10 Nov 2023
Sometimes a game or performance just doesn’t go well. It happens to the best of athletes. How you handle a bad game can make or break your performance at the next one. By failing forward, you turn failure into an opportunity to learn and improve.
If you’re a player …
We chatted with Meghna Vinodhram on this topic. Meghna, aka Megs, aka Coach Megs has trained with the Academy since 2016. She’s not only amazing to watch as a player but also as a coach.
She openly shared the challenges she has faced in her basketball journey.
“Dealing with the pressures, the fear of making mistakes, and the habit of comparing myself to others has been a part of my journey,” Megs said.
“These obstacles have sometimes influenced my shot selection, causing moments of hesitation during games.”
“However, I’ve learned from each experience and have grown as a player because of them.” Megs said.
Megs shared the steps she uses to maintain her confidence and quickly bounce back after a rough game or tough loss.
Do something unrelated to basketball
Do something fun to take your mind off the game and your performance.
“I like to first for go for a run and listen to music,” Megs said. “I just have some me-time to process the game.”
Set a time limit on how long you will think about the last game
Having an emotional response to a negative outcome is normal – especially when you invest all your effort and energy into a game.
Set up a time limit (2-hours max) to sit with those emotions. By the end of that time, move on and let it go.
Evaluate your play – watch video
Watching what you did well and what you could do better next time will help you to be prepared for the next game.
“The next day, I like to watch footage from the game and reflect on what went wrong without being negative,” Megs said.
Failing forward - learn and grow from your mistakes
Mistakes can boost an athlete’s motivation levels and encourage them to make improvements.
Think about how you can learn from mistakes made.
“I look for specific areas I can improve on and use that as motivation for upcoming games,” Megs said.
“Setting clear, achievable goals for the next game gives me something to focus on at trainings during the week.”
Use the team around you
Whether that’s your teammates, coaches, friends, family, it’s important for you to have people in your corner to talk to.
“I appreciate my parents offering a listening ear and creating a space where I can freely express my emotions,” Megs said.
“It's important that they avoid criticism and instead focus on my efforts and my highlights in the game.”
Ask for feedback
Another way to learn from your mistakes is to ask for feedback.
“I'm open to constructive feedback when given in a supportive way. Quality feedback that focuses on specific areas for improvement,” Megs said.
If you are having trouble with these steps alone, ask a coach or parent to help so that you can gain more ideas. Make them your own and take ownership of your performance journey.
If you’re a parent …
Losing can be hard, but with strong and consistent support from a parent or guardian, athletes can grow immensely from these experiences.
How parents talk to their young athletes about the game is critical. If handled badly, it can explode into anger and resentment.
Parents, be patient and understanding with your athlete. Most importantly, make it a conversation, not an interrogation.
Respond. Don’t react!
Pick the right time to talk. It’s about reading the emotions. Try and pick up on physical cues. Starting a conversation about their performance when the athlete is exhausted and not ready to listen isn’t helpful.
The difference between responding and reacting is anywhere from a few hours to a day.
Taking the time to respond, rather than react allows you to think through the lessons learned. It also gives your athlete time to process what has happened.
Keep the post-game routine consistent. If your routine is to get ice-cream after the game, do this whether the result was a win or a loss & regardless of whether they scored 20 points or shot 20 air-balls.
Ask good questions & listen
Good questions, go hand in hand with good listening. Open ended questions are the key, as they give your athlete room to express their thoughts and push them to think out loud.
Help them see the light
Help your athlete to see that there were successes wrapped up in the loss. Rather than focusing on what went wrong, highlight your child’s effort, hard work, sportsmanship.
Failing forward – make the experience one to learn from
Re-focus your athlete on the next training session or game. Talk about the lessons learned - What did you learn from this? What would you do differently next time?
Speak with your coach. If there is a part of the game that needs improvement, put together a plan to overcome it. Get your athlete into a goal-orientated mindset.
Laugh a lot & enjoy the game
Silliness is the secret ingredient. Help your athlete find something to laugh about as they progress in their basketball journey.
“I love to watch you play!”
Tell your athlete you love watching them play. Say this to them, don’t assume that they know. And don’t just say it when they win or perform well.
In 2013, the Huffington Post wrote an article about words to use after a game. It revealed that the words college athletes felt best about hearing after a game or competition are simply, “I love to watch you play.”