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Achievement Despite Adversity: A Qualitative Investigation of Undrafted National Hockey League Players

Jordan D. Herbison, Luc J. Martin, and Mustafa Sarkar

Adversity is viewed as both an inevitable and an important experience for elite athletes. The purpose of this study was to explore elite athletes’ perceptions of the experiences and characteristics that helped them overcome a shared sport-specific adversity. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 12 professional athletes (M age = 27.25, SD = 3.28 yr) who had progressed to careers in the National Hockey League (NHL) despite not being selected in the annual amateur entry draft. Participants discussed their long-term objectives of playing in the NHL, previous experiences with adversity, certain psychological characteristics that facilitated their progression (e.g., competitiveness, passion, confidence), and the significance of social support as key factors that helped them overcome the initial and subsequent adversities associated with being unselected during the amateur entry draft. Practical implications and proposed avenues for future research are discussed in the context of the study’s limitations.