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The Role of Luck in Sports:

Updated: Jun 24, 2023

Do You feel you Always Have Bad Luck in Sports? Nothing goes right for you.

This is a very common feeling and is most prevalent in teenage athletes.

Most athletes do not take responsibility for anything. They find excuses. It diminishes the pain, guilt and most importantly the embarrassment of losing and validates their experience. The quality athlete confronts the issues head on and learns to control this process of being a victim.

Taking Responsibility to Turn Your Game Around is hard to do.

When things aren’t going well either within a game or period of form, do you feel you that you or your team never gets the tough breaks in competition….as if you were cursed by bad luck? As if its always you that gets the raw end of the stick.

Whether it be the horrid feelings of nasty competition conditions, or the nerves got the better of you, unlucky bounces, bad officiating, a bad draw or bad seeding, unfortunate equipment failure, injuries, and finally opponents who are playing unbelievably well and they only play like this against you.... they played out of their skin

You probably discuss and pose the question, “Why do this happen to me, why am I so unlucky

If that’s the way you feel as an athlete – then its valid. Let’s dive a little deeper though!

So - Why does bad luck seem to follow you constantly? Why, when you think you’re unlucky it only happens to you and it subsequently becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You in your head have rehearsed a pattern of thought that provides evidence that every tough break will become confirmation to support your belief and feeling that you are unlucky. The reality is all athletes get tough breaks…but all athletes handle them differently and handle them at varying degrees of care.

Some athletes propagate the bad luck cycle. They fuel it over and over again and it becomes a viscous cycle unknowingly. Done by negative self-talk, by calling themselves unlucky or unworthy of having luck. Other athletes however rely on effort and controlling the controllable to maintain their focus and move past victim mentality to move past these bad breaks. The art of moving on and the ability to forget is a paramount skill in elite sport.

How can you turn this around? How to get out of playing the victim of BAD LUCK

1. Take responsibility for your performance! No blame game, no excuses. The mentally tough athletes do not play the victim.

2. Give credit where credit is due

3. Acknowledge your opponent and acknowledge why your performance occurred authentically

4. Be an authentic competitor and acknowledge criticism and feedback

5. Don’t blame your performance all on bad luck. Look to those performances for understanding on how to improve future performances.

6. Have the mindset of getting better at all costs

7. Be grateful for the experience – it teaches you something

Therefore, taking ultimate responsibility requires deep maturity which highlights a big focus on your strengths and weaknesses rather than your misfortune.

You see by focusing on your misfortune, it hurts you psychologically for your next effort as you are not in your present, you are in your past - this leads to under-performance.

By Focusing on the process and what you can control, it positions your strengths to go to work - it will keep you motivated to try to turn the misfortune and emotion around, to make your own luck or by creating a mindset where any misfortune motivates you to focus harder. This breaks the pattern, rather than passively waiting or wishing for some opportunity or change in luck to come your way.

For coaches – sometimes you need to tell your athlete on what they are doing right. What creates winning ways. By focusing on your strengths and what you do well - will help belief, focus and enable you see what you can do in certain situations even if you are the underdog or things are going your way.

Remember, at any given time you are a sum of your thoughts, so right now, aim to turn things around yourself instead of getting stuck on what has already happened.

This takes patience, discipline and maturity. Taking responsibility also requires that you prepare for all contingencies.

The best ever example and one that I use most often is how Michael Phelps used to train for the Olympics under renowned coach Bob Bowman

Preparation is a proactive step. It’s a process that enables and assists you to develop the physical and mental tools to meet challenges, handle pressure and tackle unpredictability.

Champion athletes produce normal and predictable performances in very abnormal and very unpredictable environments.

Fundamental Tips to Turn Your Game Around:

1. Taking responsibility is a matter of where to focus and being accountable for effort

2. No excuses period

3. Monitor and assess your self-talk, pattern of thinking

4. Frame the issue and your language differently. for example instead of why is this happening to me, replace it with why is this happening for me?

To succeed as an athlete, you have to take responsibility for your level of performance, period, Then and only then you have the power to improve future performances and consistently become better when similar situations of misfortune arise. Taking responsibility puts the ball in your court and makes you an authentic competitor – it builds trust within yourself. Changing your luck is a matter of making your luck and staying present in the moment

Every great team and athlete take ownership of their performance. That is the essence of personal responsibility, accountability and wanting to execute a growth mindset.


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