Saturday, October 24, 2015

Are you a sore loser?

Losing is pretty sucky. I know that from a young age we are told "don't be a sore loser." Who hasn't heard that? Whether or not we're good at losing, or good at dealing with losing, we're going to have to face it in roller derby. The nature of our sport is to have a winner and a loser and some of the time, you are going to lose. So how do you reign in that sore loser instinct?
Photo by A Boy Named Tsunami

1. Congratulate the winners immediately. Don't wait, because that old saying of attitude is gratitude is true. High five the winners, shake their hands, and tell them congrats. You might not mean it, but do it right right right away. Telling the winners congratulation helps take the spotlight off of you at that moment so you can go and nurse your wounds without the world judging your immediate reaction. Unfortunately, people do judge us. In derby, we don't always have the benefit of a nice, quiet locker room where we can possibly sulk or have some privacy. Even if you don't feel like slapping hands at the end of the game, just do it. People notice when you don't partake of the ritual.

2. It's ok to be mad or upset or whatever. Nobody said you can't be pissed off about losing a game; it's ok to be mad and disappointed. In fact, if you weren't disappointed in losing, you probably weren't busting your ass during practice. You are allowed to feel bad about a loss, but feelings aren't actions. Don't ACT on your feelings, but you are allowed to have them. The winners are allowed to have feelings of pride, so the losers of a game can feel disappointment, anger and sadness.

3. Give yourself a buffer. It's hard to work through negative emotions at an after party where people are celebrating, drinking, and carousing. If you need space, give yourself some space. There have been times in my derby career when I didn't go to an afterparty because I didn't want to be a smoldering wet blanket so to speak.  Sometimes you can create a safe buffer space at an after party with quieter people, or teammates who understand that you need some time to get over the loss.

4. Consider what kind of impact this loss has on your reality. Are you going to get a smaller paycheck? Nope. Are you going to be punished? Nope. We used to kid around and say "we're docking your pay" when someone was taking a loss particularly hard. Yes rankings count. Yes hard work and practice counts, but still in the end, it's not cancer. It's a game. It doesn't change who you are as a human being, unless you let it.

5. Celebrate your victories, even if they were small. It is a rare thing to play a game without any redeeming moments. You know you did something right during the game you lost. Pay attention to the things you did that were positive and worth celebrating. Whether it was sticking with your wall, performing a functional juke or even a killer plow stop. Don't forget the good things you and your team did, even if you lost.

6. Remember, we learn more from losing than winning. It sucks but it's true. I was listening to Neil DeGrasse Tyson on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me today, and he lost the game they made him play. They were giving him a bit of a hard time, but he said "If I didn't get those questions wrong, I wouldn't have learned anything today." He's one of the smartest people in popular culture, and if he can accept and learn from being wrong, you can learn from losing a game. How many times has your team won a game and you thought "It just clicked." What did you learn from the magical "clicking." Nothing repeatable, at least not as repeatable as the lessons you learn from loss.

Still, losing isn't fun at all, but you can have a different attitude about it. Learn from your losses and let them make you mighty, instead of tearing you down.

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