I’ve had my fair share of tough losses over my sports playing career. Whether it’s missing the game-winning penalty kick or your team giving up 5 runs in the bottom of the ninth, all of us have felt the sting of a tough loss. The important thing is bouncing back and learning from these experiences.
So how do you bounce back after a tough loss?
The first thing you need to do to bounce back from a tough loss is reset your mindset. Come to terms with the fact that things didn’t go your way. Once you can think clearly, you can effectively determine what happened. You need to understand that everyone loses and that these loses offer us opportunities to grow.
To get the most out of our hardships we need to stay focused on moving forward. Keep this in mind as you read through the rest of this article.
Losing Isn’t Uncommon
As the sub-heading implies, you’re not the only one who goes through tough losses. Anyone and everyone who has played a sport in their life knows the pain of a bad loss. However, not all losses are created equal.
One of the things that separate the best athletes in the world from their peers is their ability not to dwell on their thoughts. A tough loss has all the power in the world to mess with your head and make you question your abilities.
It’s best not to over-analyze these thoughts as they can cause significant harm.
Another way to get over a tough loss is to embrace them. In a sense, become happy to lose. Losing offers us a much greater opportunity to grow and improve ourselves. We don’t get better by destroying toddlers in a game of soccer.
We get better by playing against better competition that requires us to step our game up. Play against enough elevated competition and our abilities will slowly grow to match theirs.
Try to keep this in mind next time you play a sport and are severely outclassed. You might not get to soak in a sweet victory, but you’ll become a better play in the end.
Your team could have a 20-0 lifetime record against a specific team but you could still lose against them in the championship game. That’s the beauty of sports.
In cases like these, it’s important not to focus on small sample sizes such as a single loss. For your sake, don’t stress out over these losses.
Lastly, if you lose a big game it’s important to understand that there’s nothing wrong with you. Maybe you or your team weren’t on you’re A-game. That’s going to happen and it’s okay. Another thing to keep in mind is that anything can happen during any given game.
The Gym Is Your Friend
The gym is a great place to unwind after a tough defeat. Put in your headphones, crank up the music and go to work. Not only will you build muscle and endurance in the gym, but you’ll also release endorphins.
This will lighten your mood and aid you in overcoming the things on your mind.
Another great tip regarding the gym is to go in the morning. By going to the gym in the morning and causing this release of endorphins, you’ll start your day off on the right foot and avoid stewing in your own thoughts all day.
The gym also offers the opportunity to become your best self. I firmly believe that almost anyone can “make it” in a sport if they put in the work. Some athletes will have a head start with natural-born talent but you can still get to and surpass their skills by going to the gym.
You might have to put in two or three times the amount of work to get on the same level as the star athlete in your sport, but if you put your head down and put in the reps you can get to that level.
Kids are accustomed to hearing that they can become whatever they want in their lives. I believe this is true, but there’s one caveat. You have to be willing to put in the work. That part usually gets left out.
It’s Time to Move On
Try not to fester in your thoughts too long after a big loss. Withdraw what information you can from the experience and move on. There’s no reason to continuously think about the past once you’ve analyzed everything that you can regarding the situation.
Thinking about tough losses can quickly become counterproductive if you have a tough time moving forward with your life.
Another great reason to move on is that no one cares that you lost. Okay, your momma might care but that’s about it. Your opponents are not going to care.
Don’t let these thoughts after a bad loss sit in your head. The potential drawbacks of doing this far outweigh the benefits.
You should also routinely remind yourself that you’re playing a game. While it may be cliché to say “it’s just a game”, there’s a lot of truth to the saying.
Everybody goes back to their normal lives at the end of the day. Don’t let a bad game affect your self-confidence and the rest of your life.
There’s one last thing you should do – give your opponent credit where credit is due. Saying that you lost to yourself can come off as poor sportsmanship and isn’t necessarily truthful.
Maybe you weren’t on your A-game, but you shouldn’t take away from someone else’s victory.
You should give others credit when they deserve it. There might not be any flaws in your game and your opponents could have simply been better than you at that moment.
Hit the Film Room
Reviewing film is a great way to improve your game. By watching film, you can review the past in super slow-mo and analyze your mechanics.
This will allow you to determine what parts of your game need work, which coaches or other players may not have picked up on during the heat of the moment.
Film is more accessible for travel ball teams, the high school level and beyond. If you’re a coach or parent involved with youth sports, you can always opt to take videos with your phone.
If you coach younger kids, play it safe and ask for the permission of parents before you hit record.
At the higher levels, film also serves as an opportunity to review the mechanics of opponents. By watching the tape you may be able to pick up on the tendencies of other opposing players and could even pick up on some of their tells.
The best players watch film. If you want to maximize your potential and keep pace with your peers, you need to hit the film room. Be careful not to spend too much time reviewing film because you can lose track of time.
Watching film only does so much. Go into the film room, review what you need to and get out.
Look at the Positives
After a tough loss, try to spend more time focusing on what you did right, opposed to what you did wrong. Always take the good from the bad. One way you can do this is by creating small achievable goals to go along with your big goals.
Achieving even small goals is great for boosting your confidence levels. No matter how small, the completion of goals will help boost your mood and keep you moving forward.
You should make a concentrated effort in creating a handful of smaller goals to go along with your bigger ones.
You should also routinely remind yourself that tough losses aren’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things. At the end of the day, you lost while playing a game.
The loss won’t affect the rest of your life (unless you let it) and no one died. Things could have been much worse. Be grateful for the opportunities that you have, pick your head up and get em’ next time.
Look to the Future
The best way to get over a tough loss is to put it in the past. Take away what you can from the experience but don’t bask in the misery of defeat. If you’re able to string together a couple wins, you’re sure to get over that loss in no time.
It’s also important that you don’t take your win/lose record and equate it to your self-worth. There are millions of ways losses can happen and they don’t all fall on your shoulders. In a way, winning is kind of overrated.
Just ask any pitcher in Major League Baseball. Wins in baseball, like many other sports, can be quite fluky. The best pitchers realize this and just aim to take the mound and give their best effort each outing. A great example of this is the 2010 season of the Seattle Mariner’s Felix Hernandez.
Hernandez won the Cy Young that year with an impressive stat-line but only 13 wins, compared to the Tampa Bay Rays’ David Price who had 19 wins. This should go to show you that winning isn’t everything.
As long as you go out there and give it your all, there’s nothing to hang your head about.