*How to Bounce Back from Disappointment by Sports Psychology Consultant
***Here is a great article that was published in the USA Triathlon Magazine
by TrainingBible Coaching’s Sports Psychology Consultant, Cheryl Hart.*
Triathletes experience a gamut of emotions before, during and after practice
and competition ranging from exhilaration and pride to frustration and
disappointment. Too often, an athlete personally experiences Murphy's Law:
Whatever can go wrong will go wrong at the worst possible moment. You wake
race morning to a thunderstorm, choppy water and slick roads. Setting up
transition, you discover you forgot to pack gels plus the handlebar tape is
coming unraveled, along with your nerves. Your goggles fog, you flat at mile
17 and a blister on the bottom of your left foot becomes torturous every
time your running shoe hits the pavement.
One of the most essential attributes of a mentally tough athlete is
resiliency--the ability to bounce back after setbacks. Furthermore, the best
athletes bounce back with renewed determination to succeed. The true sign of
greatness (whether in sport or real life) is not who you are or what you
accomplish when everything is fine, but rather who you are and what you
bring forth when something (or everything) goes wrong.
Competitors who respond to adversity more optimistically tend to be more
aggressive and take more risks than those who react with pessimism and
helplessness. Triathletes who take a positive approach when facing
undesirable situations are more apt to maintain the energy, focus and vigor
needed to compete successfully or to cross the finish.
The most stressful incidents in life and sport are those that are unexpected
and uncontrollable. We have no control over weather, mechanical failures or
another competitor's performance. However, we can control our reactions.
Dr. Paul Stolz, author of The Adversity Advantage, suggests that, "Between
stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and
power to choose our response. In those choices lie our growth and our
If you respond with despair, this bears the weight of finality and
hopelessness. You destroy any confidence or motivation to embrace the next
challenge. If you play the blame game, this results in anger, energy drain
and a negative shift in focus.
In order to develop the skill of resiliency, you must first shift
perspective, focusing more on progress than perfection and on possibilities
rather than problems. How can you use this experience to become a stronger
athlete, to expand your capacity for dealing with adversity and
Many athletes admit that in retrospect, facing their most challenging
disappointments and defeats has taught them valuable lessons and
strengthened them mentally, physically and emotionally. The way you handle a
setback or disappointment today affects your level of confidence and
resiliency in future competitions.
Take a moment to honestly examine the roots of your disappointment. Is it
based on the fear of disappointing others, losing respect or feeling
embarrassed? Have you placed too much emphasis on this aspect of your life
so that your self-identity and self-worth is reliant upon successful
And finally, it is important to accept ownership of any mistakes or
weaknesses that may have contributed to a less than ideal performance. If we
are to reach our goals, we must first acknowledge what went wrong, what part
we played in that and what we can do in the future to correct or strengthen
Remember, everyone fails now and then, and even failure can be perceived as
a success if it results in personal growth. Most importantly, commit to
applauding yourself when you respond to setbacks like a champion.
*Cheryl is a Sport Psychology consultant, motivational speaker, endurance
athlete and instructor of Sport Psychology at the University of Louisville.
To contact Cheryl e-mail her at* *offrun...@yahoo.com** or visit **
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