This is an excerpt from Finding Mastery #097 with coach, mountaineer, and marathoner Anne Parmenter in which she shares how she helps her players recover from mistakes.


Michael Gervais: Coach Carroll has a phrase “learn your learner.”

Anne Parmenter: Yes.

Michael Gervais: So you spend a lot of time learning your folks to see if they’re internally or externally motivated?

Anne Parmenter: Yes.

Michael Gervais: How do you help build the fire for the ones where their internal fire is dormant or they just haven’t tapped into it. Like how do you bring that out?

Anne Parmenter: At the beginning of the season we have individual meetings with athletes. You’re dealing with first years who are new to the school, they’re too afraid to speak in your office, they’re afraid to say anything because they want to make the team. So first of all, I am trying to create this safe environment – that most sports, most things in life are about making mistakes all the time.

It’s about how we recover from our mistakes that makes the best athlete, the best team, the best person. Life is not a perfect science and so if you’re afraid to push the envelope to the point that you’re going to fail, you’ll never know how far you can push it.

Michael Gervais: I flat out love that. And then how do you help people recover from their mistakes? What do you do to help them through that process?

Anne Parmenter: We do a thing – not every day but we either do it at the beginning or the end of practice where we call it either “checking in” or “checking out” of practice.

Each student-athlete has a minute or less to share a quick story, something about their day. Every single person gets to speak in practice. It gives me a chance to put my finger on the pulse of how they’re doing personally, how the team is doing, if people have got a lot of work, if it’s a tough time on campus.

It’s also time that I share very personal stories of what I’m dealing with.

A perfect example is this year.

I went for a trail run one day and we still had a couple of games before one of the biggest games of our season.

The team that won the National Championship last year had just been upset by another conference team. I started daydreaming what it was going to be like when we beat that team because I know we were going to beat that team this year. And I tripped over a root. I went absolutely flying, cut my knee, cut my elbow, and was laying on the ground bleeding.

I was like, “O that really hurt.”

I had to get up, I was only just a mile into my run.

That day at practice I shared with the team because they could see I had a big cut on my leg, big cut on my elbow. I shared my peaks and valleys, very personally with the team.

I said to them, “You guys, you know I always preach to you that our season is like climbing a ladder. We go one rung at a time. If we try to step too many rungs up the ladder without making sure our foot is firmly on the next rung, we trip and probably crash and fall to the ground.”

And I did that because I was daydreaming about a game that actually was three games ahead of where we were. And I bit it big time.

So I said, “I am a walking metaphor for everything I tell you not to do.”


Listen to full podcast here.


Anne Parmenter is an avid mountaineer who has summited Everest, Denali, Agoncagua, and Mont Blanc, among others. She is a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School, a climbing guide, and long-time head coach of the Trinity College women's field hockey team.