Losing sucks.There really is no other eloquent, professional, sophisticated way to put it that would make you relate.Losing hurts, it plays with your mind, and your self esteem. It picks you up and slams you down like a WWE wrestler would but in this case the pain isn’t faked.In my time, in my infinite, not so glorious 23 years I’ve noticed something. The moment we realize we’re starting to lose, we panic, we stress, we over-think our plan of reentry or we give up.And don’t lie and say, “Oh, I never do that.” Yes you do. The practically perfect in every way Mary Poppins doesn’t exist (but in the off chance you do, shoot me an email because I’d love to meet you.)

However, I’d like to look at how student-athletes cope with losing.I used to be a counselor for two years so I’ve seen tears and I’ve heard stories. I’ve covered different high school events and games so I’m familiar with the opposite side of winning.But, on a more personal level, I’ve watched my future sister-in-law play high school volleyball and I’ve seen her ups and downs. In particular, I saw her after they lost a very important game. And seeing her cry, hurt me.It was through that experience where I had a revelation of my own and it’s that student-athletes are given tremendous amounts of pressure from the rest of us and we don’t even realize that what we say or how we react plays with their minds.So to the student-athlete, I see you.

I see that what you’re doing is hard, challenging and time consuming, but somehow you manage to do that on top of your studies, social life, family life, working a job or two or participating in another activity or two.I, a 23-year-old, can barely get out of bed every morning but you do half of your agenda before school starts. That in itself is a victory you can rarely share with anyone else.There is already so much put on your adolescent, tiny shoulders so when you lose, I realize that it means more than just a number in your season stats. And when you start to lose, I see it too. Sometimes, you start to panic. Why? Because to you there’s so much riding on each and every game or thing that you do.

Maybe you tell yourself you’re not good enough, you don’t know why you’re on the team and maybe you’re hard on yourself.You have all these things running through your head, manipulating your self-esteem and subsequently affecting how you play whether you realize it or not.You may think that if you’re hard on yourself, that will be the push you need to succeed but you’re wrong.It’s OK to lose. It’s not OK to dwell on it and berate yourself, just like it’s not OK to say, “well you win some, you lose some (this is a quote from my favorite movie).”

So then, what do you do? What do you tell yourself?

Someone once told me that you should talk to yourself as if you were a child version of yourself.How would you address yourself as a child? Would you yell at your child self and call them names? No.You would tell them that despite what everyone else says, everything will be OK. You tell them to try again, you tell them to look at what they did right and then look at what didn’t work out and how they could fix that the next time around.You tell them not to give up.

Remember that, the next time you feel like you’re about to lose or if you do end up losing. Breathe. You got this.

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