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How to Win

Adversity Training

Thousands of high school and college athletes will soon be playing in tournaments. All these athletes have one thing in common: They will face some sort of adversity.

Perhaps it will be an injury, maybe a bad call by an official. They will go into a slump, or fall behind in a game. Some sort of setback is inevitable.

Yet instead of taking misfortune in stride, some people will do the opposite. They will take it personally. They will lose their temper, and see the adversity as a sign that things are not going to go their way.

This inability to handle adversity will do more to hurt performance than the actual misfortune does.

Have you ever heard of the Steve Bartman game? The Chicago Cubs were hosting the Florida Marlins in a 2003 playoff game, and needed only five outs to reach the World Series. Chicago outfielder Moises Alou raced to the stands to try to catch a foul ball, but Bartman — a fan — also tried to grab it. With the ball deflected away, Alou showed his frustration, gesturing and shouting at the fans.

Whether Alou’s reaction made a difference or not, the play seemed to unnerve the Cubs, who committed one mistake after another, lost the game, and eventually lost their chance to play in the World Series.

But the question for athletes and coaches is: can you train for adversity? Can you practice so that misfortune becomes more manageable?

I would be very interested to hear stories of how adversity response either hurt or helped a certain team. I’d love to hear specific examples of how coaches prepared their athletes to face barriers.

Perhaps your input can help one of those thousands of student-athletes to fend off trouble when it comes.


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