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A true test of character: being a winner in a losing situation! (Mental Training).

THERE ARE FEW THINGS that coaches dread more than the spectre of a losing season. They have nightmares about it and do everything possible to avoid it. But the odds are that if they coach long enough, it's going to happen to them, and it's going to hurt.

A losing season can sap the spirit of both coaches and players and demoralize the program. Another thing for sure is that the coach is going to find it extremely difficult to stay positive and enthusiastic and avoid becoming his own worst enemy. As disappointed and stressful as a losing season can be, the coach cannot let it claim his soul.

Weathering such crises will call for a tremendous amount of character and maturation. It will take everything we have to stand up and be counted -- impress the players, parents, press, and peers with the way we handle adversity in the most difficult of times.


As is true of all things, the most powerful factor that has to be managed is the entrapment of our attitude in a vicious cycle of depressing thoughts and emotions that prevent us from experiencing success.

The rush of such negativism can become almost unbearable during a stressful season. If we cannot manage the mental aspect of our game, we will find ourselves in a constant state of mental and physical exhaustion -- brooding, sulking, prisoners of our emotion, unable to recognize possibilities and workable situations.

All of these things -- and more -- accompany losing. We cannot hide from the many negatives, but we can manage them in a positive and productive manner. We can prevent the negativism from ruining our career and even use it to achieve a higher level of expertise by letting it challenge us to take a closer look at exactly what we are doing and how we can do it better.

Several basic strategies may prove helpful in guiding us through a tough season:

1 We must effectively manage the mental aspect of our game: stop brooding, sulking, and ruminating, and combat our negative thinking with discipline and wholesome distractions -- allowing our positive thinking and attitudes to color and direct our actions.

2 We have heard all the sermons about stress and how to manage it in our lives, but few of us do it. When we crack up, we see it as a weakness.

This type of thinking is flawed in many ways, but we have to understand that we cannot allow the stress to overwhelm us. We have to make changes. Though it is impossible to escape some negative stress during the course of a season, we can control this enemy and use stress as a positive motivating force.

3 It is difficult to cut off or ignore the constant barrage of criticism that we may subjected to. It may lead us to excessive explanations or excuses, neither of which is a productive strategy.

Most of the time our elaborate excuses lend the appearance of more weakness and insecurity. Certainly there are appropriate questions which deserve answers, but not at the expense of our credibility.

4 We shouldn't take ourselves too seriously. We are flattering ourselves to think that everyone in the world is interested or concerned with our losing season. Much of our embarrassment and humiliation is based on the misconception that the whole world is focused on our debacle.

Not true. Keep focused on taking care of business and forget about the headlines. As a head football coach in a city of 185,000, I was once amazed to discover how few of them knew that I was the coach.

5 Another major source of misery & during a losing season stems from the fact that we give ourselves too much credit to begin with. As coaches, we are very adept at saying the right things, especially when we are winning. But deep down we believe that no matter how good our players are, they just couldn't do it without our expert coaching. This may be great for our ego when we are winning, but it has an obvious downside when the losing begins. It is a game we will never win. If we are feeding our ego through coaching, our appetite will be insatiable. Whatever pleasure comes, it will never be enough and the enjoyment will be short-lived.

6 Losing brings many distractions and it can become very difficult to stay focused on the most important factors. What are these factors? The ones that we can control.

One of the trademarks of almost every unsuccessful program are coaches who are spending most of their time worrying about the factors over which they have no control. Take care of the business at hand -- one step at a time.

7 Do not forget or neglect your family. Your family can be a tremendous source of love and support if you allow it to be. Don't shortchange the ones you love the most. No team, no matter how successful, will be with you forever. Your family can be. No amount of success will compensate for the time you could have spent with them, but didn't.

8 There is no source of power you (2) can draw upon that is greater than your spiritual life. No amount of athletic skill, knowledge, or savvy can compensate for an empty soul. Without spiritual strength, winning will destroy you as quickly as losing will.

9 Lastly is a basic point we should all be aware of especially in the midst of our worst misery. Everyone has had a 0-10 season. Some have experienced it as coaches, some in their marriages, some in their finances, some in their relationships with their children, and some in their spiritual lives.

We have all been there. No one has been immune from the deep sense of failure at some time in his or her life. But we all have the ability to rise above such circumstances and to use them to become better individuals.

Failure does not reduce us as individuals. Losing does not have the power to destroy us unless we allow it. Anytime we stand up to defeat we can be a winner -- even in a losing situation.

Feel free to e-mail me with any comments or questions:
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Article Details
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Author:Clark, Jeff
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2002
Previous Article:Baseball game strategy: by the inning! (Baseball).
Next Article:Baserunning to victory. (Softball).

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