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How to Let Go of Disappointments in Competition

Letting go, can be one of the hardest things for an athlete to do after experiencing a disappointment in competition. 

Over. Next.

Two words.

Two powerful words when it comes to sports and emotional control.

The play is over. Focus on the next moment.

Simple. Powerful. Yet so hard for many athletes to do.

This weekend, my daughter swam the 50 back on a 200 meter individual medley relay team...

As she touched the wall, the official did what every swimmer dreads – she raised her hand and disqualified her.

My daughter finished her leg of the race and exited the pool. I could tell from her body language that she new she was disqualified and disappointed. From her perspective, she let both herself and her team mates down.

I sent her a text and said, “Let it go. One race does not determine the next. The relay is over. Focus on your next event.”

Her swim coaches echoed the same advice.

I was so proud of what happened next...

My daughter dropped time in five of her next six events.

She let the first race go. It was over. She focused on her next event.

When an athlete moves beyond a mistake or a disappointment, it’s powerful.

When an athlete dwells on a mistake or a disappointment and carries that emotion to the next play, it’s not helpful.

The athlete’s mind is not in the moment. The personal thoughts of disappointment (or anger) often sabotage the NEXT event, the NEXT moment.

Knowing how to stay in the moment and to let go of disappointments is an important mental skill for athletes.

At Great Sports Minds, we teach athletes to focus on the process, the task, and the play in front of them. To use their breath to let it go. Really let it go.

How do you learn to let go of disappointments?

The 3 magic R words: RecognizeRegroup, Refocus.

Note: Keep in mind this can also work off the field and in work place...

1. Recognize the behavior - Are you aware of your anger? Your emotion? Are unrealistic expectations or a desire to be perfect fueling your emotion?

2. Regroup - Use your breath, slowly inhale through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth.

Embrace a visual and positive feedback to help you regroup.

For example, a baseball client uses the mental image of the umpire calling out his anger, “You’re out of here!” to help him eliminate the negative chatter.

A golfer simply brushes his shoulder to symbolize letting go of the shot moving on to the next. He states even the best golfers in the world hit into the ruff.

3. Refocus - bring your focus into the next play. Focus on the play the moment right in front of you. The last play is over.

My daughter did not win any races. She did not come home with any medals but the won in my book.

At the age of 11 she demonstrated the ability to move beyond a mistake, a disappointment.

She recognized one mistake; one race would not define her meet. She let it go and performed her personal best in five of the next six events. She maintained her confidence despite the outcome of her first event.

Over. Next.

The power of emotional control. The power of maintaining composure despite disappointment is a gift that can serve you well beyond the pool into the class room and life.


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