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Dealing with Disappointment

Updated: Mar 25, 2021

Basketball is Psychology XV

“If you learn to use adversity the right way, it will buy you a ticket to a place you couldn’t have gone any other way.”



Only one team ends the season with a win. Unless you were part of a team that ended the season hoisting the championship trophy, your season ended with a loss.

Losing and underperforming can be heartbreaking, especially considering the countless hours invested, and all the sacrifices that go into a season. It can be hard to accept that the season is over. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you let your teammates down, your coaches down, your family down, and your school or city down.

That feeling of disappointment can drain you physically, mentally, and emotionally if you let it. It’s a heavy emotion. There is a way to overcome the devastating heartbreak, discouragement, and disappointment.

Using Adversity

A common denominator among the greatest basketball players is their ability to not let disappointments stop them from working. Disappointments don’t define them, they propel them forward. In fact, they used their disappointments as fuel to motivate them.

At Emsley A. Laney High School in Wilmington, North Carolina, a sophomore failed to secure one of the 15 roster spots on the varsity team. He went home and cried about it. From there, he had a choice: he could be overcome by those feelings of disappointment and give up, or he could use the disappointment to his advantage.

Most would tell themselves that not making varsity as a sophomore is a sure sign that your basketball career won’t amount to much. However, this 15-year-old turned his disappointment to motivation. He used it as motivation, “Whenever I was working out and got tired and figured I ought to stop, I’d close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it. That usually got me going again.” When he thought about his shortcomings, it only made him want to make sure that never happened again. He strategically reminded himself of his disappointments, and that was the fuel he used to become great.

That player went on to star on the junior varsity team. He even went on to become a McDonald’s All American, 6 time NBA Champion, 5 time NBA MVP, 14 time NBA all star, and the greatest basketball player of all time. That player is Michael Jordan.

Where are your disappointments driving you? They can drive you to work harder, or they can drive you to give up. Either way, it is a choice of thought.

When you reflect on the season and think about all the areas you came up short, you can use it as motivation or you can use it as an excuse to give up.

If you shot poorly this season, you can tell yourself that you’re a bad shooter, or you can jump at any chance to work on your shot to make sure next season is different.

If you had a losing record, you can tell yourself you’re a loser, or you can get better every day, motivated by how much you hated to lose.

Your mentality towards this season’s disappointment will shape the offseason, which will shape next season.

Putting things in perspective is a skill. Frame all of your disappointments in a constructive way. Find something positive you can build on. Our brains are wired to focus on the negative-- that’s why it’s much easier to remember all the of the negative events. You might have to work harder to find the positives, but it’s important to find the good in every disappointment.

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