How to Support Through Struggles and Setbacks

In this Breakaway clip from Skye's Webinar with Todd Beane for Gratitude Week, the topic of conversation is how to deal with your child when they encounter the inevitable struggles and setbacks. 

Todd Beane worked with Johan Cruyff for 14 years to create the Cruyff Institute for Sport Studies and to deliver total football training programs to professional clubs worldwide.

Beane graduated from Dartmouth College in 1986 with a B.A. in English Literature. Upon graduation, he was awarded a Rotary Scholarship to attend the University of Sussex in England. Todd concluded his formal studies at Stanford University where he earned a M.A. in Education and a Secondary Teaching Credential.

As an athlete, Todd played NCAA Division I soccer at Dartmouth College before playing professional soccer in the USISL. During his tenure in the United States, he was awarded a US Soccer Federation “A” License, coaching both collegiately and professionally. He has served on the faculty of Johns Hopkins University as Director of the Native Vision Program and later as Director of the Cloud Forest School in Costa Rica.

You can access the full webinar here: 



Let's talk a little bit about failure or struggle. Something that I've been privy to as my daughter went to TOVO and spent time with you is the learning process that happens. For those of you listening, we have a WhatsApp group for parents. So Todd's putting messages into this WhatsApp group about like what has been taught that day, but also how the players are responding. Some days the messages are like, this was a really hard day, or they're really struggling. I know, for me, personally, Cali struggled with rethinking the way she was trying to learn and how she imagines the game. Can you share a little bit about the process that you've seen repeated over and over again as new players, largely from the United States, but globally, come into TOVO and what that process looks like?


Yeah. I think I'm just making them conscious of a process that is human nature. We speak a lot about moving players from baseline to better. So this is not a comparative analysis, this is how are you bringing your best self, and in what areas would you like to improve? So that's a journey. We call it the journey to extraordinary. A journey from baseline to better. We speak a lot, and there are plenty of examples, as you mentioned, on a daily basis in sport. That journey never goes from baseline to better in a diagonal, upward trajectory. It doesn't work that way for anybody.

Anytime we've had to learn something, sometimes we feel like we're going backwards on that journey, and that is a company with frustration or failure, if you will. So one is to make players conscious that if you are on a journey that is arduous, then you are on the journey for improvement, and you have to understand how to embrace that and confront the emotions that come with frustration, anger, angst, stress, self critique. If we pretend that it's all going to be La La Land, and that we're all... everybody wins every day, and everything's perfect, and life is one big Instagram photo, it's just ludicrous, and we cannot perpetuate that, so we don't.

We say, listen, this is an arduous journey, but any journey worthwhile to extraordinary is an arduous one. It'll have as many and, hopefully, more joys as it will those tough days. But without those tough days, we do not get to experience the ultimate joy of massive improvement in our intelligence, in our skill, and our character. And so we map that journey by journaling every session every day, and they have an archive of that journey. I'm sure Cali probably has hers ducked away somewhere from her time with us, and it's an amazing memoir of the good, the bad, and those days that went beautifully, and the days that were maybe more challenging than others.

If we confront it, recognize that's everybody's experience, then we can share in that, and we can know exactly when we need to pick each other up on that journey, and when we need to lead that journey for others. I think that's the most... Yeah. Along the way, we're kicking a soccer ball. But let's face it, most of this is about building relationships and building the type of skills that we would want our children to have.


Yeah. It's so hard to watch our children struggle. Our instincts, you're right, are to fix things or to make them better or to try to talk through it and come up with a solution. I wrote an article for Gratitude Week and pushed it out yesterday on Soccer Parenting about my parents, and the key layer for both my brother and myself, growing up. My brother was an incredible athlete, he competed collegially in gymnastics. For both of us, growing up, it was just such an autonomous environment. It was really our environment. We were the masters of the environment, and my parents made sure of that. Whether that was just them following their instincts, or they had this real plan, I don't know, or maybe they were just busy and didn't have time to be involved. Regardless, Shane and I both had such autonomy. Let's talk about that just a little bit, and how autonomy focuses or builds a sense of personal motivation, and also is just foundational to that growth that we've been referencing.


When we allow... in sport or at home, allow children to take that journey, as you mentioned, be the masters of that journey, be the protagonist, the skills they're building are... they're going to serve them for the rest of their life. But you mentioned about your parents, and my parents were very similar. I never felt pressure about where I needed to be, what level I had to perform, what team I had to make, what was acceptable, what was going to bring status to the family, what was my 10-year plan when I was six years old.

It's become exponentially more difficult for children, because we are surrounded by this expectation. I think what you mentioned, you chose your path, and your brother chose his path, and those are unique paths for each of you, although you're siblings. What wonderful parents you had to allow you to journey toward your extraordinary, knowing that it wasn't theirs, and knowing that it wasn't your brother's. They gave you that autonomy, and with that autonomy, you built confidence and skill and intelligence and character and the relationships that you have that have lasted a lifetime. So, that's the power of autonomy. Somewhere in there, whether it's gymnastics or math or science or art or dance or music or soccer, it's probably not as relevant as you feeling that that journey was yours to take and yours to benefit from. I'm sure your parents did quite well with that.


Yeah. Yeah. I think that's also one of the benefits or one of the things that are just layered into your work at TOVO, is that the players are there largely alone. They've gone to another country, they are living in a hostel with other kids. They really are so independent, and they don't have that ability to have... I know parents sometimes stay and watch the sessions and such, but there's a really a separation there. Do you think parents-


That's important, because that's the autonomy you talk about. Of course, they're in a nurturing environment, we have a chef, and we have a den mother, but there's a 35-minute walk that your daughter will remember, of course, along the Mediterranean boardwalk, through the steps of an iconic church Sitges, through the Mediterranean cobblestone streets, and up to the training ground, which is on the edge of a beach. Now, those 35 minutes initially had staff members say, the kids won't do it. They just won't walk. They're shuttled in family vans, and they're dropped off at the field, they're picked up. And I said, "They will do it. And when they do it, they're going to appreciate it." Ironically, it's one of the things they remember most.

What is it about that walk? It is a journey on their way a to their training. It's a 35-minute journey on the way back. So it's everything that's wholesome and noble about preparing yourself, about cleansing yourself, about recovering after the challenges of a training, and to give yourself a sense of perspective. Because when you walk along that Mediterranean Sea, and you see big blue sky and beautiful blue waters, whether or not you scored one more goal in training becomes a matter of perspective, and you're just, as you mentioned, thankful for the experience, and you don't lose sight because you've lost yourself in the minutia. It is the grandeur of the experience and that autonomy that allows you order to flourish. Of course, we need to do that in a safe environment, but certainly, they speak of that autonomy often when they review their experience.


Yeah. And so takeaways for your parents that are listening is, how can we create those environments when we're not walking along the paths along the Mediterranean? How can we provide opportunities for our children to experience exactly those same things? I can tell you that I know it's possible.