Achievement despite adversity: A qualitative investigation of undrafted national hockey league players


The extent to which athletes from various sports and competition levels overcome adversities to achieve success has been a topic of interest in sport psychology for some time. In recognizing the theoretical and practical implications derived from this line of inquiry, the current study sought to further our understanding by investigating a sample of elite athletes who were expected to share long-term objectives, and who had experienced similar adversities. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 professional athletes (Mage = 27.25; SD = 3.28) who had reached the National Hockey League (NHL; i.e., long-term objective) despite not being selected in the annual NHL Amateur Entry Draft (i.e., common adversity). As a general summary, many similarities among the participants were identified, and these were categorized into three higher-order themes involving attributes and traits (e.g., commitment, perceptions of control), long-term objectives and aspirations (e.g., playing in the NHL), and experienced adversities (e.g., injuries, organizational stressors). Interestingly, contextually relevant information emerged pertaining to the developmental stream that participants had taken (i.e., NCAA vs. Major Junior). As one example, whereas the NCAA athletes discussed the well-rounded experiences that they were afforded, the Major Junior athletes often spoke to the sacrifices they had made (e.g., education, social life). Finally, participants reflected on their experiences and provided tangible advice for others who may find themselves in similar situations. Overall, our findings are in concert with previous literature that suggests the influence of various psychosocial factors for goal achievement when faced with adversity (Sarkar & Fletcher, 2014). Findings will be discussed in greater detail.