Like it or not, chances are pretty high that you’re not going to win every game, dominate every challenge or immediately master every new skill you attempt. On the road to athletic achievement occasional losses are an inevitable byproduct of taking risks and challenging your boundaries.
While you won't win all your matches, you can certainly control how you lose and whether you reap the invaluable insights that losing offers. Here are some pointers to help you lose like a winner and turn your failures into fuel.
Don’t lose because you were out-worked. No matter how much talent or skill you possess, what will set you apart on the field is the effort you put into competing. Your job on game day is to stay positive and leave everything on the field. Some days everything will come together and you’ll get that W. But when your team is behind and nothing positive seems to be happening on the field, it’s time to dig deep and force your competition to earn the win. As the saying goes, you can’t win ‘em all, but you can absolutely refuse to go down without a fight.
Lead by example. Games are an opportunity to show your individual abilities and to be a good teammate on the field. Remember to communicate with your teammates, give them encouragement and offer direction if they need it. If your team suffers a loss, resist the urge to analyze and criticize. Instead, congratulate your opponent on their performance and then support your teammates and help them cope with the disappointment.
Learn from your mistakes. It may be a small consolation after giving it your all and getting out-played, but try to remember that nobody’s perfect. Even the world’s best athletes have bad games and make bad plays, so try not to take things personally. Instead, stay focused on what you need to do next: execute the next game or the next play. When you evaluate your performance after the game, focus on what you can do to improve and make any necessary adjustments to your training regimen.
Prepare to compete. Preparing to compete may sound obvious – you train multiple times a week, eat the right foods, get enough rest – but are you really thinking about how to out-play your adversary or are you simply showing up for practice and following Coach’s instructions? Putting in the extra effort to assess your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, and figuring out how you can best contribute to your team, can significantly raise your chances of achieving victory. Developing a pre-game routine that helps you stay calm and focused before the game can also lower your chances of getting injured or making mistakes.
Although losing can be tough, the truth is that disappointment is a natural part of your journey as an athlete. Keep working hard, take losses in stride, and embrace the challenge of testing your skills against a worthy opponent.
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Eva Bart-Williams is a mental performance coach with a private practice helping individuals and teams achieve big goals. Eva is also CBW Soccer Elite’s head of operations, where she helps athletes embrace the challenges of high-level competition and advises families on the college soccer recruitment process. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.