In any sport, dealing with loss is inevitable. Nobody likes losing. Resilience is a quality that an athlete should possess.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back after experiencing difficulties in your life. In a fighter’s case it is pretty simple: when the going gets tough – “keep punching” a la Rocky. Though everyone deals with loss differently.
Some keep their emotions hidden. Others share their emotions. The process involves a series of emotions. In the end it’s acceptance that the loss does not define your abilities and skill.
There is always someone stronger, faster or fitter than you. High level athletes need to be adaptable in the ring. At times it comes down to which fighter was better on the actual day.
Powerful waves of emotions are generated from winning and losing. It is a task on its own to learn how to ride those waves.
Those who interact with a fighter have their hands full. This might be a partner, parents, siblings, friends, and of course the team mates and trainers. During fight camp, weight cut and finally dealing with the judges decisions, a fighter is a little edgy. They are armed with a shorter trip switch and mental exhaustion.
The supporters of a fighter have a tough job. They walk on egg shells and almost never say the right thing. Yet, they still stick around and support us as best as they can. Athletes and those around are overwhelmed by the waves of emotions. This affects the way they react.
What can you say after a loss? “Better luck next time”, “You can’t win them all”, “You win some, you lose some”. These are some common responses to a loss. However, while fighters know the latter is true, it is not always helpful at that particular moment.
The cliché “you don’t lose, you learn” is true. Your opponent exposes a weakness which in turn gives you something to work on when you return to training.
Advising, teaching and explaining are invaluable at this stage of the process. Instead, research suggests more empathetic responses. However, depending on personality and level of resilience this is not true for all fighters.
I’ve recently spoken with some Australian fighters for their input on what they find most helpful and least helpful post loss.
Both Tom Harvey and Rebecca Bateman support the statement of “the worst thing to hear after a loss is you should have done this or you should have done that.”
“The one thing you don’t want to hear after a loss is that your opponent was the better fighter,” says Scott Wilson.
Cameron Webb says that “the best thing someone can do is remind you that it’s not always about the win, but what you can take away from the fight,”
The worst thing for Joe Comeford is when someone says “bad luck buddy, onto the next one”.
“After a loss it helps to hear that it’s not always the best boxer that wins, tonight your opponent was just able to adapt better in the ring” says Lindon Wotton.
For me, I find pointing out what I did well in the fight helps. However, for me, the most important when I return to training is that my trainer highlights my weaknesses in my fight game. This way I know what I have to do to progress. Receiving “compliments” is great directly after a loss, but after that being aware that you can and have to do better – is the go.
At the end of the day, do what you love. You have the support of those you love and who loves and believes in you.