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Loss into Gain

Four ways you can win when you lose

My team and I left everything on the field after losing to Georgetown in the 2016 NCAA Women’s Soccer tournament. I was heartbroken when the final whistle blew with memories of the entire season flooding my mind.  It felt like all of the early mornings of running sprint after sprint, the soreness from endless weightlifting and training sessions, and pushing each other to be better day in and day out was all for nothing.  

After the game, I tried to stay strong and took a deep breath, saying ‘good game’ to our opponents, but broke down when I saw the devastation in my teammates eyes. Puffy-eyed from crying we all gathered together for one last huddle as our coach told us how proud he was of us, how great of a team we grew to be, congratulating us on the legacy we would leave. 

Losing was a hard pill to swallow especially since the Final Four was going to be held just down the road from our home field here in Silicon Valley. I knew I couldn’t waste my time dwelling on our loss. Now, through time I’ve learned that losing wasn’t such a bad thing after all because I’ve grown a lot through it.

Here are four ways I learned to bounce back from a loss and get back in the game:

Accept defeat
Losing a game is never fun and, if you’re on a team, it’s especially tough if teammates or coaches play ‘the blame game’. The fact is, you can’t go back and change the past or hit the ‘undo’ button as much as you wish you could. Trust me, I tried and it didn’t work. Get over it and remember that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. 

Learn from your mistakes and do better next time 
Use self reflection to look back at what went wrong, and find out what you can do differently next time. I had help doing this with my amazing teammates, supportive coaches, and parents. There were moments from the game that kept bringing me back to thinking “what if” and it was hard to move forward, really hard. Having people to help me get through those thoughts and look at how I could do things better the next time around really helped a lot.

Gain motivation for the next challenge
Whether you decide you need to improve your skills, work rate, or attitude, there’s always something to be learned from a loss. Use the new insight as ammunition. I learned that making mistakes is part of the game, and part of life and that sometimes you are on the losing side. If you fall one day, it doesn’t mean you’re going to do the same thing tomorrow. The best players are those who learn from the past to improve for the future.

Grow a thicker skin
The true test of character is how you respond when you hit rock bottom. In order to get me through to the next phase of ‘recovery’ I chose to look on the bright side even though it was challenging. I focused on the fact that we’d made it to the Elite 8 for the first time in 10 years, even though the Final Four was being played five minutes down the road. My teammates and I even went out to watch and cheer on the other four teams as they played in the tournament. We knew that we belonged down on that field just as much as the other teams but that losses happen.

If I can get through this, so can you. This season was filled with come-from-behind wins, overtime grit, and some upsetting losses, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. I’ve come out a winner and stronger than ever before.

Jenna Roering is in her senior year playing for Santa Clara University’s Women’s Soccer Team. This article first appeared under a different title in USA Today College.

 

 

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