instantly thought of the fact that I was going to miss the rest of the season and possibly even more. The journey to recovering was a grueling nine-month process that I will never forget. Thankfully, I was told that I would be ready to play by the time club tryouts came around. I was not the same player mentally or physically during the tryouts due to the injury I had suffered and as a result, I failed to make the team that I had been on for the past five years. When I was notified of the news, I experienced a feeling that I had never felt before. Failure.

After experiencing failure, an individual can either give up or use it as a learning experience to prevent future failure. I chose to use my situation as motivation. I went on to succeed while playing for a different local club team and was named the captain of my high school team for my senior season while accumulating numerous league and team awards.

Sometimes we have no control over what happens in our lives. However, we do have complete control over how we choose to respond to them. Michael Jordan tried out for the varsity basketball team his sophomore year but did not make it. Early in her career, Oprah Winfrey was demoted from her job as a news anchor because “she wasn’t fit for television”. The rest is history.

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Dr. Richard Ginsburg
Dr. Richard D. Ginsburg is a clinical psychologist and sport psychology consultant. He is co-director of the Massachusetts General Hospital PACES Institute of Sport Psychology and is an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ginsburg also serves as staff psychologist in the Newton Wellesley Hospital Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Department and is the director of Behavioral Health for the Boston Red Sox. Dr. Ginsburg offers a broad range of clinical services to children, adolescents and adults and conducts youth and professional sport research. He is author of the book, Whose Game Is It, Anyway, A guide to helping your child get the most from sports, organized by age and stage and has served as a sport psychology consultant for a variety of professional and college-level sports teams, including lacrosse, soccer, water polo and ice hockey at Harvard University. He is a member of the US Lacrosse Safety and Science Committee and provides talks and consultations nationally to youth, high school, and collegiate athletic programs. Dr. Ginsburg played lacrosse and soccer at Kenyon College, where he won all-conference and all-Midwest honors. He is also a former independent school teacher and coach. He lives with his wife, Teri, and their two children in Newton, Massachusetts.