Momentum Sports Group

“Embracing and Encouraging Adversity in Sports”

APRIL 2024

“Embracing and Encouraging Adversity in Youth Sports”

Read time: 4 minutes

In the world of youth sports, the troubling but increasingly prevailing trend seems to be one of shielding young athletes from adversity at all costs. Whether it’s through lack of quality coaching, overprotective parenting, or a combination of both, the message can sometimes unintentionally become that failure and struggle are to be avoided at all costs. However, what if we could intentionally change the perspective toward adversity that we instill in our youth? What if, instead of something they learn to fear and avoid, adversity becomes a crucial ingredient for their growth, character building, and ultimately, success?

Athletes who have weathered the storms of adversity firsthand often speak about its transformative power. Take Serena Williams, arguably most accomplished tennis player of all time, as an example. She once said, “I’ve had to learn to fight all my life — got to learn to keep smiling. If you smile things will work out.” Williams’ journey to success has been marked by setbacks, injuries, and defeats, but each challenge she faced only fueled her determination to push through and excel. It’s a sentiment echoed by countless athletes across various sports. “I used to dread adversity,” admits Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time. “But now I realize it’s the adversity that makes you who you are. It’s what shapes and molds character.” Phelps’ words highlight a crucial aspect of adversity – it’s not just about overcoming obstacles, but about the personal growth that occurs in the process.

Research backs up what athletes like Williams and Phelps have experienced firsthand. Studies have shown that facing and overcoming adversity in sports can lead to greater resilience, increased mental toughness, and improved problem-solving skills. In a study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, researchers found that athletes who had experienced adversity reported higher levels of personal growth compared to those who had not. But perhaps even more compelling is the link between adversity and success. Angela Duckworth, a renowned psychologist and author of “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” has spent years studying what sets high achievers apart. In her research, she’s found that grit – defined as a combination of passion and perseverance in the pursuit of long-term goals – is a better predictor of success than factors like talent or IQ. And where does grit come from? You guessed it – overcoming adversity.

So why, then, do we often shy away from exposing young athletes to adversity in sports? Perhaps it’s because we’re afraid of seeing them struggle or fail. But what if we shifted our perspective and instead viewed adversity as an opportunity for growth? What if we encouraged our young athletes to embrace challenges, to learn from setbacks, and to develop the resilience they need to succeed not just in sports, but in life? The truth is, adversity is not something to be feared – it’s something to be embraced. So let’s stop sheltering our young athletes from adversity and instead empower them to face it head-on. Because in the end, it’s not so much the smooth times that shape who you become – it’s the tough times that accompany them along the way.

Written by: Nem Mitrovic

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *