5 Steps To Dealing With Disappointment In Sport

Have you ever missed out on selection?

Maybe you got dropped or injured and weren’t able to take part in something that mean’t a lot to you.

It’s easy to lose motivation when these kinds of things happens and you could even start to think “what’s the point?”

But often disappointment gives us an opportunity to make some changes for the better, to show us that what we’re doing isn’t working and helps us realise how much something means to us.

olympicsLet’s use the Olympics as an example.

The Olympics is a time that most people look forward to because we get the chance to watch the world’s best athletes compete in sports that we don’t always get the opportunity to see.

There are often a ton of extraordinary moments and inspirational stories of achievement, which can inspire us, even in our everyday lives.

I am pretty sure every sports person has at some stage dream’t of the opportunity to perform on the biggest sporting stage in the world.

But for some athletes it can be one of the toughest moments in their life.

Imagine putting everything in your life to one side, giving up what most people consider normal and pushing yourself through intense training sessions for 4 years towards something and then fall short, not achieving what you set out.


Many would see this as a waste of time and effort, but one thing to remember is that there are always at least two ways to look at things…

I’ve been in this situation myself and it’s natural to think like that in the moment.

Back in 2012, I was devastated when I picked up an injury (dislocated shoulder) just 6 weeks prior to the London Olympic Games, which made me a high risk choice for selection, just days before our Olympic team announcement.

I had to take several months off work (unpaid) to train while still having bills to pay. This was a huge risk for me, but it was one I was willing to take because I had waited years for this kind of opportunity.

olympic team pic

Our team at London 2012 Olympic Games

Despite the sacrifices I made I didn’t get to play at the 2012 Olympics but I did make first reserve which means I was only ONE pick away.

Do I regret my decision to give it a go?

No way. Yes it was and still is devastating to think about the disappointment of “missing out” and I do still wonder what would have happened had I not been injured.

But I’m also very aware of the fact that I can’t change what happened in the past.

In fact, I believe that every setback we face provides us with an opportunity to learn and grow. I actually see my personal disappointment of the Olympics as a blessing in disguise.

As a competing athlete you have to be completely focussed on yourself.

I learnt a lot being in the position I was in (as a first reserve) and although I remained focussed on myself, I was also able to experience things outside of my own world too.

Olympic medal James thompson

I met several Olympic athletes at London 2012, including James Thompson, Olympic Gold Medalist for Rowing.

Being a first reserve is a difficult position to be in because you know that you won’t play but you have to be ready to step up and be at the top of your game if anyone gets injured.   

Without having gone through this, there is no way I would be able to help people the way I do now.

I’ve been through highs and lows and have faced many disappointments which I believe is a very important lesson to learn for life in general. But remember…

“It’s not about what happens to you, it is about how you choose to deal with it that really matters”

My message is that yes there is a degree of risk that you have to take in anything worthwhile achieving, otherwise everyone would do it.

And yes you may have to give up everything and there’s still a chance of not getting what you want but in my experience even if you give 100% and fail, it is still worth it.

Something I always say to those I work with is:

“It’s better to give 100% and not reach your goal but go further than you thought than to regret not giving everything you had and remain average for the rest of your life”

You won’t reach your goal if you don’t commit 100% anyway so you may as well decide what you want and go all in.

Every journey or achievement will not be without any bumps in the road, so put on your seatbelt and embrace the rough ride, just like any rollercoaster.

And remember the journey is more important than the destination.

For me, the Olympics is just like the cherry on the top. It’s a bonus reward for years of hard work and dedication to your sport.

5 Steps To Dealing With Disappointment:

Step 1: Accept what has happened

Be upset in the moment and fully experience the emotions that you are feeling, don’t ignore or downplay this as it is very important to deal with what you are feeling.

Step 2: Don’t dwell on the past

Once you’ve dealt with the emotion and let it out then try to move on as soon as possible. Don’t dwell on things in the past for too long because remember you can’t change the past.

Step 3: Use setbacks as opportunities

Setbacks and disappointment are inevitable in anything worthwhile achieving so expect them. Instead we can use them as ways to learn, improve and better yourself as a result.

Often setbacks can give us extra motivation and drive to work harder and come back even stronger.

Step 4: Change your perspective

There are always at least two ways to view things so try to take the positive out of every situation no matter how bad it is. There is always a positive perspective in everything, sometimes you just have to look for it.

For example I used my injury setback as a way to focus more on helping others and that is how I discovered my passion for coaching, which I enjoy more than playing now.

Step 5: Set future objectives

Remember that just because you’ve experienced a setback now, it doesn’t mean you won’t be successful in future so don’t ever give up at the first hurdle.

It is those who keep getting up over and over again that succeed. To make this easier you can set yourself new objectives and things to work towards that can drive you forward.

Are you happy with being average and accepting where you’re at for the rest of your life?

Or are you willing to risk going all out to be among the most successful people?

What has been your biggest disappointment in sport and how can you use it to help you in future?

For personal advice on how you can take your game to the next level, request a FREE Breakthrough Session here

About The Author

Lauren Penny

Lauren is a former International Hockey Player, Performance Coach & Mentor specialising in helping hockey players to be more confident, improve their fitness and perform more consistently to get noticed and reach higher teams.

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