How Do You Handle The Heartache Of A Season-Ending Loss?

This season I was a varsity assistant coach at Blue Valley Northwest in Overland Park, Kansas. Due to having a great group of kids and a very good coaching staff, we were fortunate enough to make it to the 6A Kansas boys' state championship game. We faced a Wichita Heights team who were ranked in the top 25 nationally in almost every poll and even as high as #9 in some polls. The boys battled all game and came back from an 11 point deficit to tie the game up with a few minutes left. We even had a few chances to take the lead late in the 4th quarter, but the ball just didn't bounce our way and we ended up losing by 7 points.

Even after finishing 2nd in the state, the kids were really down after the game. And like us, many coaching staffs have to face many tearful faces in the locker room at the end of a season.

So what do you do? What do you say? Here are some ideas:
  • Teach life lessons. Up until the very end of the year, it's very important to continuously teach life lessons. You can emphasize all the core values (honesty, teamwork, hard work, etc.) that talked about throughout the year and possibly give them quotes to back them up. It'd be nice to have some quotes ready for a loss and for a win.

    Here are some great quotes for perseverance:

    "The true measure of a man is not how he behaves in moments of comfort and convenience but how he stands at times of controversy and challenges."
    - MLK

    "Why do we fall? -- So we can learn to pick ourselves up."
    - Batman Begins

    "The only real failure in life is one not learned from."
    - Anthony J. D'Angelo

    "When you are down on your back, if you can look up, you can get up."
    - Les Brown

    "In order to succeed, you must first be willing to fail."
    - Anonymous

    "Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently."
    - Henry Ford

    "When the world says, "Give up," Hope whispers, "Try it one more time."
    - Unknown

    "Fall seven times, stand up eight."
    - Japanese Proverb

    "Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did."
    - Newt Gingrich

    "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."
    - Albert Einstein

    "Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go."
    - William Feather

  • Tell them you are proud of them. Most teams pour their heart into the final few weeks of the season. The great ones pour their heart into their entire career. Either way, you should tell them that you are proud of them.

  • Focus on the good qualities of the players. Most likely, each kid that is still in your program has some good qualities as a person. You should tell each player about their good qualities whether it is in front of the team or individually.

  • Tell them that you love them. Our head coach was always great at reinforcing that we love each other on and off of the court. Showing support and love for people helps them get through tough moments.

  • Focus on good things that happened during the season. We were fortunate, because we ended the season 23-2 which was a school record and we got 2nd in the state. Even if you don't have a great season, there are certainly highlights that happened during the season that you can talk about.

  • Be there for them. Tell the kids that you're there for them and that if they ever need anything, they need to let you know.

  • Put things in perspective. Even though the loss is tough, you need to let the kids know that worse things happen in life. We're very fortunate to be able to play a game that we love. And we need to realize that in relation to things like the Japanese earthquake, this is very minor.

What are some things that you have done to help the kids get over a season-ending loss? Please add your input.


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ACDC says:
4/6/2011 at 1:00:25 PM

We lost in double OT in our conference championship after being ranked number one in the country all but one week. It was devastating for me and the team. My talk at the end was nothing but positive and hit a lot of the points above. There were lots of tears and frustration from the players. but we had to focus as there was a bronze medal game the following day which nobody wanted to play but we had too. I could have easily put blame on players for not following our defensive priciples during the game that we had practiced all year.{ball side Help on dribble penetration} But what will that solve. That will be for the returning guys next year to remember the pain of the loss.


sachoopcoach says:
3/23/2011 at 1:59:15 PM

When we qualify for the state tourney in California, we always tell our players that only one team wins the last game of the season. Everyone else loses their last game. I kinda puts in persepective the accomplishment of getting there.


henry says:
3/23/2011 at 12:16:10 PM

as an assistant coach to 17U,14U,12U and 10U it was difficult to see our junior team dropped from the quarterfinal after sweeping our elimination assignments. The 12U was worst as we were beaten in the semis. The aspirant was a heartbreaker missing the semis due to lowest quotient in the q''''final triple tie. The 10U missed the next round after losing 3 games in the elims.our head coach said he was proud of them all. i told them it is not the end of the world. we'll work harder this summer, join as many tournaments , so that when school opens, we're just as hard as rock and ready to get back at our tormentors.


Coach Anthony says:
3/23/2011 at 10:35:24 AM



Joe Rossino says:
3/23/2011 at 9:26:09 AM

Hi. Here is the message I put out today after our first round upset in the play offs:

Hi Guys. The banquet will be held at the civic center on March 27th. I don''t have the time yet. I will let you know as soon as I do.

Hey, what can I say? I thought you guys played a good game Sunday. Passing was good, defense was good. Everyone touched the ball and shot plenty of times. Everyone tried the best that they could and that''s all I (or anyone) can ask for. All you can do in life is just try the best you can. If you do that, then there is nothing to regret - nothing to look back on and say: "I should have done this, I should have done that". In sports, even though you try your best - you can lose a game. It happens all the time and you know what? It''s no big deal. All you can do is get up, practice your skills and try again. It''s nothing to get stressed out about and nothing to be upset about. The reality is last Sunday, the ball just didn''t fall in for us. It was in and out of the rim all day - not because lack of effort or teamwork...just bad luck.

Well, I hope you all had fun and enjoyed the season. You are a great bunch of kids and you all improved so much and did a great job . I had a great time teaching you. I hope to see all of you playing next season.

See you at the banquet.

Coach Joe.


Claire says:
3/23/2011 at 8:21:38 AM

Our middle school girls lost in the second round of playoffs. Tough loss. Really bad refs. The school principal was there and I asked if he would say a couple of words. It made a HUGE difference for the girls to hear encouragement and that their principal was so proud of them. I think having any teacher or school official they really respect telling them how proud they are makes a big difference.


francis mwangi says:
3/23/2011 at 3:53:55 AM

this is good advice, i lost two games and my team was really down, your advice greatly helped.(kenya)


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