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December 17, 2019 • Coaching

6 tips to help coaches bounce back after a loss

Even coaches with great teams will lose every now and then. And, of course, there are seasons where the losses are never ending.

In either case, every coach has to deal with the occasional loss, and it’s important to know how to quickly bounce back. Depending on what time your games begin, you usually have less than 24 hours after a loss before you face your athletes.

Photo: Kevin Hoffman

It’s vital for coaches to find a way to be positive before the next practice session. Players need guidance, help, and a sense of direction. They need a coach who is prepared, focused and does not dwell for extended periods of time on a loss. While you need to review the game and offer ideas for improvement, it’s also important to immediately start the process of preparing for your next opponent.

Bouncing back isn’t always easy, and there are good reasons for this. In the process of playing the game, athletes have a major advantage. They expend energy and are pretty well spent after a game, even if they lose. While they may be disappointed, they have already had an outlet to release their emotions.

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Coaches aren’t as lucky. They have worked hard at scouting, preparing a game plan, planning practices, and teaching and motivating at practice. They have invested a great deal without the same outlet.

The key is finding a way to release the tensions and refocus on the needs of your athletes and on preparing for the next opponent. How can you relieve the pent-up emotions? Here are six ideas:

1. Exercise. Taking a run or working out on a treadmill is an excellent way to release tension. It can purge negative emotions and generate endorphins, both of which help you recover from a loss. Even a brisk walk can help.

2. The best medicine. If exercise isn’t an option, watch one of your favorite comedies. Laughter is a great antidote to the aggravation and negative emotions that may have been generated by a loss.

3. Look ahead. If you find you can’t fall asleep, turn on game tapes of your next opponent and jot down ideas for practice. Instead of staring at the ceiling and brooding over the loss, actively prepare for what’s next.

4. Put it in writing. Create a sign and post it in your office, family room or wherever you spend your postgame hours. Write a reminder that helps you focus on the bigger picture, such as: “The ultimate goal is to help young people grow and develop.” Look at this sign as a form of meditation to refocus on getting ready for the next day.

5. Find the positive. Review the game from a positive perspective, looking for situations that demonstrate improvement from previous contests. Think about what your athletes can gain from the experience. While the mistakes will be most obvious in a loss, look for the elements that can become building blocks for the future.

6. Catch some Zs. Get as much sleep as possible, since everyone thinks and operates better with sufficient rest. While this may not be easy, and you may not get as much as you normally do, sleep represents a marvelous chance for regeneration.

Even after losses, the sun does come up the next morning. Your players need a positive, prepared, encouraging force to work with them so that they continue to learn and improve. You owe it to your athletes to be there for them.


David Hoch, CMAA, has 16 years of experience as a high school athletic director and served for 12 years as the executive director of the Maryland State Coaches Association. In 2000, he was named Athletic Director of the Year by the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association. His column, A.D.ministration, focuses on issues in athletic administration and appears regularly in Coach & Athletic Director magazine.

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