Fear of failure in athletes


Natalia Portillo

Senior Thomas White on Thyberg Field, calls out for a formation.

Carlee Macias, Staff Writer

With the 2022-2023 school year coming to an end, the West Covina athletic program will soon start their off-season practices. Fall, winter, and spring athletes will practice throughout summer in order to prepare freshmen and upperclassmen for their seasons. Athletes practice tirelessly –  taking over summers, spring breaks and Thanksgiving, and even Christmas breaks; athletes spend the majority of their time getting ready for season. With so much time spent on getting better at athletics, having this fear of failure, impacts athletes greatly.

“The fear of failure can generally negatively impact athletes in that it keeps them from making decisions… when an athlete is expected to perform, sometimes the fear of failure might actually paralyze you, making it easier to not do than to fail,” said track and cross-country coach Danny Mercado.                                                     

Losing is not an option for dedicated athletes, because they feel like they will let their team, coaches or parents down. This fear results in the tremendous amount of work they put into their sport so they can succeed. Spending two hours or more at practices, going to gym after practices, sacrificing weekends with family for more practices or tournaments; athletes will put all this work in order to not fail. 

“I hate losing… I work on myself and work out and always practice. I work on everything every day so that I can be better, this helps lessen the chance of me losing,” said football player Thomas White. 

Athletes will always win or lose, so they must figure out a way to get through their loss and push forward because the feeling of failure can ruin their athleticism.

Danielle Amarillas, a tri-athlete who played cross-country, soccer and track and field, has the same mentality of not wanting to lose. Being a tri-athlete, she must learn how to transition to different sports one right after the other. As someone who is also a tri-athlete, this transition can be hard because every sport is different and you have to adjust to the differences in each sport rather quickly. 

“It pushes me to work harder.. I push myself till I’m at my best,” said Amarillas.   

Senior Danielle Amarillas, poses for a final photo on the track ending her high school career in track. (PSS Imaging)

Teammates are good to lean on when one feels failure. Amarillas states that her teammates helped motivate her and always are there to encourage her. Teammates are always a good source to talk to because they know first hand what this fear is like. On the other hand, on the court or on the field you can’t ask your team how to overcome this fear. Amarillas shared how in cross country she gets out of her head and overcomes this fear. 

“I look at the runner in front of me, and I just think to myself that I need to pass them to win,” she said.

This goal of trying to beat someone is one of the ways Amarillas overcomes the fear of failure. Likewise to Amarillas, many athletes have goals that help push themselves and continue their journeys through college. A common goal athletes have is going to CIF, and senior Devin Jackson did just that. To her, getting there was very exhilarating, but to continue to grow was a challenge. As a triathlete, goals have been helpful because they help to never think of failing and pushes one to reach his/her goals. 

“Going to masters last year and going this year really makes you worried you won’t make it farther than the years prior… this thought of fear can ruin your mental health but you also have to remember that it won’t always be easy,” said Jackson.

With a throw of 43 feet and 8 inches Devin Jackson wins CIF SS Division 2 Champion and in excitement is seen holding CIF Finals patch letting her advance to CIF Masters. (Joe Carrillo )

Jackson, a senior, is another tri-sport athlete who played volleyball, basketball, and track and field. She is currently ranked 3rd in California for shot put. Jackson stated that the fear of failure haunts her while doing shot put. 

“One day I could throw a 45 and the next day I threw a 35,” said Jackson.

Jackson has a hard time with this thought, however she consistently works hard at practice in order to never have a bad throw. 

Athletes will always win or lose, so they must figure out a way to get through their loss and push forward because the feeling of failure can ruin their athleticism. This fear impacts athletes into backing out of their sport because of fear. Athletes, however, overcome this fear and are able to succeed and continue their athletic journey through dedication and perseverance.