“A setback is a setup for a comeback”
As our unbeaten team made our way to Hickory on Saturday, defeat was far from everyone’s mind. It was a game that everyone was talking about following last year’s South Atlantic Conference Tournament and this year’s pre-season predictions. Unfortunately, our performance did not match those expectations and we found ourselves on the wrong end of a 4-0 scoreline. Results like this hurt for everyone associated – for the players, for the staff, and for all those who made the trip in support of the team. The scoreline, the performance, and the occasion all contribute to make the walk off the field to the locker room long and desolate. This is the dark side of sports. Winning is great. The thrill of winning a Conference Tournament. The sense of accomplishment after a tough victory on the road. The beaming smiles during post game interviews after a win at home. But it is the loses where you are scrutinized and can have a bigger impact on your journey. The locker room on an occasion like this is not a nice place to be, as everyone sits in silence and asks the same question: “what next?”
“What next” is where our focus and work now take center stage. To be an athlete you have to deal with setbacks. It comes with the territory. In our program, we have high expectations on the soccer field and in the classroom, so it is inevitable that some days we will fall below those lofty expectations. The critical part is how we react to setbacks and this is where our attitude and character are hugely important. In our program excuses never enter our post-game talks so the reality of the situation is always at the top of our agenda. We get over it, so we can get on with it. We seek solutions, not blame – as blame serves no constructive purpose. Having strong characters and good people in your program can help you manage these situations, and that is where I believe we have an advantage. This will not be the first time the Lady Bulldogs have faced a challenge or any adversity, so the response is inevitable: strong and positive. The disappointment of Saturday will be replaced by smiles and enthusiasm before we begin our next session today. Enjoyment is part of our agenda – both in terms of playing the game and spending time with teammates.
From a coaches point of view, our program will be a “Panic Free Zone” this week. Negativity can carry on to the practice field in the form of mindless running and laps of the field. That will not happen on Monday afternoon or any other time. Recovering from a loss is about finding ways to do things better, which does not always equate to doing more work. We analyze our performance and find out the main areas to focus on as well as identifying the right things that will generate the correct frame of mind for the players. The practice field will always be our place that we work with a purpose and intensity that we look to bring in to every game. When things get tough, we believe in doing the little things right. We will focus on executing each fundamental with single-point attention. Instead of focusing on results, we will do each step of the process to the best of our ability – and make sure we stay positive. The performance is always the main priority so we focus on the controllables: our work rate, our attitude, our attacking play and our defending. If we aim at continual improvement, the results will take care of itself.
With Conference games coming thick and fast, this is a huge week for our program. We do not have time to ponder the game on Saturday because Wednesday’s game is right around the corner. But we will not be side-stepping any issues. Defeat shows us our weaknesses and mistakes in a way that victory masks. Championships are given out at the end of the season because teams who can deal effectively with setbacks along the way deserve them. We will have more setbacks to deal with during the season and who knows when they will come. The most important thing for the Lady Bulldogs is that these setbacks are dealt with in a positive manner and with everyone on board. Defeat is only a disaster if we let it be. I cannot wait until practice today to see how we respond!