Playing Through Frustration

Tips for playing through frustration

Let’s answer the next question from one of the teams I’m helping this year. 

How do you play through frustration?  

It’s a common theme for athletes. We’ve talked about rebooting your brain with brain distractions like eye movements, counting down from 200 by sevens, or centering breaths. Use those techniques to start. It’s an emotional management skill to get you through the moment. 

Long term, you can accept that frustration is a condition of playing the game. It wouldn’t be a tough challenge if there was no risk of difficulty and frustration. 

Don’t get hooked on trying to eliminate it. You won’t, and the more you try, the worse you will make it. You end up overfocusing, and it multiplies as you check on it. 

Instead, view it as information that you need to make an adjustment to your game or your attitude. Then, focus on winning the next play, shot, possession or minute.  

Sometimes it’s helpful to focus on being hard to play against. In some sports, that could be playing good defense, or focusing on doing one thing well. Try to simplify your game. 

Check out this TED talk by Tim Harford about how frustration leads to creativity. 

One of the places I’ve learned how to handle frustration is through home improvement projects. When we first bought a house, I really had no idea how to do most of them, but I felt like I should have known. When things did not go according to plan, I thought there was something wrong with me. My frustration was evidence to confirm it because it’s not a big deal, right? But this is often why frustration grows. 

I learned to ask for help from my father-in-law, the guys at the hardware store or the big box stores, my neighbors and my buddies. I realized that adjustments can be made, and there are tools out there designed to help. 

Playing and working through frustration is a part of mental fitness. It’s also a way to build mental health. You build it when you execute — in spite of feeling frustrated.