May 4, 2018
Handling Disappointment
David Hoch

At the end of every game, one coach has won and another has lost. When you are the losing coach, even if your team played hard and lost to a superior team, it’s normal to feel slightly disappointed. And then there are the times when your team makes foolish mistakes and loses badly, and you feel extremely (as opposed to mildly) disappointed. In either event, after investing a great deal of time and effort into preparing for the game, your feelings would be understandable.

And unfortunately, losing a game isn’t the only source of disappointment in coaching. Perhaps a former player doesn’t come out for the team, and this comes as a total surprise, or an injury disrupts what could have been a promising season, or you encounter other frustrations and setbacks. Even though watching young people grow and develop can be exciting and rewarding, coaching comes with the possibility of disappointment.

However, it is important to learn how to get over the emotion of disappointment, because your players look to you for support and leadership. No matter what happens, you need to get back up and begin to prepare for the next contest. The following are some suggestions for overcoming a letdown:

Analyze a loss. When you lose a game, honestly evaluate the reasons why. Was the other team simply more talented? Or did your team make too many mistakes? Most of the time, it is not difficult to figure out why your team came up a little short. However, determining the reasons is an important step so that you can go back to work improving skills and execution.

Set a time limit. Give yourself the evening to stew about a loss, but that’s it. By the following day, you need to be a positive, supportive presence for the players.

Walk it off. If the weather permits, get outside and get moving. The release of endorphins during exercise has a mood-lifting effect and does wonders to help dissipate disappointment and frustration.

Remember your role. You are the adult. As the coach, you are in charge and you have a responsibility to help your players. You have to rise above personal disappointment and focus on the needs of your team.

Figure out what’s in your control. When it comes to disappointments outside of losses, look carefully at the situation and determine whether there was anything else you could have done to prevent the problem. It is important to remember that some things are simply beyond your control. And if something is out of your control, move on as soon as possible. Focus on the issues that you can change and improve!

Focus on the future. Remember that tomorrow will be a new day with a clean slate and fresh start. This is good advice not only for athletics, but for life as well. Beyond reviewing mistakes in order to develop a plan to improve, dwelling on disappointing outcomes is not beneficial. Each new day is a great opportunity to move forward.


David Hoch retired in 2010 after a 41-year career as a high school athletic director and coach. In 2009, Dr. Hoch was honored as the Eastern District Athletic Director of the Year by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. He was also presented with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Distinguished Service Award, and in 2000 he was named the Maryland State Athletic Director Association's Athletic Director of the Year. Dr. Hoch has authored over 460 professional articles and made more than 70 presentations around the country. He welcomes comments and questions and can be reached at: [email protected]


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