By Buck Roggeman, President of TCCC
The seconds on the clock melt away, you can see the disappointment in your players’ eyes, and the score is not in your favor.
After months of off-season training and weeks of preseason practice, your season opened with a thud. The people in the stands are questioning you, the team is down, and nothing seems right with the world on this Friday night.
What do you do next?
Coach any sport long enough, and you will be confronted with defeats that threaten to break your spirit. The gift that comes from defeat is that you learn far more about your team and yourself through the adversity of losing than you ever will from the spoils of victory. Losing a game is a moment when we can teach our players how to handle disappointment in life, and you need to be a great role in your deepest moments of frustration.
Here are a few ideas:
Reassure the team that you are still on their side – Losing games can destroy a team because people begin to turn on each other. It will be important after a defeat to tell the team that your love for them has nothing to do with a result on the scoreboard. Your loyalty and devotion to every member of the program can never be shaken by losing a game. You need to be the epitome of trustworthiness even though you are frustrated with the way the team played. Remember, your goals are much bigger than simply winning games and championships.
Teach them to take responsibility, by taking your share first – Everybody wants to take credit for victories; nobody wants to take responsibility for defeat. If you dodge the responsibility for defeat, however, you are also relinquishing your ability to enact change, for we can only change what we control. Great leaders own up to their role in moments of defeat, and this will be important for your team to see immediately after the game. “They coached better than we coached and played better than we played,” is a powerful statement to the team.
Everybody had a role – If you are sharing credit for victory, allow everyone to share in the responsibility of defeat. From the starters to the scout team, if players feel responsible for losing a game, you are telling them that they are a critical component to the team’s success (or in this case, the lack thereof).
End with something positive – No matter how disastrous, there is always something positive to be taken from a game. Perhaps the team played their hearts out but was overmatched. Compliment the team for their effort and tell them that they are better for having played a great opponent. If the effort was subpar, end by saying that you know we are a better team than we displayed tonight. Let’s be thankful we have a chance to prove it next week.
Remember that your goals are tied to the process of building healthy young men and women who will grow into great leaders and citizens one day. Don’t let a defeat dissuade you from that path.