5 lessons from 5 sportsmen who bounced back after failure

Failure is an inevitable part of life, but here’s how to not let it define you. By Shweta Gandhi

Failure can sometimes be seen as a setback, testing our limits when we feel like we’re at our lowest. But that’s the moment we should embrace and learn from, so that we become stronger in our approach, just like these sportspeople, who never gave up even in the face of adversity.

1. You might be down but not out
He might be touted as one of the greatest basketball players in the world now, but back in high school Michael Jordan was cut from the basketball team for being too short (he was 5’11”). He was also told that he lacked the skills to play. Jordan went home, locked himself in his room and cried. But he did not give up on his dream. He kept practising and pushing, until he got an in. And things weren’t always rosy in his professional career, there were as many misses as there were hits. “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career,” he said. “I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

2. You need to play a strong mental game
One of the most well known names in tennis, Roger Federer has won 17 grand slam titles till date, and is the only male player who has won five consecutive US Open titles. But as a child, he used to hide from his coach Peter Carter because he was scared of disappointing him on court. In 2011, Novak Djokovic shockingly defeated him, which was perhaps the most dispiriting loss of his career. But rather than notching up the win to bad luck, Federer studied Djokovic’s game and realised how it had improved. On the flip side, Federer was growing older and might not be able to keep up with Djokovic’s service returns. So he decided to concentrate on an attacking game that best utilised his skills and energy levels. Federer has always understood the mental game is as important as that on the court. As he’s said, “I feel like I’m a more complete player today. Although my game hasn’t changed much, my experience would allow me fewer mistakes and the ability to deal with challenges a little bit easier.”

3. Always, always, believe in yourself
Yet another tennis player who has won Wimbledon, US Open titles and eight Davis Cups, Stan Smith was rejected as a ball boy for a Davis Cup tennis match when he was young—the organisers thought he was too clumsy and uncoordinated! He persevered and went on to become a No. 1 American tennis player and even formed one of the most successful doubles teams with his partner Bob Lutz. “Experience tells you what to do; confidence allows you to do it,” he said.

4. Believe that something better is around the corner
Babe Ruth was an American professional baseball player who achieved his fame as the outfielder for the famed New York Yankees. Regarded as one of the greatest American sports heroes, he is known for is home run record (714 in his career). However, to score all those home runs, Ruth had to take 1,330 strikeouts in his stride! Each strikeout was a stark failure that he had to overcome. Ruth has been famously quoted as saying, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”

5. Perseverance is key
Ranked as one of the best and most innovative coaches in National Football League (NFL) history, Tom Landry dedicated 29 years of his life to coaching one team—the Dallas Cowboys. Even though he helped the team win two Super Bowls and five NFC titles, Landry is also remembered for having the worst first year as a coach in the NFL. He lost every single game in that year! The next few years weren’t much better, with the team only winning about five or so games in each season. “I’ve learned that something constructive comes from every defeat,” he said. And he clearly learnt that lesson well in those first few years. It took him six years to break the jinx and kick off a series of 20 consecutive winning seasons. 

Categories:   Lifestyle, Sports


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