Take a moment to consider a couple all-too-common situations you probably see as a coach:
Situation One: You have an athlete that played terribly in a closely lost match. She is completely inconsolable afterwards, loses confidence immediately, and, despite her many contributions, cannot think of one positive play she participated in all game. She sulks out of the gym, tears welling up in her eyes. You have no idea how long or how badly this will affect her and the team, but it doesn’t look good.
Not only are you worried about her confidence, but you also feel like your hands are tied with helping her improve. There are some clear adjustments she could make, there are some specific drills that would help her improve, and watching film, while incredibly helpful, is more like a pipe dream. She’d probably start crying again.
And so another game, another opportunity for your athlete to improve is lost.
Situation Two: You have an athlete that played great in a game your team won. She’s smiling from ear to ear and you’re happy to see her hard work pay off. But you also know there are still some very specific weaknesses in her game, things that didn’t hold her back today but certainly will as the competition gets tougher and adjusts their scout later in the season.
So you worry she isn't going to really grow much from this game, this win. The confidence boost is great, but it’s all results-based and you worry when she deals with some adversity again, her confidence will swing back into the negative. Plus, she really needs to keep improving and you aren’t sure she’s very hungry after having such a good game.
Neither situation is ideal. If an athlete plays well, they feel great and move on, losing the opportunity to really look at what they can improve on. If they play terribly, they sulk and don’t want to look at the positive or take actionable steps towards improving the negative.
Unfortunately, so many athletes have no idea how to really improve after competition; it rarely even matters if the competition was ended on a win or a loss. And that equals lost opportunities to improve—opportunities they’ll never get back—opportunities that are literally taken away from them.
According to a Pilot Scholars paper, emotional contagion is “the conscious or unconscious ‘catching’ of emotions from the people with whom one communicates”. For an athlete, those people are the team, and “[the team’s] collective emotions play an important role in determining future team performance.”
So if one team member is beating themselves up, or getting a little too overconfident, you can bet the rest of the team will follow. And that contagion—that sickness of stagnation—won’t stop at the locker room door; it’ll follow your athletes during practice, while they’re socializing, and to other competitions. On one hand, morale could drop, confidence can recede, and wins could die off. On the other, that hunger that your team needs to improve could stagnate.
[Tweet "Fight #stagnation with a post-game routine and never miss an opportunity to #improve."]
Leaving the postgame to chance means emotions will absolutely affect how your athletes respond to the game. Unchecked emotions can be dangerous, disruptive, or altogether damaging.
Luckily, “athletes who are aware of, and are able to effectively implement strategies to [manage emotions] have an advantage over those that can’t or won’t,” according to an article by Sports Performance Bulletin.
Hope is not lost!
At Positive Performance, we teach athletes to use a post-game routine. Win or lose, great or terrible play (and everything in between), our athletes learn to look objectively and unemotionally at their performance.
Getting into a post-game routine takes practice, of course, since emotions run high in sports and it’s hard to ignore them. But performing a routine helps remove those reactionary variables (i.e. emotions) and helps your athletes avoid the consequences of knee-jerk responses, like lashing out, self-blame, losing sight of long-term goals, etc., and the effects that their reactions have on other teammates.
What we really want is a consistent, productive, system to follow post-game.
What we really need is to give these athletes something to DO.
It’s easy: adopt a post-game routine for your team!
In our course, Competition Mastery, our program includes a time-tested post-game routine for you to implement immediately with your team.
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