Developing a Tolerance for Failure

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October 13, 2011 by Jay Helms

They think they whipped us and beat us bad, but that’s not what really happened. Let me explain.

It was so bad that as the other team scored on us for the second time within the first five minutes, one of the kids on the other team said to a teammate, “This team sucks.” It was so bad I intentionally ignored the urge to keep track of the score…maybe it was 10-0 by the end. All I know is it wasn’t very fun to see our 7&under boys soccer team get handled like that by “The Clash”. (And wouldn’t you know it, their jerseys were even light blue or “Baby” blue as some of us like to call it, but that’s another story altogether.)


What do you do when you’re coaching a team of young boys and the score is 4-0 within about ten minutes and there are grandparents who came down from New Jersey to see their grandson play that day? I mean really…what do you say and what do you do? I don’t coach using platitudes, so saying things like “It’s just a game” doesn’t count as helpful coaching at a time like that.

By all obvious and visible accounts it was pure embarrassment for all of us, players, coaches, and families included. But as I went out on the field at a key point in the game to talk with players, to cheer them up, and to speak words of courage into them, I GOT IT! We were standing in the middle of rich moment…a moment that looks like failure to everyone who can’t see what’s really happening…LIFE is happening, in all it’s fullness, right in that moment. It was like God slowed things down and was showing me the opportunity that was before me, a golden opportunity to shape the character of kids and even adults in a way that lasts much longer than the euphoria of winning a game. It was all about developing a tolerance for failure, in other words developing a deep-seated toughness in the midst of a whirlwind, to shake it off and rise up to another level.

After the game, our team huddled up together by the sideline with our little guys down on one knee with parents like hearty oaks enveloping them. I told the boys that they passed the biggest test they would face all year, and they passed it brilliantly. In the end, it was a pleasure to coach these wonderful boys through this game, because they passed the tolerance for failure test. Most of us come apart during this test. And often we don’t have enough of a warning to recognize the test is upon us, but the boys passed it. I say this because not once did our boys run and hide…not for one minute did they give up playing hard…not once did they complain or lash out at another player or coach. They passed the test. And isn’t that what we all really want to do? It takes a tolerance for failure, a resolve to endure with an inner calm and strength when things are (appear to be) coming apart.

There once was a man who walked this difficult road against the odds. He did so in unconquerable strength. This very day He invites you and me to follow him on the road…to walk with him on the road that requires a tolerance for failure, that we might be with him along the way and experience The Great Reward…”When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified Him, along with the criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing”…Then the dying man next to him said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “I promise that today you will be with me in paradise.”

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Jay Helms


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