Handling a Blowout Loss

If you coach sports long enough, the inevitable terrible game occurs. During these competitions, your opponent seems to be flawless, while you on the other hand, are having the worst day of your life. The score is getting out of hand, your best athlete suffers an injury, and the assistant coach gets ejected… Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.

Being on the losing end of a blowout can be embarrassing and demoralizing, but there are things that you can do to minimize the affects.

Be Cool

If you’re a coach, always keep your cool no matter what. I know, that’s a bit easier said than done, and you’re right.

But the last thing you want to happen in a game that gets out of hand is to emotionally spiral out of control. Your players usually respond the way you respond as a coach.

Being cool means to avoid playing out of control or “dirty play.” When players participate in a negative way, they risk injury, suspension and a soured reputation. It is the coach’s responsibility to make sure everyone keeps their composure. If you have an athlete that cannot handle the situation, it’s best to remove him or her from competition, so that they do not compromise the integrity of the game.

Focus on the Positive

No matter how ugly the game looks, there are always positive things that you can focus on. It is counterproductive to mention all the negative that is obviously occurring in a blowout. Pointing out the one or two things that are going well, even if it happened at practice or a previous game will change the attitude of the players. After all, sports are roughly 85% mental.

Concede Gracefully

For any coach that is slightly competitive, this may be the most difficult decision under the circumstances. The obvious goal of a game or match is to win, so admitting defeat can feel completely unnatural; however, when the odds are against you and the possibility of winning starts to dwindle, it may be time to raise the white flag. A great coach recognizes this moment and he or she will do the team justice by changing the pace and accepting defeat. This doesn’t mean that your team should quit or stop trying, but your game plan has to change in order to account for the current blowout.

The best way to do this with dignity is to take out your starting lineup and play the reserves. You can also try taking a less aggressive approach to scoring. The opposing coach will likely respond by bringing in their bench and perhaps taking their foot off the gas a bit.

This relieves the pressure of winning on both teams, and the game can run more or less quicker with an understanding of the eventual outcome.

Games sometimes get out of hand, but that doesn’t mean that you have to as well. Be the leader of your team by behaving with good sportsmanship. Keep fighting to win the game but adjust your style of play to fit the needs of your athletes. You don’t want to risk injury or making a bad experience worse by not handling the situation properly.

Lastly, before throwing in the towel, consider your chances of getting back in the game. You as a coach have to assess the talent, skill and attitude of your team to determine whether or not you can make a comeback. By all means fight to the last second if you can and never give up your chances of winning. On the flip side, don’t allow your pride get in the way of you making a bad choice for your team and risk getting your athletes hurt or scarred more out of the shame that comes with playing out of character. Remember, a loss is just a loss and there will often be another opportunity to rebound and win the next one!


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