Rebounding From a Poor Race

Participating in a sport such as track or swimming where athletes compete in individual races can be tough because as an athlete, you’re competing on an island in many ways and the spotlight is often bright.  Therefore, an athlete may face challenges in rebounding from a poor race performance.  

Carrie Cheadle, who has been working on the performance of teams, organizations, and individual athletes since 2002 and wrote a book entitled On Top of Your Game: Mental Skills to Maximize Your Athletic Performance, provides three points to share with your child when faced with the disappointment of not performing well in a big race:

It’s OK to be upset.

Cheadle says, “It’s OK to feel whatever you are feeling. Don’t fight it. Give yourself some time to fully embrace and feel that uncomfortable feeling. When we fight against the feelings that make us uncomfortable and upset we don’t allow ourselves to do what we need to do to fully move through it, accept it, and move forward from it.”

Being resilient isn’t about never feeling upset, Cheadle emphasizes, but rather about how to feel those emotions so that you can regroup as quickly as possible.

Focus on what is in your control.

Cheadle reminds an athlete that it’s okay to feel disappointment about the outcome. The key to overcoming the disappointment is focusing on what you can control.

“Being resilient isn’t about never feeling upset; it’s about knowing how to feel those emotions and then regroup,” he says. “Part of regrouping is the ability to shift your focus to something that is in your control. You might not be able to exert control over the situation, but you can choose how you react to it. You can choose to accept the situation, adjust your goal, and start implementing your Plan B. Remind yourself that you can do this.”

Get perspective.

The feeling of working so hard and then not having things come together on race day is certainly not a pleasant one.  But in nearly all cases, more races await. Furthermore, your athlete can get back on track by having pleasant thoughts in general.  “It can be extremely hard in the moment to step back and gain that kind of perspective, but it can really help you make the adjustment you need to,” says Cheadle. “Think of five things you are unbelievably blessed with and grateful for even in the face of this huge disappointment.

“Being an athlete is part of you,” Cheadle continues. “It’s who you are and that encompasses everything it took to get you there on that day, it’s not just the day itself.

Cheadle ends the article with this final message: “Embrace it. Learn from it. And relish the fact that you will get to try again if you choose to."

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