Experiencing injuries, illnesses, and unforeseen obstacles during training or competitions are an inherent part of an athlete’s life, regardless of their experience. Even the most well-prepared athletes face setbacks, some of which they have no control over, such as equipment failure or unexpected circumstances. I prepare athletes to expect both good and bad days in training and competition.
While it’s normal to feel disappointed, athletes must focus on their responses to these setbacks. It’s important to learn from the situation, identify how to overcome the problem, and move on to prepare for future competitions. When athletes dwell on their disappointments, they use up valuable energy that could be better spent preparing for their next event. Instead, athletes should treat setbacks as learning opportunities and make adjustments to their physical, mental, and emotional approaches to achieve success in their next race.
Setting specific and realistic goals, preparing adequately for the event, and having a disciplined mindset can help athletes deal with disappointment. If an athlete bases their success solely on winning, they may set themselves up for failure as there are certain factors beyond their control. Instead, athletes should establish a personal interval vs outcome goal that gives them a measure of personal excellence to work towards.
It’s also essential to accept that disappointment is a part of an athlete’s journey. Athletes must avoid dwelling on “what ifs” and focus on the reason they train and compete. While disappointing performances can be frustrating, expressing one’s feelings to other athletes, coaches, or close friends can help ease the emotional burden. Additionally, accepting responsibility for any mistakes or weaknesses that contributed to the subpar performance can help athletes learn and prepare better for future competitions. Finally, athletes should consider what they can control and what they cannot, accept the circumstances, learn from the experience, and move forward with new knowledge.
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