Recently my daughters undefeated high school basketball team fell to a school division over five times their size. Their 17-0 season came to an end on that rainy Friday night leaving them all deflated. As I reflect on the emotional evening, I debated the loss and the events of that evening. It wasn’t that the team was out-coached or even that the talent couldn’t be matched. As the King William Cavalier girls returned from half-time it was their own self implosion that left them with a one loss season. The teammates began to turn on each other, blaming each other for errors. They found fault with each play and turned to screaming and yelling at each other. One student athlete even walked off the court during play time and said “I’m done, put someone else in for me!” The team lost because they gave up.
Losing is hard. One of the hardest things to confront, whether you’re a coach or leading a team at the office, is how to go about losing gracefully. We get consumed with frustration, disappointment and anger at the things we think went wrong. We question our decisions and performance, we think through all our mistakes, we consider perceived inequities, and in short, we look for the reasons why we lost so we can find immediate solutions.
It is extremely important in these moments to reflect on your own actions and how the team worked together. Did we make mistakes? Did we play well? What can we do to eliminate errors and better our play or our performance? It is pointless to dwell on things you cannot control, so I try to use these moments to focus on elements of my team’s game and performance. We can work to improve, and we can always find ways to raise our game. A loss is a difficult, but a good reminder, that there is always work to be done. The only thing you can control and alter is your own performance, so that is where teams need to focus their energy.
Work hard, do your best, be gracious in victory or defeat and never give up.
Regardless of age and experience, every team has to be prepared for the fact that losses will come. That is part of the deal every time teams take the field in competition. There will be a winner and a loser, and the best teams will find a way to overcome challenges to win. As difficult as losing may be, it offers important lessons and motivation.
All of this is a friendly reminder to build your team, whether it’s in the office, in the field, or on a court, to hold themselves accountable for their own performance and actions and to celebrate the wins and losses as a TEAM!