Dealing with Setbacks
To start with, throughout the course of an athletic career, personal setbacks are inevitable. Whether that be deselection, injury, release or simply losing a big game, this can be a worrying and difficult time for any athlete. The internet is rife of stories of players who have overcome adversity in both their sporting and personal lives to become successful. Examples include; Anthony Joshua who was banned from the GB boxing squad just a year before achieving Olympic gold; Footballer Antoine Griezmann who was rejected by Lyon, Auxerre, Saint-Etienne and Sochaux as a young boy before becoming one of the most prolific forwards in world football. Both could have given up.
So why don’t they just quit? How do top athletes overcome adversity to succeed? And how do they grow out of potentially career-ending situations?
Since top athletes develop a mindset of ‘what can I bring to the situation?’ rather than ‘what will this situation do to me?’ They understand that the experiences that they go through, no matter how difficult or how potentially catastrophic it may appear from an outside perspective, can be an opportunity to learn and grow. It is important that certain skills are developed in preparation for such experiences which are inevitable over a long career. The ability to prepare a mental tool kit to deal with adversity maybe the difference between thriving, surviving or failure.
An athlete’s tool kit falls into two categories: social influences and personal attributes. In time of need, social influences such as coaches, teammates, family, friends or partners are very important. A positive social circle will be able to provide support and advice that can help athletes deal with career difficulties. This support can come in two types: informational support (e.g. advice and guidance) and tangible support (e.g. giving resources or helping to develop skills). It is important that athletes try to recognise the situation they are facing and seek social support that can help them to develop and move forward.
Personal attributes are skills that are accessible to athletes can use to battle through difficult situations. Psychological attributes such as mental toughness, self-confidence, emotional stability and stress management are also key to surviving difficult situations. These skills may not come naturally to everyone; people will approach each situation at a different point in their journey. The time put towards developing these skills is as valuable as developing technical skill to perform. Without the psychological readiness to perform during adversity, technical skills break down under stress and chronic stress can cause burnout when athletes are not prepared. Finally, the athletes who show the greatest response to difficulties develop both an excellent social circle and put time into developing key psychological attributes.
In conclusion, The Tips for Athletes are:
- Approach potential setbacks with a can-do ‘what can I bring to this situation?’ mindset.
- Keep a healthy social circle who will have a positive influence in times of need.
- Put time and effort into developing psychological attributes important to overcoming adversity.
For more information on how The Performance Corner can help on develop and maintain more psychological attributes, please click here.
Lyle Kirkham – The Secret to Negative Thinking.
Simon Noakes – Emotional Intelligence (Leadership).