Success in sports relies on your ability to adapt to the situation well. If you have a coach who won’t like your calm demeanor because he prefers enthusiasm or if you have a teammate who you cannot relate to because she is shy about your personal questions, you might have to adapt your behavior. Here are some thoughts you should read about if you are not getting the results you want in your situation.

What is a successful adaptation?

With others: It is becoming more direct or indirect with a person based on their preferences or behaving more open or guarded with another. It is about recognizing preferences and meeting people where they are, so in the end… they want to meet you. Here are some examples:

  • Telling a teammate the truth without sugar coating (when this is not your way of doing things) it because they respect honesty
  • Leaving a teammate alone to have their space (when you normally are direct and open) because they are indirect and guarded

In your play style: It is becoming more direct or indirect in your actions (or more open or guarded) about the way you approach your game. Here are some examples:

  • Being more direct than normal because the situation demands it
  • Being more direct than normal your coach prefers this style of play, to earn the coaches trust
  • Being less direct, such as looking to pass with teammates more rather than take the shot yourself

Adaptation can be big or small. The adaptation that is best is the one that is not noticed. You don’t struggle to do something that is too different from your natural preferences (in game play). You don’t appear fake. Your teammates and coaches have the impression that this is the type of athlete you are (or are learning to be). You don’t get exhausted being someone you are not. Adaptations should be doable, not impossible. With a growth mindset you can learn to fine-tune your behavior to get the best out of any situation.

Below is a step-by-step approach to fine-tuning your skill for adaptation.

Step 1: Awareness

The first step towards making necessary adjustments is developing self-awareness. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses, recognizing your emotions, and being in tune with your performance can help you identify when adjustments need to be made.

Start by asking yourself what you feel or think is not good enough today (this should be easy to come up with 1-3 things. Ultimately, the goal is to adapt to useful behaviors (that give you better results in the situation).

Step 2: Identification

Being aware of yourself and the situation allows you to consciously think of what is best. Next, identify what needs to change. Are there specific actions or behaviors that are hindering your performance? What about your relationships? Clarifying exactly what requires adjustment is vital before proceeding to the next step.

Preferably the adaptations can solve these problems directly, because your behavior and the situation give rise to the results you get. If you identify results that you want, then you can identify ways to get there.

Step 3: Planning

Once you have identified the necessary changes, it’s time to plan your next move. This step involves strategizing the best ways to modify your actions or behaviors to adapt effectively to the situation. You may need to consult your coach or use other resources for help in making the best plan. You might ask what people who have come before you have done. You might even steal a behavior that your teammates or opponents do well. Giving your adjustments some thought can help make it more likely the action you take will work out.

Step 4: Action

Put your plan into action (you can skip the plan if you want to try a bunch of different adjustments, because action is truly more important). Implement the necessary changes in your behavior or strategy. Remember that this step may involve trial and error, so don’t be discouraged if your first attempts don’t yield immediate results. Just try what you think is most likely to work.

Step 5: Evaluation

After implementation, it’s essential to evaluate the effectiveness of your adjustment. Did what I tried work like I expected? Are you performing better as a result? Has the situation improved? Evaluation will give you feedback on the effectiveness of your adjustments and provide information for future adaptations.


By following this step-by-step approach, you can become a more adaptable athlete, ready to meet any challenge with confidence and agility. In the end, it’s not just about how well you play, but how well you adapt and overcome challenges in your athletic journey. The situation will always present challenges. It is your job to overcome them. If that means changing something that you do, that is where you can use the skills you read about here.

Be sure to try this in your real life. Skills are only useful if you put them to practice. Just reading about it will do very little for you.


If you have a story of an adjustment you have made (either successful or not) share it with us @mymentalgame_sports.