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9 Ways to Overcome Rejection in Sport

Rejection happens. And whether we’re talking about not making a team or not getting a starting position, rejection is likely going to happen. And it stings—especially when you’re already doing the best you can do. Rejection can make you question your identity, question your love for the sport, and question your own capabilities. But you can overcome it if you’re able to harness the power of perseverance in a positive way.

Here, board-certified family physician and TrueSport Expert Deborah Gilboa, MD, explains the best way to get through a hard rejection and come out with a new and improved focus on the other side.

1. Remember everyone faces rejection

First, before we get into how to deal with rejection, it’s important to remember that everyone—even the athletes at the top of their game—have faced rejection over the course of their lives. It’s how they handled the aftermath that made them great, says Gilboa. Every TrueSport Ambassador has a story of challenge and rejection, but beyond that rejection was the change and triumph that made them the great leaders they are today. So, consider rejection a great starting point for the rest of your athletic career, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the moment.

2. Give yourself empathy

The first thing to remember when dealing with a rejection is that it’s okay to feel sad, mad, or just generally bad. You’re allowed to have those feelings, says Gilboa. Having empathy for yourself means that you’re able to understand your feelings and be okay with them. “The best way to handle rejection in sports is to have empathy for yourself. Don’t try to pretend you aren’t experiencing the loss, distrust, and discomfort that rejection causes,” says Gilboa. “Other people in your life may try to negate your feelings or tell you to get over it, but you are allowed to be unhappy about the situation.”

3. Don’t give up on you

Handling rejection is about having resilience; the ability to navigate change and come through it with intention and purpose. That takes persistence, but maybe not in the way you were taught as a kid. We often hear “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” That’s great advice, says Gilboa, but only to a certain point. We’re not saying that if you’ve been told 78 times that you just don’t have the hand-eye coordination required to be a golfer, that you should keep trying to be a golfer and keep facing all that rejection. What really matters is that you don’t give up on yourself. You could be capable of success in sport somewhere, but you may have to shift your focus to a different sport, role, or level of play.

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