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Dealing With Disappointment In Sport

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By Lauren Penny

The countdown to the Olympics has begun.

It is a time that 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 that every sports person at some stage has dreamt of the opportunity to perform on the biggest stage in the world, the Olympic Stadium. It is an exciting time, whether you’re a player, coach, official, spectator or like most just a fan of sport watching on the big screen.

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 four years towards something and then fall short weeks prior, 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 not easy to think like this in the moment.

Back in 2012, I was devastated when I picked up an injury (dislocated shoulder) just six 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) while still having bills to pay which was a huge risk for me, but it was one I was willing to take because I had waited many years for this kind of opportunity.

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 am 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 Olympic disappointment as a blessing in disguise.

I feel like I have learnt more being in the position I was in as a first reserve, still getting the opportunity to experience the Olympics as an athlete but almost having more of a bird’s eye view, I was getting to see what goes on outside my own world too.

As a competing athlete you have to be completely focussed on yourself. Although I was still focussed on myself, I was able to experience what most don’t get to.

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 have been through it myself and have faced disappointment, which I believe is a very important lesson for life in general.

“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 that is worthwhile, 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 per cent and fail, it is still worth it.


Something I always say to the sports people that I work with:

“It’s better to give 100 per cent 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 per cent 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 that often the journey is more important than the actual destination.

As Michael Jordan says: “I have failed over and over again and that is why I succeed”

Five Tips To Dealing With Disappointment:

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.


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.

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

4. Choose 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.

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 willing to go all to be among the most successful or are you happy with remaining average for the rest of your life?

If you would like some guidance on how to reach the next level in your hockey, then visit http://hockeyperformanceacademy.comto find out how Lauren can help you get the most out of yourself, both in sport and also in life.

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