The Fear of Disappointment

1Introduction

Do you ever feel weak? Feel so much sadness and anger that all you can do is just stop and stare at nothing? Are you frozen in the moment, while an emotional battle occurring inside your mind and body rages on and captures your entire being? Do you find yourself not living up to expectations and therefore struggling with finding self-confidence? Well, this is the feeling of disappointment. How can disappointment be defined? Well, one way is “not being able to accomplish a certain goal and not fulfilling expectations”.

Although disappointment in life can happen in many different instances, this post will focus on disappointment in a sporting context and the resulting outcome that some athletes feel. Many individuals struggle with feeling this way in life and I would like to speak about it in a “less serious” context. This post will speak briefly of moments in sports where athletes felt disappointed and will also briefly touch upon my personal experiences in this position, for writing and discussion purposes.

Rise to the Challenge or Crack under Pressure?

Think of these scenarios; You’re down by one in the fourth quarter of your Basketball game, your team has possession and the ball is passed around and ends up in your hands with less than five second on the clock. You only have time for one shot and not a drive, you take the shot. What follows? Perhaps it’s the bottom of the ninth inning, two outs, a man on third base and your team is down by one run, you are at the plate. The count is full, three balls and two strikes. What is going through your mind? Are you calm, cool, composed? Or are you so nervous that you feel the pressure eating away at you in this potential “clutch” moment when you need a hit? Imagine being on a breakaway in hockey and having the chance to secure the victory in overtime – you shoot, what happens? What about if you are the last player on the Dodgeball court and your team needs you to win this game so you can take home the Championship? You are facing a tough opponent and you have the opportunity to take a throw or attempt at making a catch, what do you do?

Unfortunately for some athletes in sports, some will find success and flourish in these moments, while others will fail and not come through for their team when they need it the most. They will miss the buzzer-beater shot, they will strike out to end the game,  shoot wide on the breakaway, allowing the other team to go the other way and score, and yes, be unable to get any opponent out and will fail at catching the ball, giving the opponent the win and the Championship. The emotions felt by individuals in this moment continue to surge through their body. So much sadness, perhaps anger and, you guessed it, disappointment. Many dwell on it, continuously think of these events and instances where they had the chance to do good and make a clutch play but instead, crack under pressure. Seeing the opponent celebrate and smile, proud of themselves, as they should be. Yet, one player is hurting so bad.

Why?

The famous question that seems to be prevalent throughout most of my postings, “why”? Why is it that some can never come through when their team needs it the most? When they are put in a position to keep the game alive, to keep their season alive, and they fall and never manage to pull through. The feeling of discouragement, disappointment, sadness, and a lack of motivation are what runs through their mind. Is this fear the reason why this occurs? Is it even a fear or simply a thought that begins to overpower you?

Connection to Sport

Over time, as an athlete, you develop a reputation in the sports world. Some athletes have the reputation of being highly-skilled with so much potential to really become something big, but perhaps never could deliver nor attain the desired result. This, over time, leads to athletes being labeled as “overrated”. Overrated, essentially, is recognizing an athlete as having a higher opinion and image than is really deserved.

An example of this is former NHL’er Alexander Daigle. Drafted first overall in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft by the Ottawa Senators, the Senators were beyond excited when this opportunity came their way. He was the next “Superstar” and every NHL team did what they could to have a chance at getting him. The Senators were even under fire for deliberately losing games to have a better chance at receiving the first overall pick that year. It seemed though, over time, that Alexander Daigle was just not what he was cut out to be. After it was all said and done, Daigle never cracked more than 51 points (done in three separate seasons) in any of his 11 NHL season. He retired from the NHL with 327 points in 616 games. Yes, that is very good however in the hockey world, if you have this much hype surrounding you, you need to be a point-per-game player at the very least. I am sure Daigle played his heart out and did what he could, but things just didn’t fall into place.

This next athlete may have been a disappointment later on in his MLB career, however the moment I will choose to discuss is a potential clutch moment he was put in during the Washington Nationals 2012 Playoff run. Drafted 10th overall in the 2009 MLB Draft, Drew Storen was selected by the Nationals who needed a strong and reliable relief pitcher.

Having finished the season with a 98-64 record during the 2012 MLB Season, the Washington Nationals were a force to be reckoned with and not a team you wanted to face, especially so early in the playoffs. The St. Louis Cardinals were that team that had to take them on in the first round. The Cardinals finished that season with an 88-74 record, which is not to be overlooked.

As you may be aware, the first round in MLB playoffs is a best-of-five series and is known as the division series. Having gotten into the game with a 7-5 lead and having shown great consistency all season long, and even doing well in the previous two playoff games, Drew Storen was brought in to close out the game and with a win, move on to the next round. However sadly, things did not go as planned. Storen needed three outs and the first batter he faced, got a leadoff double. He had no problems with the following two batters and now only needed one more out. Already with two strikes, Storen was looking to get one more in there to strike out Yadier Molina and finish the game. Instead, he was walked. David Freese was in the same position, had two strikes but was walked. A two-run single was then hit by Daniel Descalso, and that tied the game up. Storen was kept in the game and Pete Kozma made him pay. A two-run single by Kozma made it 9-7 for the Cardinals and that was the final score. The Cardinals ended up eliminating the Nationals and sadly, the first place seed suffered an early exit.

Now, this is the biggest league in the world for Baseball. The fans, the teammates, managers and almost what feels like the whole world is on your shoulders. The pressure can be too much and it was said that after that night, Storen had unbearable and agonizing mental pain. He was however, supported by his teammates. Following that, Storen was traded to the Blue Jays, Mariners and Reds, but never really got back to himself. These moments really stick with athletes and affect them.

The last athlete I will choose to discuss is Lias Andersson. Having been selected by the New York Rangers seventh overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Lias attracted a lot of attention mainly at the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) World Junior Championships 2018. Playing for Sweden and having been selected as Captain of the group, Sweden was undefeated during preliminaries and made it all the way to the Gold Medal Game. Sweden, for the past eleven years, has gone 44-0 in preliminary play and are always discussed as favourites (as well as Canada) in the tournament. Hoping the 2018 year would bring change for them and allow them to win Gold, was all the Swedes wanted.

However, Canada had different ideas. After an incredibly well played game by both teams, Canada came out victorious and won Gold, defeating Sweden 3-1, as the third goal was an empty-netter. Looking at the Swedish players, their face and body language told those looking that their hearts were broken and their emotions took over. Sadness, anger, disappointment and devastation hit all of the Swedish players. It seemed that none hurt more than Captain Andersson as he, upon receiving his Silver Medal, decided to throw it over the glass to a Swedish jersey wearing fan. Andersson allowed his emotions to take over, his sadness and anger combined into silence. He did not want to talk, nor did he want to remain on the ice. Andersson and the Swedes felt embarrassed and were defeated. Many condemned Andersson’s actions, while others sympathized and completely understood his actions.

Many handle losing differently. How I feel at times, is exactly like Daigle, Storen and Andersson – as a disappointment to those who put their trust in me and their confidence, for me to win, when instead I lose.  However, how one responds is what really speaks volumes. It reveals their true colours and just how much they respect the sport and the athletes involved. Sportsmanship is so important that sometimes, people forget what it really means.

Mental Game

I have heard many teammates, friends, family members and opponents tell me, when I am presented with this moment, that I am too hard on myself. That I should allow myself to breathe and accept the mistakes I have made and get over them, that is how we learn in the end. Many different types of athletes, if not all, have experienced a disappointment or a shock of some kind. Sports is not just a game, it is indeed a lifestyle to some. You may use your body and mind for the game but when the game is done, depending who you are, it stays in the mind. It really is a mental game. The late Yogi Berra said it best “Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical”. A strange quote yes, but the fact that it is acknowledged by a Baseball great that the game is mental, says a lot. This does not apply to just Baseball but all sports, in my opinion. Being head strong is very important and key in sports.

Speaking of head strong, how would you feel crossing and interacting with the opponents who just beat you? Can you stay strong enough and show them that all is well with you? Can you smile and give them the credit they deserve? Will it change your view of them when really all they did was what they wanted, in defeating your team? Pride comes into play and I believe athletes sometimes struggle in this situation but in the end, need to rise above it.

Support

Perhaps you are thinking that athletes fight this battle alone. Although I may be alone when I reflect on these devastating moments, I do have a lot of support from teammates, friends, family and that special someone.

It has been said that professional athletes request meetings with sports psychologists and other similar professionals to help them get over these tough moments. Coaches and players need to be there for each other, in moments of great defeat. After all, that is a key component of what a team is.

Conclusion

After all is said and done, in sports, there is always a winner and a loser, whether it is as a team or as an individual. The feeling of losing and disappointment are so closely related and athletes try to avoid that gut-wrenching feeling. To all of you who have felt this horrible feeling and have not been able to overcome it, and hold it deep inside you, keep your head up high. Those who have experienced this feeling do indeed realize that it is a hindrance. Holding all this negativity and replaying it in your mind is not helpful. Others have the ability to move on instantly while others dwell on it for their whole lives. Despite all of the mentioned feelings, we seem to ignore the regret we feel. It’s tough, we feel so horrible and regret it, yet at times, it cannot be controlled. Emotions are one of the strongest things in life and they are what keep individuals motivated. Memories are also very strong and they could go either way depending on the individual; it can motivate them to continue and improve, or it can push them away due to fear of being disappointed again.


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About Chameleon

-Multi-Sport Athlete, Coach, Geographer/Cartographer, Linguaphile, Statistician, Vexillologist
This entry was posted in Anthropology/Sociology/Psychology, Sports and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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