How Athletes Respond to a Loss

Game Loss Mindset

The Mindset to Always Focus Forward

How long does a tough loss affect you? Some athletes can get over a loss quickly and shift their focus to the next competition.

Other athletes dwell on bad games or performances; “I can’t believe I choked,” “I let my team down again,” or “We should have easily won that game.”

Dwelling on a bad game will hurt your confidence and affect how you practice, train, and play in the near future.

Even worse, for some athletes, a tough loss or bad performance can cause them to lose sight of their goals.

For example, you and your coach set some challenging yet realistic seasonal goals in the preseason. You worked your butt off in practice, harder than you ever have in the past.

You saw some positive results early in the season and felt you were on the right path. You were focused and confident about achieving your goal. The season seemed to be unfolding as planned.

Unfortunately, at your mid season competition, you bombed. You started to question your talent, potential, and ability to achieve your goal. All the time and effort you put in seemed like a waste.

You thought, “I won’t be able to accomplish my goal now. Why even try?” You allowed one performance to shake your confidence and hurt future performances.

The Michigan State University football team found themselves in a similar situation.

Michigan State was ranked No. 3 in the nation with an 8-0 record. In the ninth game of the 2021 season, Michigan was upset by Purdue, 40-29, potentially disrupting their hopes of making the College Playoffs.

After the game, Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker reminded his players that this was just one loss and they needed to shift their focus on the next game.

Tucker has a 24-hour rule that he invokes. After 24 hours, Tucker doesn’t let his team dwell on a past game.

TUCKER: “We didn’t play well enough to win the game, but we have a lot of football ahead of us, and all our goals are still ahead of us, and so what needs to be done? What’s next? That’s what’s most important. What’s next? We have to get on the film, get the courage to understand why. We need to get those things fixed, and then we need to get ready for Maryland. And that’s the only thing there is to do.

To accomplish your goal, you need to keep moving forward after a loss. You may have to tweak your plan, but you should always focus forward and prepare for the next competition.

Coping a Tough Loss

Apply the 24-hour rule. After a competition, give yourself 24 hours to assess what happened. When that period of time expires, focus forward.

Is there something you can change or adapt mentally or physically to grow or move your game forward? After you answer that question, ask yourself what you can do to prepare for the next competition?

Always keep your focus on what is next instead of what has happened.

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