We all know that in competition there are winners and losers. If a team wins the first game, there will be much talk about how their victory will lead to many great things to come. And for the losing team, the concerns from coaches, fellow teammates, parents, press, you name it – all start at the end of the first competition.

However, there is never much attention payed to what good teams [for that matter great teams] actually do after a loss to start the season. What do they do to make sure that one loss does not turn into two and two into a season that no one will want to remember?

Well, here are the 4 things that Great teams do after losing the first game of the season:

Stop Feeling Sorry for Yourself – Right Now

The reason I put this first on this list is not just because it is important, but because if you or your team is feeling sorry for themselves – you need to knock it off right now. One of the differences between High and Low Achievers is that after a loss, especially the first one of the season, High Achievers don’t feel bad about themselves, rather they learn about what they did and how to be better the next opportunity they have to compete [Read more about what it takes to be a learner, not a loser HERE]. They understand that the season just started, and that means that there will be other chances.

If you have athletes that come to practice in the next day or so still feeling bad that things didn’t turn out the way that they wanted in competition one, then you need to talk to them ASAP. Negativity will tear a team apart and especially early in the year, it can be infectious. The best thing you can do is teach your team to learn from what just happened. 

Re-examine Your Preparation

In many of my other writings, I have talked extensively about the importance of being prepared. Not just via physical and mental training, but doing the extra things of the field to make the start of the season successful. Where extra hours put in on film analysis? Was there quality communication between the coaches and athletes? Was there a clear understanding of the other competitors and what they may do, along with how to make adjustments?

Remember – it’s the first competition of the season. Anxiety for some was at an all-time high. Because of this, their focus may not have been on the game, but rather on how they were feeling in a particular moment that had nothing to do with the plan that you created. However, the more prepared you and your team are, the less and less these things happens. So in Week 2, although the first game jitters may be gone, the preparation may need to increase.

When Negative Events Started Occurring, Identify the Source – Even If It’s You

If things didn’t go the way that you wanted to this weekend, then there is a point that you can look back on and say, ‘at this point, is where things really started to go downhill.’ It’s important to know that it is not just one thing that make things go south. More than likely, it was a series of events or decisions that took place over a course of time that lead to a bad move made in a cross country race, an interception committed by the quarterback, or a poor pass that lead to a decisive goal in soccer.

So the question that needs to be asked at this point, is when did things actually start to not go right? How early in the competition was it? Was the team communicating correctly right from the start? Where they responsive in your instructions, and if so, where your instructions given effectively? Did you take the game out of perspective and your players or teammates lost sight of the goal right in front of them?

There are times when you – the coach or the athlete are the root of the problem. And with it still being early in the season, now is the perfect time to identify if you are and fix it. If you are not specifically, address what or who is now. The season is not getting any longer.

 Did Your Team Keep Fighting?

There were a lot of teams that got beat pretty bad out there this weekend [52-6 Alabama over USC comes to mind as an example] and with the season it is important to find out from your team if at any point in blowout loss, did your team say, ‘the hell with it.’ In my experience, that statement and the effort that goes with it have the tendency to happen more at the start and end of the year than any other time during the season.An athlete may say, ‘what does it matter? We have a long way to go in the season.’ And when the season is nearing an end, you may hear nearly identical statement, just focused on the season closing.

One of the sayings I tell athletes is that each game is more than a chance to compete, it’s an opportunity to find out something about yourself. And there is no place where you will have a more revealing moment that the first competition. How does your team respond to adversity? How hard to they compete? How well do they listen? How hard to they fight when things get tough?

When blowouts or bad races happen in the first competition of the season, the most important thing to examine is their effort. Skill still matters, execution still matters, however I bet you that if your team is down by 30 with 1 min to go in the game, 5 goals with 5 min to go in the game, or losing by a half mile on the course, will you be disappointed – yes. But you will feel much better if your team continues to compete and put in its best effort, rather than just throw in the towel. If your team is a competitor, great. If it’s not – you need to address it now in an effective and positive manner. Or this season is going to be a long one.

I think that you would love to go into a season with a team that does not feel sorry for itself, is prepared, knows the source of its negativity, and competes on every play. I know that I would. And now that the first game of the season is out of the way, there is no time better than now to analyze and make adjustments.

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