“The Art Of Losing”
Read time: 5 minutes
Sports can be brutal. The phrase “You’re only as good as your last game” may seem harsh on the surface but it is the reality that all athletes face. No matter how many wins you string together, defeat is right around the corner. No matter how many times you fall short and lose, you are due for a victory to bounce back. The key to managing the highs and lows that come with playing a sport often lies in the mental aspects of the game. Those who are able to control their emotions and maintain a balanced attitude toward the results they achieve are usually the ones who are able to learn the most from their experiences.
One of the most common issues that children in sports face are dealing with their own “failures”. Mistakes, individual weaknesses, losses, and lack of ability, lead to symptoms like diminishing confidence, frustration over results, and feelings of inadequacy. Although these are common, as parents and coaches our job is to recognize when our children are struggling to deal with these waves of emotion in a calm manner and to do our best to equip them with the tools necessary to overcome these feelings in the long-term. It is a nuanced and difficult process, but as the ones responsible for guiding the child, half of the battle is knowing where to put your focus and understanding what they are feeling in different moments.
Tell me if any of the following sounds familiar:
Your child gets in the car, a sullen expression on their face. Their team just got beat by 47 points, suffering their 7th consecutive defeat, and to make matters worse, your child played very poorly throughout the game. You ask “What do you think went wrong today?”, to which the response is “We just suck. We’re not good enough!”. As emotions rise, and tears start to swell, you are now faced with a difficult decision. Do you let it go and give them time to cool off, or use this opportunity to try to teach them something? Because that’s the catch. That’s the thing that many children, parents, and coaches fail to realize….
Losing is an art. Let me repeat that again. LOSING IS AN ART. Many of us were taught growing up that winning was the most important thing, and that losing was something to be avoided at all costs. But it is often through losing that we learn valuable lessons and make major strides toward improvement, and without it, we may never face the type of adversity that can bring out the best in us. If we find a way to re-think our perception of mistakes, bad plays, bad games, losses, and even BAD SEASONS, that’s when we can truly succeed.
The goal for parents, children, and coaches alike should be to make that philosophy the driving force behind everything they do in sports because that’s when real progress occurs. And although it leads to tangible results in skill and ability development, as well as better team results, the most important progress lies in the mental traits that the athletes build up in the process. Our lives as humans are made up of a collection of “micro-failures” every single day, regardless of our age. Since sports can often be a microcosm of everyday life, if it is used correctly, it can teach our children how to deal with any type of adversity they face outside of sports as well.
So that brings us to the question of how we actually put this philosophy into practice. How can we provide our children with the required tools to learn how to best deal with a perceived failure and to accept that it is merely a learning opportunity? Despite the nuance required, the answer is actually quite simple…
Whether through positive affirmations, constructive feedback, or enthusiastic encouragement, we give our athletes the reassurance that we are not disappointed by what they couldn’t do, but rather excited by what they might be able to do next. Over time, the positive approach to mistakes and failures becomes engrained in the athlete and so does the ability to persevere through any amount of them. Most importantly, this same approach then starts to trickle over into the child’s mindset outside of sports as well and once this happens, we have done our job.
Throughout our careers, my father and I both experienced countless failures and every time we succeeded, it was usually shortly followed by a failure. Similarly, there were many examples of consecutive and prolonged failures being followed by significant achievements. The common denominator was always maintaining positivity and belief in the process one has to go through to learn something new or improve something they are not yet great at. The culmination of these experiences at the amateur, collegiate, and professional levels is what drove us to develop the Mitrovic Method in the hopes of passing those tools and experiences down to the next generations of Canadian athletes.
Our Method is proven to improve a wide range of individual skills, knowledge of the game, and ability to apply those skills to game situations. But the real beauty of the Mitrovic Method is not just the quality of the basketball components it provides but also its emphasis on teaching the art of failure. Creating great basketball players is wonderful. However, creating emotionally mature athletes who are more confident and resilient is the true beauty of sports.
Written by: Nem Mitrovic