How To Handle Adversity In Sports

What do you do when faced with adversity in life? What about when you’re faced with sports failure? Are you someone who gets frustrated easily and quickly backs down, accepting defeat? Or do you rise to the challenge and persevere, no matter how tough the situation?

Adversity is never desired but should always be welcomed.

Without challenges and setbacks, you never learn how strong you truly are. These external forces provide incredible opportunities for growth. Though, they can also be times of anger and disappointment.

Facing adversity in your life and dealing with sports failure is not going to be easy. The very nature of adversity makes it a challenge to overcome. But once you learn how to rise above these setbacks, you’ll open a new world of strength and possibilities in your sport and life.

Handling adversity starts with your mind. If you lack the proper mindset, these situations will continually get the best of you, time and time again.

The Many Faces Of Adversity

What makes a situation adverse? In sports, adversity takes in many different forms. But each one will have a common factor: it’s working against you and your success.

Adversity is friction. When you come across setbacks and challenges in life, your road to success no longer seems as smooth and effortless.

But disguised in every adversity is an opportunity, which is something we’ll discuss later in the article. For now, let’s take a look at some of the most common forms of adversity you’ll face as an athlete.

Falling Behind In A Game

One of the most obvious forms of adversity is falling behind in a game. The more you’re losing by, the steeper the mountain you must climb becomes.

Even if it’s the first few minutes of a game, falling behind can quickly suck the life out of you and your team.

Whenever the other team would score a few runs early in the game, it always felt like a huge hurdle we had to overcome. There were many times when I could see the optimism and fight vanish from my teammates faces, and felt the same happen to myself.

No matter if it’s a small or large deficit, falling behind can feel like an adversity you simply cannot overcome. Resulting in a loss of motivation and you and your team seemingly handing the win over to the opposition.

Negative Coaches

You wouldn’t think someone that’s a part of your team, especially in a coaching role, would serve as adversity. But a negative coach can quickly turn into a challenge for yourself and others to overcome.

A team is going to adopt the attitude of their coach. By having a positive attitude, your coach serves as a powerful source of inspiration and motivation for the team.

However, if your coach has a negative attitude, this can easily rub off on you. Now you are working to keep yourself in positive spirits, while your coach’s attitude is working against you.

“A team is going to adopt the attitude of their coach. By having a positive attitude, your coach serves as a powerful source of inspiration and motivation for the team.”

Failing To Make The Team

Going to a tryout and failing to make the team is a hard pill to swallow. One that can lead to you dropping the sport altogether. But there are many stories of elite athletes, who at one time or another failed to make a team.

In the moment, however, it’s hard to see this as simply being part of your story. Instead, it’s easy to become frustrated and get down on yourself, thinking you’re simply not talented enough to succeed.

This can even happen when you make a team, but fail to make the starting lineup. Both are adversities you will very likely face as an athlete.

Bad Officials

The calls by officials are completely out of your control as an athlete. But, they quickly turn into a source of adversity. This happens in two different ways.

First, if the officials seem to be calling an unfair game, your team now has the challenge of overcoming one sided officiating. This means you’ll have to change your game plan and playing style to avoid any more calls.

Secondly, bad officiating can result in you losing your cool. Growing frustrated and distracted by the terrible officials. Now you are faced with the adversity of refocusing your attention, instead of having it distracted by a noncontrollable factor.

High Expectations

Parents, coaches, and yourself are all sources of high expectations. No matter where the expectations are coming from, they can serve as adversity.

You find yourself trying to live up to all the expectations placed upon you. Expectations are distractions, keeping you from fully focusing on the task at hand.

As you try to live up to the expectations, you create even more adversity for yourself in the moment.

Making Mistakes During A Game

Mistakes can be adversities in and of themselves, while your reaction to them can also be an obstacle.

When you make a mistake, you automatically have created a setback to overcome within the game. If you make an error in the field, you now must overcome that mistake by making the next play.

If you throw an interception, on your next drive you must overcome that adversity by making better decisions with your passes.

On top of the physical aspect of sports failure, you also must overcome the adversity that happens in your mind. If you grow angry and get down on yourself, this is now a challenge you must overcome.

Your Own Mind

There are many mental game challenges that work against peak performance. Whether it’s performance anxiety, fear of failure, low confidence, or anything else, each one will serve as an adversity to your success.

Your mind can be your best friend or worst enemy as an athlete. By strengthening your mind and having it work in your favor, your performances become effortless and flow smoothly.

However, if you struggle with mental game challenges, many obstacles present themselves you must work to overcome.

“Your mind can be your best friend or worst enemy as an athlete. By strengthening your mind and having it work in your favor, your performances become effortless and flow smoothly.”

Developing A Mindset To Overcome Adversity

Overcoming adversity starts in your mind. You must adopt a certain attitude and mindset that allows you to turn sports failure and adverse situations and challenges into positive experiences.

By shifting your mindset, you give yourself the strength you need to rise up in these moments, no longer allowing challenges to hold you back.

The first way to do this is by altering your current perception of adversity.

See Obstacles As Opportunities

Do you see sports failure and adversity as a negative part of life? Are these things you fear and wish didn’t happen?

It’s easy to have this frame of mind. Can you imagine if you never made a mistake or never had to fall behind during a game? How amazing would that be?

The sad part is, this would likely keep you from actually growing. You see, adversity provides us with tremendous opportunities to grow.

By rising up to challenges and facing them head on, you strengthen your mind and grow, not only as a player but as a person as well.

Let’s say you’ve fallen behind in a game. This is an opportunity for you and your teammates to show what you’re made of. To rise to the challenge, revealing how mentally tough you are and seeing how you can work together to overcome the challenge.

Every adversity is an opportunity. All you must do is stop seeing these moments as negative and begin viewing them as opportunities for growth.

Focus On The Success You Want

In the midst of adversity, one of the easiest things to have happen is your mind becomes focused on sports failure.

For example, when you make a mistake, an easy response is to fixate on your mistake, replaying it over and over again in your mind. All this does is keep the failure at the forefront of your mind and reduce your confidence.

When you’re faced with an adversity, in order to overcome it, you cannot be focused on failure. Instead, you need to see what you want.

Keep that goal in your mind. See yourself performing how you wish to perform. By doing so, you boost your confidence, and give yourself the best chance of overcoming the challenge.

Remember Past Times When You’ve Overcome Adversity

This goes off the same concept as the previous tip. During times of hardship, knowing you’ve overcome similar obstacles in the past is incredibly helpful.

For example, let’s say you’re facing the adversity of a bad official. Has there been a time where you played with bad officiating? I’m sure there has been. Every athlete deals with this type of challenge at one time or another.

Think back to those past times where you’ve overcome this obstacle. That will remind yourself you have the strength to do so again.

Or maybe you are struggling with high expectations. Has there been a moment where you’ve lived up to the expectations you feel are placed on you? Remind yourself of all the times you’ve risen to the expectations, and outperformed what you even thought you were capable of.

Reminding yourself of past times you’ve overcome adversity boosts your confidence and makes it much easier to face obstacles in the moment.

“Think back to those past times where you’ve overcome this obstacle. That will remind yourself you have the strength to do so again.”

Take It One Step At A Time

One of the hardest parts of overcoming adversity is when the mountain seems too steep to climb. You look up, and the summit is high up in the clouds and you wonder how you’ll ever make it that far.

The problem is, you’re focusing on the top of the mountain, when you only need to be focused on your next step.

Do not try to overcome adversity all at once. If you’re losing by twenty points, you can’t get all that back with one play. You must take it one step at a time.

If you fail to make a team, seeing a whole year between yourself and your next opportunity may seem like too long to wait. Instead, focus on what you need to do today, tomorrow, and then the next day to give yourself the best chance of making the team next year.

Never see adversity as a whole. Rather, break it down and take it one step at a time. That way, you’re not overwhelmed and you allow each step to build upon one another. Combining to reach the top of the mountain, and overcome the adversity in your way.

Final Thoughts

You are going to face adversity and failure as an athlete. That’s one thing you can count on. What matters is how you respond to the obstacles in your path.

There are really only two choices you have. You can allow the adversity to hold you back, or you can rise to the occasion and overcome the challenges in your way.

I hope you choose the latter option.

Overcoming adversity begins by adopting the right mindset. You must see adversity as an opportunity, focus on what you want, remember past times you’ve overcome adversity, and take it one step at a time.

If you do, you’ll have no problem facing any challenge that comes your way.

I hope you enjoyed this article on sports failure, and if you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me. Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

Contact Success Starts Within Today

Please contact us to learn more about mental coaching and to see how it can improve your mental game and increase your performance. Complete the form below, call (252)-371-1602 or schedule an introductory coaching call here.

Eli Straw

Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.

Mental Training Courses

Learn more about our two main mental training courses for athletes: Mental Training Advantage and The Mentally Tough Kid.

The Mentally Tough Kid course will teach your young athlete tools & techniques to increase self-confidence, improve focus, manage mistakes, increase motivation, and build mental toughness.

In Mental Training Advantage, you will learn tools & techniques to increase self-confidence, improve focus, manage expectations & pressure, increase motivation, and build mental toughness. It’s time to take control of your mindset and unlock your full athletic potential!

Recent Articles
Follow Us

Master Your Mental Game With One-On-One Coaching

Get one-on-one mental performance coaching to help break through mental barriers and become the athlete you’re meant to be!

Master Your Mental Game With One-On-One Coaching

Get one-on-one mental performance coaching to help break through mental barriers and become the athlete you’re meant to be!