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Cut From the Team? Here’s how to deal with it.

By Tyler Baigrie on June 09, 2017

The sun is shining, the weather warming up, pools are being open, and the shorts and sandals are being taken out of the closet. But before we dive into three months of swimming, golfing, cottage getaways, and beach vacations, young hockey players will find out what team they’ll be playing for come September. 

Yes, it’s tryout season. Tryout season brings many ups and downs, as athletes celebrate making a team, or deal with getting cut. Many athletes struggle with the devastating blow of being cut from a team. But learning how to properly deal with it will not only help you feel better in the short term, it will also turn you into a better player in the long term. 

Struggle leads the way for growth. Overcoming one challenge will make you more confident for the next. The trick is knowing how to handle it, and according to sports psychologist Dr. Justin Anderson from Premier Sport Psychology, it’s all mental. 

Over the years, Dr. Anderson has worked with several professional and Olympic athletes to develop a champion mindset. I asked Dr. Anderson how to overcome getting cut from a team. What I got were the five key factors that he, and the rest of the Premier Sport Psychology team, use to turn an athlete’s failure into success: 

1) Growth vs Fixed Mindset 
One of the first things Dr. Anderson looks for is whether the athlete has a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. Someone with a fixed mindset looks at things in black and white. A situation is either good or bad in their eyes. When being cut, an athlete with a fixed mindset will look at it negatively. They may think that they’re just not good enough, lose motivation and even give up. 

The mindset an athlete wants to develop is a growth mindset. Growth mindset gives athletes the ability to find opportunity in adversity. Dr. Anderson teaches athletes to “recognize that not making a team, while it can be emotionally draining, may in fact lead to more efficient and effective growth.”

When faced with rejection from a team, athletes with a growth mindset will ask themselves how they can learn and grow from the situation. Reflecting on the situation objectively is a good way to learn the growth mindset. Dr. Anderson notes that growth will come “particularly if people can reflect on it objectively.” With the growth mindset, athletes can look at getting cut as an opportunity to learn and grow, ultimately becoming a better player. 

2) Non-Judgemental Thinking 
If an athlete has gone through adversity on the ice, Dr. Anderson will try to get them to look at the situation with a non-judgemental view. Rather than judging based on good or bad, the player can focus on the facts and look at the situation as it is. This puts the athlete in a better position to set goals and build a game plan going forward. 

According to Dr. Anderson, reflecting without judging is useful “because it can give valuable pieces of information that can help people learn more quickly and create a game plan to get better.” 

When getting cut from a team, look back on it objectively. Think of what you could do better next time, and how you’ll improve in the areas that need to be improved. Once you start working towards your new goals, you’ll find yourself getting more excited for next year. 

3) Attentional Awareness 
Do you find yourself focusing on that pass you fanned on, that empty net you missed, or that bad goal you let in? Then you probably aren’t aware of your thoughts and what you choose to focus on. By putting all your attention onto what went wrong, you’ll miss opportunities for growth. Dr. Anderson recommends “having some intentional focus on the past (through non-judgemental thinking) and then using that information to focus on future goals and present moment skill development.” 

If an athlete doesn’t make the team, no good will come of dwelling on every shortfall. Instead, they need to consciously focus their attention on what they learned and their plan moving forward. This isn’t easy, but it is essential to achieving greater success – and even the act of turning their mind’s attention away from failure and onto the learning opportunity will improve the athlete’s mental game.

4) Self Talk 
Something that’s receiving more attention in recent years is the use of affirmations. Affirmations are positive declarations. The idea is that if you repeatedly tell yourself something, you’ll eventually believe it, and it will come true. 

Dr. Anderson and his team are big advocates of positive self-talk. They teach the athletes they work with to become more aware of their self-talk, and from that become less critical of themselves. 

“Too much criticism can be demotivating, reduce confidence, and ultimately take away from the enjoyment of the game,” says Dr. Anderson. 

Just like with positive affirmations, if you continuously tell yourself something negative, you’ll believe it, and it will come true. For example, if you have a breakaway and tell yourself you’re not going to score, then you won’t score. 

When an athlete gets cut from a team, rather than telling themselves they’re not good enough, they should say, “I am going to improve” or “I will work even harder for next year.” 

As the great Muhammad Ali once said, “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” 

5) Motivation 
Often when an athlete is going through a tough time, they begin to lose the joy for the game. If you’ve been cut from a team, remember why you play in the first place. Dr. Anderson helps athletes who are facing adversity reconnect with their love of the game. When you’re having fun on the ice, you always play better. Our motivation is internal and it’s our job as athletes to tune out external negativity and always come back to why we play the game.

Dr. Anderson summarized these five key factors with the following mantra:

“If I miss, I learn. If I hit, I build. Either way, I’m getting better.” 

Ultimately, it all comes down to how to handle adversity. Do you dwell and give up, or do you seize the opportunity for growth? One will leave you stationary while the other will have you continuously finding success. The good new is, it’s all your choice. 

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June 09, 2017
Categories:  Performance
Keywords:  Skill Development

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