It’s never fun to lose. As you watch your opponents celebrate loudly, seeing as the clock ticks down the final seconds, that final whistle can be painful. With competitive adrenaline coursing through your veins, it’s practically impossible not to feel frustrated or even angry after a defeat. Athletes train to succeed, to push their personal boundaries and pass the surrounding competition. Especially when you’re fresh off of a loss, it’s normal to believe that the work you’re putting in isn’t amounting to anything. But, is losing all that bad?
Whether you’re on a team or by yourself, you most likely have experienced some kind of defeat before. It could’ve been from lack of experience, a mishap, players missing, or just simply competing against athletes that have better performances. No matter what it was, at the end of the day, a loss is a loss.
While they may feel bad at first, losses provide a foundation to build upon. There are always things to fix and relationships to strengthen. They also help athletes attain a wider perspective on the competitive field and understand how to manage frustration and doubts. Since they’re constantly creating pressure situations for themselves, athletes can develop greater focus and concentration on the end goal. Once you understand what defeat feels like, you know what the stakes are.
How you accept a loss is representative of your character. Coaches and spectators see who lets a loss hinder the rest of their performances and who learns from a loss to improve. It’s easier said than done to “move on from the past” or “turn a new page,” but whether you win or lose, the feeling of triumph or defeat is temporary. Within a day, the cycle restarts and it’s a fair shot for anyone. While winners are trying to maintain their title, underdogs don’t have anything to lose: they have something to prove.
It’s easy to blame teammates and other factors, which is a mistake many athletes make when trying to make sense of defeat. A loss is most definitely not the end of your athletic journey and it surely is not worth ruining your love for the sport and your connection with your teammates. In fact, the team should be reinvigorated with the desire to win! To ensure the results don’t repeat themselves, communication and learning is crucial.
There are certain things you can do as an individual athlete to make the best out of defeat:
Normalize losing: this doesn’t mean seeing defeat as something preferable. To normalize a loss is to accept and understand that even the best of athletes lose sometimes. No matter how much work and dedication you put into your sport, the results may not always sway your way. Rather than talking down to yourself, it’s much better to acknowledge that you may have made a mistake, just like every other athlete.
Losing is a humbling experience. It’s not meant to tarnish confidence or hope but rather to remind athletes that there are always things to improve.
Visualization: Before your next competition, game, or performance, try picturing yourself in a moment when you are performing at your highest level. Think of the environment around you- the sound of the crowd, your coach’s words, your position on the field, and other factors- to get your mentality in the zone. This could help reduce anxiety and stress levels, which could put you at a better place to win!
Continue working: It’s okay to be upset for a bit– it shows that you care! After a certain point, you should realize that there is nothing you can do about it now, but there is something you can do for the future. Try redirecting your mind to see losing as fuel! With a loss out of the way, think about how much greater a win will feel next time.
Almost every inspiring athlete has faced loss at one point or another. Athletes like Allyson Felix, Megan Rapinoe, Katie Ledecky, and so many other female competitors, are prime examples of getting right back up after losing on a grand stage. They have all experienced defeat, yet when we see them, we think about their triumphs and grit.
So how do we improve as athletes from defeat?
We grow tougher skin. We are able to move forward with more positive mindsets and understand that absolute perfection is not realistic. We can set more reachable expectations, which will make our goals feel more attainable!
We will learn from our mistakes. There is always something to improve upon to strengthen our future performances. If we see our losses as fuel rather than setbacks, we can continue to progress as athletes.
Changing directions. Sometimes, we’ll realize that certain techniques, practices, or even sports don’t match our strengths and interests. We can keep experimenting! Things may not fit in place right away; losses will help with paving a clearer direction for our future endeavors. It may just take a slight change to completely alter a performance.
Whether you aspire to go pro, participate in local and statewide competitions, or play sports for the fun of it, there will be a time when you have to accept defeat and keep your head up! There is definitely an art to losing: it makes a win that much sweeter and motivates athletes to push their limits to make a comeback. Now, by knowing what works and what doesn’t work, you’ll be on your way to a future win!
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“How Losing at Sports — Even All the Time — Can Be Good for Kids.” The Washington Post, www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2016/10/26/how-losing-at-sports-even-all-the-time-can-be-good-for-kids/.
“How to Deal with Losing as an Athlete.” Athlete Network, an.athletenetwork.com/blog/how-to-deal-with-losing.
“How to Deal with the ‘Agony of Defeat.'” Psychology Today, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/coaching-and-parenting-young-athletes/201405/how-deal-the-agony-defeat.
“Mental Toughness Strategies: Coping with Losing.” Peak Performance Sports, www.peaksports.com/sports-psychology-blog/metnal-toughness-strategies-and-losing/.