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11 Proven Strategies for Dealing With Failure in Sports


Athletes deal with failure all the time, regardless of how good they are. These moments could be difficult and if you don’t know how to handle them, it can crush you. It’s important to have mechanisms in place to help you deal with failure in sports if it happens when you’re performing and after. Here are eight things that’ll help you to regain your confidence.

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Acknowledge the Disappointment

One of the ways you can handle failure in sports is by recognizing and taking time to understand your disappointment. It’s understandable to be sad when you don’t perform as expected, so don’t run away from these feelings. The best thing you can do is process them by talking to someone, reviewing what you did and correcting the errors.

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Believe in Yourself

spotcovery-8 Proven Strategies for Dealing With Failure in Sports
A woman stays focused while running. Source: Photo by

When you fail, it’s easy to doubt yourself but in these moments you need to reinforce belief in yourself. Former boxer Muhammad Ali did this brilliantly. At the age of 22, when he was still a young athlete, he beat one of the best boxers of the time Sonny Liston.

After he stated with confidence, “I am the greatest thing that ever lived.” Ali knew that he had to believe in himself because you won’t always have people’s support. Building your self-confidence is important for your future performance, so be your own biggest cheerleader.

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Keep Going

spotcovery-8 Proven Strategies for Dealing With Failure in Sports
An athlete looking forward. Source: Photo by nappy

The best athletes seem like they always have things going for them. However, if you study their journey to the top, you’ll realize they dealt with failure. From Serena Williams, a 24 grand slam champion to Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. No one goes unscathed. The difference is they didn’t give up. They kept going and their resilience paid off.

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Motivate Yourself

Kobe Bryant on the Fear of Failure. Video Credit: Piotrekz Productions

So many successful athletes narrate how they turned their failures around. One of the things they do is use their setbacks as motivation. If they never made it to their high school or varsity team, they worked harder and eventually became the best at the professional level.

Grab a few sports motivational books on Amazon.

Stay Positive

It’s difficult to look at the positive side of things when dealing with failure in sports but you have to try and do it. We’ve seen players talk to themselves during games, trying to get the crowd to cheer louder and express raw emotion as a way of reassuring themselves. They use their worst moments to lift themselves and that’s how they make comebacks.

Grab a bottle of water on Amazon.

Switch Things Up

Part of handling failure in sports is knowing when to change things. Perhaps the team you’re working with needs to change or you need to move to another team. The way you’re eating, or training might not be right so be ready to work with alternatives. 

Stop Looking for Perfection

The perfectionism trap. Video Credit: The School of Life

Perfectionism might make you overlook the positive things you’ve done. You’ll always feel like you aren’t doing enough, hence the feeling of failure. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses will help you to focus on the right things. Also, it’ll help you set appropriate expectations that’ll make failure tolerable.

Use Mistakes as Lessons

You can’t become good at what you do without making mistakes. The mistake isn’t the problem. The inability to learn from them is the problem. However, if you study your mistakes, extract the lessons and become better, then you’re making progress which only leads you to your next goal.

Building Your Mental Fortitude

Sports psychology is the key to improving athletes’ performance. It helps them develop their mental toughness which enables them to overcome the fear of failure before and during their performance. What separates the high achieving sports people from beginners is the ability to deal with frustration.

We’ve seen this multiple times. For example, when a footballer misses a penalty and then scores in open play. The ability to bounce back is a demonstration that the player has moved on and hangs on to a positive mindset.


Regardless of how much preparation you’ve done, understanding that failure is inevitable helps athletes to move on when they don’t get the result they want. Further, analyzing and putting everything into perspective provides the insight you might be overlooking. Sometimes, even though you lost, you played well. Your opponent was just better and all you have to do is congratulate them.

Focusing on Past Success

The Science of comebacks. Video Credit: Tifo Football

The psychology of comebacks is an important factor to study. It tells us that athletes can look back at their previous successes and dig deeper to turn a bad situation into a positive one. For example, when a team is losing and then scores a goal, they gain belief they can score again and even win the game.

It’s not easy to deal with failure let alone when it happens in sports. Your teammates and fans expect so much that if you don’t meet their expectations, it can take a toll on your emotional and mental health. We hope the tips we’ve shared above help you deal with failure in sports. 

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