I’m going to lose, and so are you.
It is going to happen.
The odds of either of us being undefeated are wicked small. Yet, I bet you plan on winning, focus on winning, seldom talking about “that other” outcome. I do the same, because we are an optimistic lot, us coaches.
But we need to think about losing, not for the team’s sake, but for our own sake. We need a plan for when (not if, but when) losing happens.
Here’s the deal … coaching is emotional and stressful. Some researchers have found coaches go through a heavy load of stress during a contest. When the contest is evenly matched, and the expectation of winning is great, the heavier is the impact of losing upon the coach.
We coach in a world where the winner gets the spoils, and the losers suffer, and that can be really tough on coaches. The moment the contest is over, there you stand, full of the emotion of the event, and what do you do? Me? I spent the first five years of coaching throwing up. That was a wonderful experience.
But I’ve learned my lesson, and for the last 28 years of coaching the following are what I do when I lose.
The split second an event ends and I’ve lost …
I BREATHE LIKE I MEAN IT
I breathe into a 4-count, and exhale to a 1-count. Seriously, it just ended, and I’m breathing. And so should you.
Why? Focused breathing has a positive reduction-effect on stress hormones. So it reduces immediate stress. It also distracts me for a few seconds and brings me back to center.
Try it right now. Just stop for 30 seconds and breathe. 4-count in, 1-count out. There is a benefit to it. I haven’t lied to you yet, and I’m not going to start now.
Then, within minutes after losing I …
I thank the opposition. Often contests are set up so the moment it ends teams shake hands. I do more than the shake, I thank them. For what? Making me a better person.
For the lead up to the contest, I and the team have worked on improvement, becoming better at what we do and who we are. That’s all because of the competition. So I am thankful for that opportunity. Thankful for them. I tell them, and I mean it.
Within 5 minutes of losing I …
Everyone is starring in their own movie. Meaning, my team’s fans, parents, opposition are thinking about themselves, not me. I lost, and the person who cares the most is … me. The same for you. It is your movie, after all.
So, if it is all about me, I change the movie.
I try to find quick perspective of the importance of the event. There are so many huge, important, things happening in the World, the outcome of my collegiate event isn’t even on the Richter scale. Yes, I get it that the outcome of the World Cup or an Olympic event can be of huge importance, I’m not talking about those events. My event, your event, is tiny, so small. In the big picture, we aren’t there.
Before I leave the event, I …
I heard a recent podcast where a book author said, when you are hurting, help someone. Funky as it sounds, it is almost magical.
Recently, we were expected to win a race, but we lost. On the way to our vehicles I saw an elderly woman who was struggling to get her belongings in her car. I stopped, and helped her. It took me three minutes to do what might have taken her thirty. That was it. No fantastic backstory. But helping someone when I was grumbly sure made me feel better.
And, on the way home …
A NEW PLAN
After leaving the event I begin planning. How are we going to move ahead in a positive, constructive, enjoyable way?
There are horror stories of the wrath of a coach after a loss. I offer no comment on what others do, but I have found the whip causes horses to run away, and a cube of sugar keeps them engaged.
A positive vision forward is what the team wants and deserves, more importantly, it is what we coaches need.
* * * *
I’m out the door, to go to a race where I stand a good chance of losing. I have my mental toolbox packed in case I do. And what’s interesting, I’ll do all five things, also, if we win.
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