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Overcoming Excuses in Youth Sports

Oct 09, 2020

Excuses are the enemy of any athlete.

Excuses shrug off responsibility and place the blame for a lackluster performance on something (court conditions, different ball) or someone else (teammate, bad official, unruly fans). 

Take for example the following excuses, some of which may strike a chord with you:

  • “I was stuck in traffic and I didn’t get a chance to warm up.”

  • “That set was low."

  • “My ankle hurt midway through the competition.”

  • “That ref was horrible.”

  • “I didn’t get much sleep last night.”

  • “My team couldn't pass.”

Some athletes come to a competition with an excuse in hand and some athletes make excuses in the middle of a competition. Both situations take the responsibility out of your hands and onto other variables…

Ultimately, excuses take control right from under your feet and give control to some force outside of yourself, leaving you a nervous wreck. No athlete, in any sport, will perform well when they allow tough circumstances to dictate their actions in competition.

It’s been said that those that make excuses, seldom make anything else. For this reason, you need a different approach when negative circumstances occur.

Excuses would have been easy for Rafael Nadal to make at the 2018 US Open. Nadal was shut out in the first set 0-6 against Dominic Thiem.

These circumstances were relatively uncharted waters…

Nadal had only been shut out in the first set just the three times in nearly seven years. Nadal battled forward through the longest match of his US Open career (four hours and 49 minutes), in overwhelming humidity and snatched the victory 0-6 6-4 7-5 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-5).

The key for Nadal was to make a conscious choice to make adjustments rather than look for excuses. 

NADAL: “I am the guy to look at myself. I needed to move forward, to change that dynamic, and I did. But the first step to change that dynamic is not to find an excuse on the racket or on the string or on something that is not the truth. The only truth is that you have to do things better to be able to fight for the point and fight for the match.”

Nadal knew if he was to turn things around, he would need to focus on making adjustments to his tactics and fight for every point, one by one. You always have a choice: You can embrace excuses or you can fight for your potential. So which will you fight for?

How to Overcome the Excuse Trap

Review past performances where you didn’t do as well as you wanted or those competitions where you gave less than best after some undesirable circumstances.

  • What were some of the excuses in your mind that held you back or made you give up?

  • How can you take full responsibility for your performance and take back control of the situation?

  • Mentally, put yourself back under those circumstances and visualize yourself responding as if you’re in control, not outside factors.

  • Choose to be problem solver rather than an excuse finder.

From the Bay to Bay Staff:

It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between an excuse and a reason, so allow us to elaborate our opinion:

  • An excuse is when you give up ownership of a problem or a solution.

  • A reason on the other hand, is when you own something -- a problem or a solution -- to justify your actions, whether positive or negative.

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