How to Overcome Failure in Sports

Failure in sports occurs when you experience defeat. In this interesting article, we'll tell you how to overcome failure in sports.
How to Overcome Failure in Sports

Last update: 01 October, 2020

For any athlete, few experiences are more unpleasant than failure in sports. It leads to feelings of defeat and makes you believe that you didn’t make enough of an effort.

In every competition, there’s a winner and a loser. In fact, this is a fundamental and unavoidable aspect of sports. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t consider a defeat personal failure. Instead, you should understand that it’s a part of competing.

The feeling of failure leads to negative emotions that affect the athlete’s performance. Once an athlete enters a cycle of negative thoughts, they’ll perform poorly precisely due to these thoughts and emotions. This poor performance will reinforce their sense of failure and can ultimately lead to burnout.

For all of these reasons, it’s very important to know how to overcome failure in sports. Below, we share some tips to help you do just that.

Allow yourself to downplay failure in sports

On many occasions, emotional distress stems more from how a situation is perceived rather than by what happened. Therefore, if you’re able to change your assessment of defeat, your mood, and state of mind will also change.

Downplaying consists of not seeing everything in black or white but understanding that there are nuances in between. Nothing is as terrible or wonderful as you might first believe.

Downplaying doesn’t mean ignoring what happened or simply not caring. Instead, it means giving it the importance it deserves and being aware that failure is simply an experience you can learn from.

A tired athlete.
An athlete’s mindset should allow them to cope with exhaustion and frustration.

Express your frustration and negative feelings

Failure in sports is accompanied by unpleasant emotions such as frustration, anger, or sadness. These emotions don’t allow the athlete to give the best of themselves and be able to overcome obstacles.

An effective way to reduce negative emotions is to talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling. Putting physical sensations into words is liberating. In addition, having other people’s support helps you realize that you’re not alone and that you can count on them to overcome negative situations.

An equally effective alternative in situations where you don’t have anyone’s support is to write down everything you’re feeling. You can do this in an orderly manner or by simply writing words. The important thing is for your writing to reflect all the emotions you’re feeling.

Set new achievable goals

Poorly set goals can be a major source of frustration. The more demanding a goal is and the shorter the time you have to achieve it, the more likely you’ll be to fail.

Goal setting is a technique that allows you to set goals that are achievable, thus maximizing your chances of reaching them. For example, the SMART tool gives you the necessary guidelines a well-formulated goal must include.

Regarding this technique, it’s key to ensure that the goals you set for yourself are neither too easy nor too difficult. They should involve a certain degree of difficulty so that you perceive them as a challenge. Nevertheless, they shouldn’t be too difficult, as this can demotivate you.

Focus on what helps you to improve

When athletes experience sports failure, it’s common for them to constantly think about what happened. Thus, your attention may focus on what went wrong and if it may happen again in the future.

A soccer player kicking a ball.

But focusing on the past is counterproductive, as it keeps you from looking to the future with optimism and turning the page. Although it may be a good idea to conduct an exercise in self-criticism, you have to go one step further and avoid torturing yourself with your bad experiences.

Instead of focusing on your weaknesses, you should assess your strengths and what makes you stand out from your rivals. They can be both physical or mental abilities. Every athlete has special characteristics they should enhance.

Failure in sports is just an assessment

Defeat, like a victory, is only one of the outcomes of any competition. What we call “failure” is the assessment of a certain situation.

All experiences, even the most negative ones, teach us something. As such, it’s very important to have the ability to learn from them and look to the future. Overcoming failure in sports heavily depends on an athlete’s ability to live in the present and have a positive mindset.

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  • Doran, G. T. (1981). There’s a SMART way to write management’s goals and objectives. Management review, 70(11), 35-36.