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Why Our Kids Need Space to Fail

Updated: Jan 22


Most of us see failure as a bad thing. If our kids are struggling in school, we hire a tutor straightaway. If our daughter or son is upset with a kid in class, we do all we can to fix the problem immediately. We want our kids to succeed in all aspects of life...but what if failure is a huge step on their road to success?


PowerU’s founder, Ken, remembers playing basketball with a group of neighborhood kids when he was 12. Ken and his friends weren’t prepping for NBA tryouts. They played for fun. On one day, Ken recalls, the kids got in an argument on the court. One boy, outraged, threw the ball angrily and stormed off across the asphalt. The scene is unglamorous. It does not spell “SUCCESS.” The kids never earned a trophy for their pick-up games, and in the moment, they seem to have failed at social teamwork, too. Yet the memory informs Ken’s vision for PowerU sports.


Each day as the neighborhood kids joined together, they sharpened their basketball skills. Many became very good players, although they didn’t participate in an official basketball league. Outside the world of demanding, expensive, hyper-structured sports, Ken and his neighborhood buddies became good friends. They weren’t perfectly skilled players, but they practiced everyday. Together, they grew in teamwork and sharpened their basketball techniques.


Ken and his neighbors also grew in conflict resolution. When the boy who acted out in frustration returned to the group, the kids unknowingly exercised conflict-mitigation skills in welcoming him back to the group for future pick-up games. In Ken’s neighborhood group, little moments of ‘failure’ added up to a stronger collaborative culture.


PowerU is founded on this story’s values. At PowerU, coaches encourage kids to lean into failure, less-structured sports, and relational conflict—in order to grow in endurance, active living, and conflict resolution. A little less structure, and a bit more of sports-for-fun, creates space for kids to learn how to fail. We believe that learning to navigate failure and conflict is best done in lower-stakes, fun environments like PowerU’s programs. Through fun activities, kids can learn to fail and handle conflict in healthy ways that help everyone to grow as athletes and leaders.

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