5 Steps To Dealing With Disappointment In Sport

Have you ever missed out on selection?

Or faced some kind of disappointment such as injury or being dropped?

It is easy to lose motivation when you have worked hard for something, only to fall short of your goals. You may even feel like giving up or thinking “what’s the point?”

But often disappointment gives us the opportunity to make some changes, to show you that what you’re doing isn’t working and help you realise how much something means to you.

Let’s take the example of the Olympics Games.

The Olympics brings to light extraordinary moments of greatness and stories of achievement, which can inspire us even in our everyday lives.


I am pretty sure that every sports person has at some point dream’t of the opportunity to perform on the biggest sporting stage in the world.

It’s an exciting time whether you’re a player, coach, official, spectator or like most just a fan of sport watching on television.

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 4 years towards your goals…

And then fall short, 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 6 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 taken several months off work (unpaid) while still having bills to pay. It 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.

Despite the sacrifices I made I didn’t get to play at the Olympics but I did make first reserve which means I was only one pick away.

Do I regret my decision to give it a go?

No way. 

Yes it was (and sometimes still is) devastating to think about the disappointment of “missing out” and I do still wonder what would have happened had I not got injured.

But I am also very aware of the fact that I can’t change what happened in the past. And it’s way better than feeling regret.

Every setback we face provides us with an opportunity to learn and get better. In fact, I see my personal disappointment of the London 2012 Olympics as a blessing in disguise.

As a competing athlete you have to be completely focussed on yourself.

I learn’t a lot being in the position I was in (as a first reserve) and although I remained focussed on myself, I was also able to experience things outside of my own world too.

I met several athletes at the Olympics, including James Thompson, Olympic Gold Medal Winner.

I met several athletes at the Olympics, including James Thompson, Olympic Gold Medal Winner.

Being a first reserve is a difficult position to be in because you know that you may not get to play but you have to be ready to step up and be at the top of your game if anyone else 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 there is a degree of risk that you have to take in anything worthwhile achieving, 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% and fail, it’s still worth it.

Something I always say to those I work with:

“It’s better to strive for something great and not reach it 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% anyway so you may as well decide what will be worth aiming for and go all in. bump

Every goal will not be without any bumps in the road, so put on your seatbelt and embrace the rough ride, just like any rollercoaster.

Be ready for the up’s and down’s. 

” The journey is more important than the destination”

For me, the Olympics is just like the cherry on the top. It’s a bonus reward for years of hard work and dedication to your sport.

5 Steps To Dealing With Disappointment:

Step 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.

Step 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. future

Don’t dwell on things in the past for too long because remember you can’t change the past.

Step 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 yourself as a result.

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

Step 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 love for coaching.

Step 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 set yourself objectives and challenges to work towards that can keep driving you forward.

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

To find out how to reach the next level in your sport, request a FREE Breakthrough Session here


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About The Author

Lauren Penny

An ex-International Hockey Player, Performance Coach, Mentor & Motivational Speaker. Passionate about helping sports athletes and coaches improve performance, build confidence and unleash the hidden potential that we all have within us. Lauren prepares people for success.