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28

Feb, 2019

Learning From Failure

Link to article in USA Wrestling

By Matt Krumrie | Feb. 28, 2019

Coyte Cooper, Ph.D., isn't afraid to admit it: He’s failed several times in his life.

And he’s grateful for that.

“The greatest lessons I have learned in life have come from failure,” says Cooper, a best-selling author, high performance and potential coach, international keynote speaker, and former Indiana University All-American wrestler. “These were the things that I never would have chosen in a million years, but ended up being gifts that took me down the path to help reach my purpose and potential.”

When Cooper was the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the country in high school, he lost in the first round at the Cadet World Team Trials. That taught him about getting back up when things don’t go as planned, fighting, and competing even when he didn’t feel like it.  

“I ended up battling back for third place and I am convinced that this lesson allowed me to win the Cadet National Championship and Outstanding Wrestler award the next year,” Cooper says.

It’s a valuable lesson for any wrestler: don’t let mistakes defeat you. Learn from them and use them to improve.

Seizing Opportunities

Cooper was also an Assistant Professor of Sport Administration at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before starting his own business. 

“When I was denied tenure at UNC, it was a really challenging time for me,” he said. “However, I took my lessons from wrestling and got back up to find the gift in my situation. It has led me to a career path and life that I absolutely love!”

Mike DeRoehn, head wrestling coach and assistant strength and conditioning coach at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, says the entire wrestling season is full of learning opportunities and lessons.

“The outcome of a regular season event doesn’t define who we are or even how good a wrestler we are,” says DeRoehn. “Ultimately, no wrestling match should.”

“We actually have a saying in our program,” DeRoehn says. “‘Win or lose, learn and improve.’ The hope is that it frees our student athletes up to have a growth mindset centered around working as hard as we can to see how good we can get rather than some arbitrary goal. Train to win, plan to win, fight to win, but ultimately, whether you win or lose, learn and improve while staying in pursuit of personal excellence and being the very best version of yourself.”

This is part of the mental side of competing as an athlete, DeRoehn says. Having the right mental approach is a skill wrestlers can use to gain perspective and manage the difficulties they will face the rest of their lives.

Dom Duncan, Kids Director for Washington USA Wrestling and the head boys and girls wrestling coach at Hanford High School in Richland, WA, likes to remind wrestlers that the best in the world don’t go undefeated in their career.

“Failure on the mat, as in life is inevitable, how you react to it is what is important,” Duncan says. “Developing an attitude and ability to rebound after a tough setback is crucial to the sport and in life.”

Even if one wins a match, the experience still presents a lesson.

“What can be fixed for a better performance? What can be used to fine-tune my shot, my diet, my conditioning? Life and wrestling are both hard,” Duncan says. “Learning to push through and persevere are the most important things you will ever take from the sport.”

How to Learn from the Lows

Cooper offers three tips that can help wrestlers flip the script on failure:

1. Diminish your dwell time: Rather than allowing yourself to feel sorry for yourself, remind yourself that you always have a choice of what to focus on. Use this to redirect to a better option that gets you closer to your goals.

2. Grab a growth lesson: As soon as possible, look for 2–3 lessons you can use to get better. Do everything in your power to let go of the negative and focus on these things right away. Take steps to put them into action so you don’t get caught up in disappointment.

3. Find the gift: It might seem like the worst time in your life, but remind yourself that these moments have led the coolest people on the planet to their biggest breakthroughs. Ask yourself daily, “What is the gift in this situation?” Refuse to take a bad response for your answer. Keep asking until you find something productive. Then move forward to a more powerful path!

“We are all human and make mistakes, whether that's out on the wrestling mat, in school, in our career, and other areas of life,” DeRoehn says. “Even in victory, it’s unlikely we are perfect. So if we use every situation as an opportunity to learn and improve, and actually take appropriate actions and make the necessary behavioral changes to do so, success in our endeavors will follow and the ‘black and white’ result/outcome will likely be influenced in our favor.” 

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Cedar Park, Texas 78613

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