"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him ... but let him ask in faith, with no doubting"      James 1:5

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Handling Defeat

It's a fact of life in coaching that you are not going to win them all.  What you do need to learn is not only how to handle defeat, but how to turn defeat into a positive learning experience for your athletes.  It starts with your post-competition comments to the team and your actions.

Once the game is over, it is over.  As a coach you need to understand this as well as your athletes.  Losing hurts.  But to take a loss as an athlete, then get beat up again by the words of the coach following the game, penetrates deeper and lasts much longer.

As a coach, you need to learn to handle the stress of defeat, how to cool off, stay calm, control your emotions, collect your thoughts, and look for the positives.

Everyone is disappointed following a loss.  In the locker room following the competition is not the time for a play-by-play analysis of technical mistakes, and mental errors committed in the contest, or to give a challenge of the teams' character.  It is a time to be brief, calm and focus on the future.

As a coach in this difficult situation, you need to come into the locker room with a clear idea of what you want to convey to the team.  Words spoken in anger can set the stage for future failure, but words aptly spoken can sow the seeds for future victory.

A few points to consider before you address the team:

  • Be brief.  No one is looking forward to a long-winded speech.  Let your team know that defeat is temporary.  In most cases there is a tomorrow.
  • Don't focus on the blame for the defeat.  If you have to express your disappointment, do it in general terms.  Don't get personal and name names.
  • Before you analyses the defeat with the team, sleep on it.  Now is not the time.  You need time to clearly analyses what happened.  Don't speak about it until you are sure.
  • Be positive.  Find something positive to say.  Build them up again.  Even after a loss there are positive things that can be expressed.  Just a tap on the back can go a long way for an athlete who is hurting.

Remember much of coaching and teaching is modeling.  How we respond to disappointment and failure whether good or bad is being taught and modeled to your athletes.  Every post-competition meeting is a teachable moment, a lasting impression.  In life there are many struggles, disappointments and failures.  How we teach our athletes to handle defeat on the field will be directly proportionate on how they respond in life. How they respond will be largely dependent on how you do it.  Be positive - leave a lasting legacy to your team.

Coach Doug Reese