Old school player development tells us, ‘winning is everything.’ The problem with focusing on performance outcomes though, is where does that leave us when we fail? What happens when we lose a match, a tournament or face rejection from a squad? How can we bounce back?

Professor Carol Dweck from Stanford University has extensively researched success and discovered that our mindset matters. Players with a growth mindset are more likely to achieve in the long run because they embrace challenges, persist through obstacles, believe they can improve through practice and learn through criticism. They wade through adversity rather than tip toe around it. Failure is seen as a learning opportunity and learning requires effort. As Brazilian football legend Pelé says, ‘everything is practice.’

Optimism plays an important role in helping us bounce back, too. Researcher, Sonja Lyubomirsky, says that pessimists tend to blame failure on internal, long-lasting and persuasive causes, such as, ‘I’m not as naturally talented as another player.’ An optimist tends to attribute failure to external, transient and specific causes. If they are not selected for a squad they are more likely to say, ‘My 1 v 1 attack was not as good as some of the other trialists, but if I work hard and practice I can get there.’ Fundamentally, the optimist is more likely to believe they can change the status quo. Lyubomirsky says, “This is likely to be one major reason why optimists are more successful.”

Fundamentally, the optimist is more likely to believe they can change the status quo.

Former US footballer, Mia Hamm, says, “True champions aren’t always the ones that win, but those with the most guts.” It takes guts to bounce back from failure. When faced with failure we can consider the following steps and whether they would be a good fit for us as we pursue our goals.

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Lara Mossman
Lara Mossman
Lara Mossman is currently working towards her PhD in wellbeing and positive psychology in football at La Trobe University in Melbourne. As well as being a regular contributor to PDP, Lara teaches positive psychology at The University of Melbourne.
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