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Achievement drive
Goal setting
Importance of adaptability in sport  

What being adaptable means

Being adaptable and flexible means being able to adapt your strategies, tactics and attitudes to reflect different environments and changing circumstances in training and in competitive play.  

Athletes need to be able, for example, to adapt to changes in playing surfaces, the crowd environment, climate, weather extremes and altitude.

Athletes also need to be able to manage opportunities and challenges during play with the right emotions in order to perform successfully.


Examples of challenges during play are when a player is injured, substituted or sent off, when there are penalty shoot-outs or when the probability of winning or losing changes.

Top golfers talk about how important it is to learn how to win by staying patient, taking one shot at a time and being flexible and adaptable. The experience of winning shows you how to cope with the pressure on Sunday when you are at the top of the leaderboard and you can see that you have a good chance of winning.

Athletes can also face challenges arising from physical injury and/or illness, the people aspects of playing in a team and they also face challenges in their private lives. The ability to be flexible and adaptable is important in all these situations.

Keys to being adaptable

Here are some keys to being flexible and adaptable to think about and measure yourself against.

  How open are you to advice and support from others about how to develop your skills and improve your performance--for example, your coach, fellow team mates and sport commentators?  
  How capable are you of handling your emotions during competitive play when things start to change and the pressure increases?  
  Have you reviewed situations where things did not go to plan during competitive play and thought about how you would handle them differently in the future?  
  Have you tried approaching issues and problems facing you and/or your team from angles that are as far as possible from the ways you have approached them in the past?  
  Have you demonstrated to yourself, your coach and other players that you are able to adapt your behavior to different scenarios in order to play well and compete successfully?  
  How confident are you that you have ability to adapt your strategies and tactics to cope with high pressure situations in competitions?  


Watch this video

Watch this video showing John McEnroe venting his emotions at Wimbledon in 1981. What impact do you think this behaviour had on his performance? How would you have handled the situation?


Read this book

Look at adaptability in terms of creative problem solving and improve your creative thinking skills by reading Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono.