Can Your Athlete Bounce Back from Adversity?

Resiliency is a trait that is essential for your athlete to have in order to be the very best he can be. No matter the sport...the game will throw much adversity at's unavoidable. In truth his level of success will not be dictated by what happens to him but rather how he responds to what happens to him.

The ability to bounce back from failure and adversity, to be resilient, is the key. But how does she learn to do that on a consistent basis? It's vitally important for you as the adult to help her to frame the game and her performance in a way that will encourage her to use her power of resiliency.

In my team's recent games one of my players was having a difficult time adjusting to a slower pitcher. My player kept lining the ball foul, like five times in a row. She could not wait long enough to hit the ball fair. I could see her frustration mount with each pitch. I was telling her to "stay back," but her body would not comply. In one at bat, after maybe eight or nine pitches she grounded out to 3B. All she could do was shake her head all the way back to the dugout.

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basketball player dealing with adversity
Before her next at bat I continued to work on her to mentally slow the game down, to experiment with her timing a bit, and mostly to have fun with it. On her next at bat she hit the first pitch way foul again. She looked at me and I just smiled back at her. She smiled at me and proceeded to line the next pitch right at 2B for another out. When she got to first base I smile and congratulated her on a great at bat. She made the difficult adjustment and waited long enough to hit the ball but a foot away from being a hit.

If your athlete, like my player, is only concerned with the results (making an out), without realizing just what a great at bat he may have had (by making adjustments, making the pitcher throw 8-9 pitches, by laying down a perfect sacrifice bunt, hitting behind the runner to advance him, or hitting the ball right on the screws right at somebody) he may be inclined to see his results as having failed.

Here are five sure fire ways you can help your athlete to frame his or her performance in a way that will build up his or her resiliency:

  • Reaffirm that their game is a difficult one in which no one is perfect. Mistakes and poor plays are going to happen; they happen to every player.
  • On the days when the game gets them he/she needs to view it as a "learning" or "investment" day to help her get better. Inevitably all mistakes provide an opportunity for growth.
  • Have her/him focus on their effort and not the outcome or results. In this way they can focus on those factors they have control over...effort, attitude, focus and preparation.
  • As parent or coach practice non-judgment of her/his performance. If they feel that you are down on their game it will be much harder for them to bounce back. Be supportive and re-read points 1-3.
  • Have a discussion with him/her about expectations. Expectations parents, coaches and he/she has for their performance, and determine how realistic these expectations are. Again, no one is perfect, but if your athlete truly believes they have to be their resiliency to bounce back from adversity will be slow forming.

Building a strong, resilient athlete requires a short memory, self-confidence and highly supportive parents and coaches. Like everything in sports resiliency will take time to cultivate on his or her journey to mastery.

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