If players play long enough they are going to lose their share of games and sometimes lose badly. Handling these losses is actually a more important lesson than learning to handle wins. Players' reactions to a loss have a huge impact on long term success.
As painful as a loss can be, after a loss players should:
- Focus on their own contribution to the effort and the things they can improve.
- Not blame teammates. Blaming teammates is a sure way to create team dissension which can poison the remainder of a season.
- Learn from the other team. Steal their best ideas and approaches.
- Lose with class. Sportsmanship is easy after a win, but more accurately reflects the person after a loss.
- Not blame coaches or officials. Blaming those in authority implies a lack of power on the part of the players. Yet, coaches and officials weren't the ones playing the game.
- Ask what they can do to support the team. The more players focus on themselves and the less they focus on the team, the more likely problems will get worse and not better.
- Ask what they can do to support lesser skilled players. By definition, half the players on every team are less talented than the other half. Those players with better skills have a great incentive to see those with lesser skills improve.
- Rally teammates who take the loss harder. On certain teams, positions such as goalie or defensemen may feel they have more responsibility for a loss. Yet every game is a combination of preventing points and getting points. If teams prevent but don't get, they lose just as surely as the reverse.
Losing a game is a chance for players to work on the things they can control while also trying to positively influence the things they do not control. A positive attitude directed toward each gives a player the best chance of turning a loss into a future win.