Dealing with Defeat
During a recent National tournament, I was reminded of the emotions that tend to cling onto a loss. In my case I had traveled from the east coast to the west coast to compete in the Hardcourt National tournament hosted in La Jolla, California. I had several good wins and then I got crushed....
No athlete enjoys losing and depending on our age and circumstances we have different reasons for placing high stakes on winning. For a young athlete, the desire to win may be intertwined with pleasing parents and coaches. In time, young athletes must learn to compete for themselves and substitute an outcome-driven focus for a process- driven focus. An outcome-driven focus will in time result in performance anxiety whereas a young athlete who can enjoy and appreciate the process and art of competition, will stay mentally strong for the long haul.
For an older athlete with more responsibilities outside of their sport, finding the time to train and compete requires determination and a career and family who supports your athletic endeavors. There is thus more pressure on an older athlete to make every competition count.
Some may find it surprising that a senior athlete such as myself still experience the sting after a loss. (On a side note, I do wish we can substitute the term "senior athlete" for "seasoned athlete":). After my loss, I went for a walk on the beach towards the Scripps pier. I stopped to watch a surf competition. I soon realized that this was not any ordinary surf competition. It was the World Adaptive Surf Competition. Blind surfers, surfers with one or two prosthetic limbs were all out there fighting to earn first place. The energy and camaraderie among these surfers from across the globe was captivating.
Removed from my loss while watching others athletes in the battle against each other and the waves, new thoughts on losing were taking shape in my mind. First off, once a competitive athlete, always a competitive athlete. Losing feels like losing regardless of your age. It is also important to recognize but NOT TO DWELL on the fact that some competitions have higher stakes than others. We can't change or ignore the stakes. Acknowledge the importance of a certain competition and move on.
Being a spectator at the World Adaptive Surf Competition did give defeat a deeper perspective. I was reminded that we are all athletes who are giving our best effort and each athlete hopes that their best effort results in victory. After a loss, remember that you are human, not a robot, and practicing your God-given gift to compete is already a victory. Contemplate your loss, find a couple of areas to improve on and close the door. Don't lock the door because you may want to re-visit your loss to keep what you learned fresh. Our ultimate goal as athletes, should be mastery and mastery is built on numerous wins and losses.
By Lizl Kotz Owner of Lizl Kotz Performance Center
I have since processed and accepted my loss but I do have a message for my opponent: I don't like being crushed and next time, I plan to do the crushing.