Wednesday, 22 May 2024

My Team Just Lost Badly – What’s Next?

As sports enthusiasts, we have all witnessed our favorite teams suffer devastating losses. Whether it’s a close defeat or a complete blowout, these outcomes are an inherent part of sports. In this article, we will explore how coaches can guide their teams after a demoralizing loss, fostering growth and resilience. So, if you’re wondering what steps to take after your team’s disappointing performance, keep reading!

Embracing Variance in Sports

In the world of sports, even the most skilled athletes can experience unforeseen challenges. As they say, “On any given Sunday,” anything is possible. Variance, or the unpredictable nature of competition, is even more pronounced at the middle school and younger levels. It’s crucial for coaches to acknowledge this fact and not be deceived by randomness. Punishing players for a poor performance is counterproductive and undermines the trust within the team.

Learning from Surprising Results

Let’s delve into two memorable matches that exemplify the unpredictability of sports. In a national qualifier, my team won the first set with a staggering score of 25-0. However, in the second set, we lost 0-25 without making any changes to our lineup. Fortunately, we managed to secure victory in the deciding set and ultimately qualified. This match vividly demonstrated the presence of randomness and regression to the mean. Instead of pointing fingers and blaming the players, coaches should recognize that unexpected outcomes occur at all levels of sports, especially among less experienced teams.

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The second match took place during the 1988 Olympic semifinals. One team had an impeccable record, not losing a single set, while the other barely made it to the playoffs with two match losses. To everyone’s surprise, the underdog team triumphed with a remarkable score of 3-0 (15-0, 15-9, 15-2). It serves as a reminder that even when facing overwhelming odds, victory is within reach.

Avoid Blaming Players

After a demoralizing defeat, coaches often search for reasons to explain their team’s performance. Some common statements include:

  • “They did not practice enough.”
  • “They just did not want to be here.”
  • “They did not get enough sleep.”
  • “They did not know what to do at this level.”

As coaches, it’s essential to move away from these banal and demotivating accusations. Instead, we should embrace the understanding that variance is a natural part of sports. Blaming players does not contribute to their growth but rather inhibits their progress.

Focusing on the Next Match

If your team is still participating in a tournament, it’s crucial to shift the players’ focus towards the upcoming match. Dwelling on past failures will only impede their performance. Engage in conversations that highlight the successes achieved throughout the process. Encourage players to acknowledge the valuable experiences gained, even if the score didn’t reflect their desired outcome.

Additionally, remind the team that every match, regardless of the score, is an opportunity to learn and improve. The players on the court are developing their skills through real-time challenges, while those on the bench are learning to be supportive teammates. Coaches must emphasize the significance of focusing on the present moment, working towards controlling each point individually.

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The Importance of Resilience

At times, younger players, their parents, and even coaches place excessive importance on the final score. However, as mentors, the paramount goals should be fostering a love for the game, developing leadership skills, and nurturing resilience through effort and attitude. Ultimately, the score will take care of itself.

When evaluating your effectiveness as a coach, consider how many players continue participating in the sport after their time with you. Those who choose not to continue are the losses that truly matter. Learn from these experiences, refine your teaching methods, and adapt accordingly.

Celebrating the Process of Learning

Apart from the 12 players on the Olympic gold medal team, there will always be someone better. As coaches, parents, and teachers, we must embrace the process of growth and improvement. Failures should be viewed as opportunities to learn and evolve. Just like Thomas Edison’s famous quote about the light bulb, we understand that progress involves discovering countless ways that do not work.

Our national teams, at the highest level, view failures as opportunities for improvement. The same perspective should be applied to young, less skilled players, where variance is more pronounced. We perform in sports, consistently showing up for deliberate practice, fueled by the desire to get better.

Dealing With Loss

Coaches and parents alike need to adopt a consistent and constructive approach when helping players navigate loss. Whether the defeat was by a small margin or a significant blowout, it is crucial to treat it as a part of the learning process. Losing presents another chance to grow, one point, match, or practice at a time.

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Q: How can coaches help their teams recover from a demoralizing loss?

A: After a difficult loss, coaches should promote resilience and growth by shifting the team’s focus towards the next match. Encourage players to appreciate the positives and embrace each match as an opportunity to learn and improve.

Q: Why is blaming players counterproductive?

A: Blaming players for a poor performance undermines trust within the team and inhibits their growth. Instead, coaches should recognize that variance is a natural part of sports and focus on constructive ways to foster improvement.

Q: What should coaches prioritize when evaluating their effectiveness?

A: Coaches should consider the number of players who continue participating in the sport after their time with them. This metric reflects the impact of their coaching and highlights areas for improvement.


In the world of sports, losses are inevitable. How we respond to these losses as coaches, parents, and players is what truly matters. Embracing variance and reframing setbacks as opportunities for growth and improvement will ultimately shape the trajectory of our teams. So, let’s approach each defeat with resilience and determination, knowing that it’s another chance to get better, one point at a time.

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