Learning to lose
Losing sucks. The feeling of disappointment and heartbreak as you dwell on each mistake that caused you to lose a game, a match, or a championship. Nobody wants to lose. But losing can actually help us athletes become not only better players, but better people.
I started playing beach volleyball when I was eleven, and to me, winning and losing was black and white. If I won, I thought I played well, and ignored any mistakes I made. If I lost, then I thought I played terrible, ignoring any good things I did throughout the day. I only focused on the outcome without considering my game as a whole.
It wasn’t until recently that I learned to lose properly. I took a step back and realized that losing can be a good thing. Losing gives me more feedback and can help improve my game faster than winning does. I realized that losing is part of the journey. Losing one game doesn’t define my game as a whole. Yes, I may lose, but now it motivates me to come back hitting harder.
To do this, I focused on specific aspects of my game. After each tournament, I would re-watch all my games (no matter whether I won or lost) and would stat my games. I would look at my hitting percentage, first ball side-out percentage, serving numbers, and passing numbers. By looking at each skill instead of the overall outcome, I’m able to decipher what I did well, what I need to work on, and what specifically caused me to either win or lose the game. This way, I know what I need to work on in practice and implement more in the game.
Another way I learned to deal with losing was through journaling. I had a mini journal that I kept in my volleyball bag. After a tournament, I would list three things I did well and three things I need to work on. Additionally, I would take a couple minutes to write out my thoughts, especially after losing a match, letting out my frustrations and explaining how I felt. After I finished writing, I would put the game behind me and focus on what I needed to do to improve. By writing my emotions down, it helped my clear my head, and helped me move on to the future rather than dwelling on the past.
Learning to lose is hard, whether it is on the court or off the court. Learning to lose requires tenacity, a growth mindset, and the ability to take constructive criticism. But by learning from our mistakes, not only will it help improve our game, but will help us grow in every aspect of our lives.
Big changes start with small steps.
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