7 Ways To Overcome Fear of Failure In Sport

Have you ever wanted to achieve something badly but were so afraid of not achieving it that you played it safe or held back and didn’t give 100%?

This is called the fear of failure.

Fear can control us if we don’t learn how to manage it.

Many people downplay what they want to achieve or lower other people’s expectations because they’re scared it won’t happen.

Perhaps at times you worry about what others will think of you or you try to avoid negative emotions like disappointment.

It’s often the things we care most about that we are least willing to fail at.

Many of us often expect to be perfect and not make any mistakes when in fact making mistakes is exactly how we learn.


I used to be so hard on myself, I would beat myself up when I made mistakes and I would always be a critical judge on myself, only focussing on my downfalls and mistakes. 

Maybe you’ve thought or said things like:

“I won’t achieve it because of… (insert reason)”

Fear can cause us to hide away, give up and defeat ourselves before we even start.

The first step is to identify and recognise the signs of fear, so here are a few common signs of fear of failure.

Common Signs of Fear of Failure: 

  • fear brainReluctance to get involved
  • Worry about messing up
  • Don’t play as well as you train
  • Procrastinate (i.e. not taking action)
  • Faking injury or making excuses
  • Perfectionism (avoid mistakes or try to do things perfectly)
  • Lowering expectations

There are various fears that can hold us back which can vary depending on person.

We are often not even aware of these so it is important to be honest with yourself and reflect on your own game.

For example you may fear playing badly, making mistakes, not getting selected, losing, letting your team down, getting dropped, being embarrassed, etc.

When you are in a mode of fear, then you are likely performing below what you’re capable of.

Managing fear is all about brain conditioning.

fear brain2

Unless you learn how to change the unconscious patterns then you will likely keep repeating the same things over and over again.

Just like any skill, mindset can be trained.

In fact, this is where we see the biggest difference in the players we work with.

Fear of failure is a huge barrier that stops many from performing their best, but you can do something about it. Here are just a few tips which can help you start the process of overcoming the fear of failure.

7 Ways To Overcome Fear of Failure

#1. Identify fearsidentify

You first need to become aware of exactly what it is that you fear, then identify the root cause of them. Facing up and admitting our fears is the first step of overcoming any fears that holds us back.

#2. Rationalise fear

Ask yourself “what is the worst thing that can happen?” This will help us to rationalise our fears and helps us to realise that fear is often not as bad as we think it is in our mind.

#3. Change your perspective

Failure is often just a matter of perspective and it’s our decision of how we choose to view things. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture of how this so called failure can help you in future.

Remember that failure is an opportunity to learn and get feedback that what you’re doing isn’t working so something needs to change.

#4. Take action

Don’t sit on things for too long and procrastinate, do what you say you’re going to do. Inaction breeds fear while action breeds confidence and courage.

Don’t just think about things, go and do it. 

Remember your daily habits will dictate your results so get used to taking action on a regular basis. Like a cart, it’s easier to keep going when there’s momentum.

#5. Expand your comfort zonecomfort zone

Do just one small thing that scares you a bit and gradually start to expand your comfort zone.

When things seem overwhelming then break it down to small and simple goals that are easily achievable.

#6. Failure is better than regret

Giving 100% to something and failing is way better than thinking “what could have been” which tends to lingers in the mind for much longer causing more pain in the long term.

A good saying I like to use with players who are scared to commit 100% is that it’s better to regret something you have done than to regret something you haven’t done.

#7. Focus on your desire for success

Let your desire for success be greater than your fear of failure. This means you need to focus more on what we have to gain from success rather than what we have to lose from failure.

As humans fear is inevitable but you cannot allow it to paralyse you.

For more on overcoming fear and developing a confident mindset for sport, request a FREE strategy session here

Fear of failure is just ONE of the barriers to success.

Download our free ebook below to find out the 9 other barriers that may be stopping you from playing your best.


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About The Author

Lauren Penny

An ex-International Hockey Player, Performance Coach, Mentor & Motivational Speaker. Passionate about helping sports athletes and coaches improve performance, build confidence and unleash the hidden potential that we all have within us. Lauren prepares people for success.