Every athlete will encounter some type of defeat and experience disappointment. Not getting the result you want after much hard work and dedication can be frustrating. Losing stinks! Nobody likes to lose. All athletes experience this at some point, and the goal for any athlete who just had a bad performance should be to come back stronger.
The first step in coming back stronger is learning from the previous performance. This starts with honestly reflecting on what went well and what didn’t. I recommend writing these things down. The more you can identify what went well and what didn’t, the more clarity you’ll have about your performance.
Learning from your last performance also means seeking out feedback. Be open-minded. Never be afraid to ask for help. Talk to your coaches and people you trust and ask for their perspective and opinion. Sometimes they may see things from a different vantage point and can provide you with valuable feedback. When I was competing, one of the best ways I assessed my performance was by videotape. My parents would always videotape my performances, which was extremely helpful as I was able to see exactly how I performed. So if your match isn’t televised or filmed by a coach, it would be helpful if a family member or someone else could record it. I believe that if you are not learning from any past performance, either good or bad, you are not going to get better or take your game to the next level.
It is also important to accept a loss. After a loss or bad performance, it can be easy to stay angry or depressed. It can also be very tempting to blame others for the loss. Many athletes I have consulted with have struggled overcoming a devastating performance and are sometimes ready to give up completely. Remember you cannot go back and change a past performance, but you can learn from it! The sooner you can accept the loss and be ready to move forward, the sooner you’ll be on the road to come back stronger.
Applying what you have learned from a loss is crucial. A loss or disappointing performance should motivate you to get better! It is important to understand that sometimes a loss can be a blessing in disguise and can help you elevate your overall performance. Learning from that disappointing effort could mean getting into better physical shape, working on developing a stronger mindset or improving an aspect of your game. It’s all about turning that disappointment into a positive.
Another way to come back stronger is to set attainable goals. Many athletes I know do not set goals for themselves or even keep track of their progress. Goals can serve as a blueprint for what you want to achieve and can also hold you accountable and keep you focused. Coming back stronger also means being aware of the things you don’t have control of like officiating, court/weather conditions, and your opponent. You ultimately have to let these things go and not be focused on them, but instead adapt to them. Focus on things you have control over such as your preparation, effort and mindset. Finally, learn how to be resilient. Resilience is defined as the ability to overcome adversity and remain confident. Becoming resilient starts with a positive mindset. So stay positive, and don’t let a bad performance get you down and use it as motivation to get better, and come back stronger.
Chris Nieves, MS is the founder and director of Empower Mental Training, which provides mental skills and sport psychology training for athletes. As a former Division I athlete, Chris learned the importance of mastering the mental side of sports. From this experience, he decided to pursue a career in helping athletes learn how to develop a winning mindset. Chris strongly believes that your mindset is the key to being successful in sports, overcoming adversity, and ultimately reaching your peak potential. For more information, visit EmpowerMentalTraining.com.