No matter how good a player you are and how carefully you prepare for tournaments both mentally and physically, there´s one thing for sure: there will be times when you lose a match. Sometimes it can be very hard to suffer a failure, to accept it and to live with it. When you lose, you´re normally shattered physically. It´s usual to recover quickly, but the mental side can take hard work. Sometimes you play well and lose, other times you play badly and lose. Of course, the most difficult situations are those when you feel you couldn´t give your best and you feel frustration, anger and disappointment. As an athlete I know that losing always includes certain aftermath, but as it´s an unavoidable part of competing the best thing you can do is to learn to handle a defeat, learn from it and move forward wiser and stronger than before.
Here´s my list of tips for moments when you´re feeling down after losing a match:
Right after a defeat you probably feel a need to be alone for a while. Take it. Some of us need hours or even days to understand what happened. How long you need for reflection depends on the expectations you had for the tournament. I think this stage shouldn´t last more than two days.
Avoid talking about your defeat with people who won´t support you. As a player I know that there´s nothing worse than indifference. My advice is that you don´t try to talk about your feelings to people who don´t care – you´ll only feel worse.
Get rid of the negative feelings before analysis
It´s important to let out your frustration. The best thing is to talk to someone who knows you and understands you and your point of view. Once you have eliminated this feeling of frustration and disappointment, you are ready to move on to analyse the match and your game (preferably with your coach) without an emotional roller coaster. Losing is actually an excellent opportunity to learn! You can learn much, much more from a defeat than a victory.
Practice mindfulness applied to sport
The benefits of mindfulness for players of all standards are becoming well-known. In a nutshell, mindfulness means fully focusing on the present moment, learning to stick to it at all times and leaving aside everything related to criticism, judgments and negative thoughts. Mindfulness is a useful tool before, during and after a match. It can be very helpful when you struggle with negative feelings caused by a defeat.
Do not give up your sports practice
If you are a passionate athlete and sport is part of your life, there´s no better way to lift your spirits than to do what you love: exercise. Perhaps you don´t feel like going on the squash court. No problem: start with routine aerobic exercises, which will generate a lot of endorphins (hormones of happiness) and help you start thinking positive. Also, it´s helpful to find time to read, travel or spend time with family and friends.
Everything is relative
I think it´s important not to lose perspective: losing is part of any sport and although it´s not fun, it´s never the end of the world. What distinguishes great athletes is that they have learned to handle defeats and disappointments and to move on stronger than before. As you learn to overcome a defeat more quickly, you will have more time to prepare yourself for the next tournament.