When our daughter announced that she passed her drivers test this week, I couldn’t help but smile. I immediately recalled a lesson I learned from my mother on the day I passed my driving test and received my license.
I want to share this lesson with you because I think any athlete that has recently made a team, or has been cut from one, can learn from it.
I remember pulling into the Driver’s Education parking lot and putting the car in park. I looked over at the instructor with trepidation, “How did I do,” I asked. He said, “you passed.” Honestly, that could have gone either way. I remember the smug look I gave my mother as I shared the news, “I passed, I told you I am a good driver.” I will never forget the mixed emotions on her face, they were a blend of surprise, fear, and doubt(in the instructor’s ability to assess road safety).
While driving home, I hit a pothole and the car bounced a little too hard. She looked over at me and said,”you do realize that you are the same driver that you were yesterday, and that license is just a piece of paper? It can’t change the fact that you have a lot of driving to do before you can call yourself good.”
I would like to draw a parallel on this advice for athletes so they can have a healthier perspective on being evaluated.
I have had several conversations this week with friends where they shared that their kids were having a hard time working through getting cut from a team they hoped to make. My middle son, Finn, was working through the same disappointment as he had hopes of making a higher level hockey team.
Here are the thoughts I shared, and 6 steps I offered their athletes to help them through their disappointment:
First, it is important to give them some time without intervening to let them figure out how they feel about the disappointment. When they are ready for your help you can remind your child that they shouldn’t judge their abilities on whether or not they made the team. In reality, you are the same player you were the day before the tryout as you were the day after.
Making the team or not reflects the evaluator’s opinion on where their ability is relative to the other players at the tryout at that particular moment in time. Although, it can be helpful to gain that perspective, it is not the only opinion that you should weigh. Your players’ opinion, and what they do with it is what matters most.
Whether you made the team or not, the situation is the same – you have to execute on an approach that will lead to the constant improvement of your abilities.
If we agree with John Wooden’s definition of success, as “playing at the top of your ability in a given moment and set of the circumstances,” then we should agree that it is implicit to believe you can constantly improve on those abilities and make continuous progress toward accomplishing your goals. This is defined as having a growth mindset. A growth mindset encourages you to view every challenge as an opportunity to learn something new, and a chance to become better.
Here are 6 steps you can share with your player to help them get back on track after being told they didn’t make the team:
- Allow yourself time to feel the emotion. Whatever emotion shows up just be aware of it and let it run its’ course for one day. It is important to normalize disappointment and learn from it. Then give yourself permission to move on and use those feeling to motivate you.
- Make a decision about what you really want. If you feel sad, angry or embarrassed you want to learn to make use of those emotions by committing to a plan of action. Make a decision on how you want to respond and outline the plan to get you to your goal. Get mad, if that’s what it takes, and then get busy. To get what you want, you have to do the work.
- Tell yourself how you plan to get there and what you are willing to do to make it happen. Decide how you want to reinvest in yourself. Commit to building new skills and growing your understanding of how the game is played at the next level so you will be better suited to compete and contribute when you get there. Be determined to persevere in any circumstance and take full responsibility for your actions.
- Surround yourself with people that support you and believe in your success. Enough said.
- Write down WHY it matters that you accomplish your goals, and what it will mean to you when you do it. You will need this, because when you are grinding away and finding new ways to get more out of yourself – you will have major doubts and will sometimes want to quit, but if you stay focussed on your WHY you will find new ways to persevere.
- Get after it right away! Don’t let disappointment halt your progress. The only way to truly fail is to stop trying. So get after it, and “fall in love with the process of finding your best!” You will have good days and bad days, and most of the time it won’t be easy, but never stop fighting for more.
To get the most out of playing, you will find yourself constantly engaging the fight from a place of discomfort.
It is a universal truth that the higher you set your goals the more often you will feel failure or face challenges. By observing, learning, and engaging in an approach to overcome those obstacles, you will find yourself developing new abilities and a clearer vision of what you can become, and the path you will take to get there.
Get back out there and play. The world is counting on your contribution.