How can coaches and athletes be a positive influence after a heartbreaking loss?

Many fans today are reeling from a devastating loss, either a close game, or a blowout. This got me to thinking about how I address my team after a loss. It just so happens that I helped coach an indoor soccer team yesterday and our team went 1-2. We haven’t’ played all winter as a team, and this was supposed to be a “fun” tournament. But, our pride was hurt. My goal was to get the team focused on the positives, and to play with fun and energy, but they were still upset. Today I am looking for examples on how to address this in future, similar situations. Below are some quotes from athletes or coaches after a big loss. Maybe these quotes can help us put sportsmanship and loss into perspective?

  • “Someone who doesn’t make the (Olympic) team might weep and collapse. In my day no one fell on the track and cried like a baby. We lost gracefully. And when someone won, he didn’t act like he’d just become king of the world, either. Athletes in my day were simply humble in our victory. I believe we were more mature then…Maybe it’s because the media puts so much pressure on athletes; maybe it’s also the money. In my day we competed for the love of the sport…In my day we patted the guy who beat us on the back, wished him well, and that was it.”  Louis Zamperini
  • Jack Nicklaus to Tom Watson after losing the British Open: “As we walked off Jack grabbed me by the neck and darn near broke it. He said, “Tom, I gave it my best shot, but it wasn’t good enough. Congratulations. I’m proud of you”
  • “Losing is only temporary and not all encompassing. You must simply study it, learn from it, and try hard not to lose the same way again. Then you must have the self-control to forget about it.” John Wooden
  • “I want my team to be more detached from the wins and losses and be more focused on doing the little things well.  When you focus on getting the win, it can suffocate you, especially during the playoffs when the pressure gets thick.” Sue Enquist, Softball
  • “It’s always tough when you lose – you’ve worked so hard for that moment and it hasn’t gone the way you wanted. But you have to realize there’s always a bright side, you have to pick yourself up and get ready for the next game.” Maria Sharapova
  • “If you don’t invest very much, then defeat doesn’t hurt very much and winning is not very exciting.” Dick Vermeil
  • “You are never a loser until you quit trying.” Mike Ditka
  • “That’s what learning is, after all; not whether we lose the game, but how we lose and how we’ve changed because of it and what we take away from it that we never had before, to apply to other games. Losing, in a curious way, is winning.” Richard David Bach
  • “Losing does not make me want to quit. It makes me want to fight that much harder.” Paul “Bear” Bryant
  • “Part of being a champ is acting like a champ. You have to learn how to win and not run away when you lose…. Everyone has bad stretches and real successes. Either way, you have to be careful not to lose your confidence or get too confident.” Nancy Kerrigan
  • “A champion is suppose to hate to lose, and it wasn’t like I was ever crazy about the idea. But I learned to deal with losing without having my spirit or confidence broken, which would help immensely over time, not just in the big picture but even in specific matches when I found myself in a jam. Fear of losing is a terrible thing.” Pete Sampras
  • “One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than a hundred teaching it.” Knute Rockne
  • “Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” John Wooden
  • “Every game, you have so many people watching you. You can show good sportsmanship by helping other players up, and not talking back to coaches and referees.” Kelly Fry