Losses during the season – Motivation by Mark Schwab

Losses during the season are not catastrophic. In fact a loss can be profitable. Look at a wrestling season as a marathon. Winning a 26 mile marathon is not won at the five, ten or twenty-five mile mark. You don’t even have to lead until you cross the finish line. You can pull away in the last five yards to win. As you grasp this concept, realize competitions are won in this manner all the time. Look also at a wrestling match as a marathon. You have to keep a competitive pace but you can win in the end; it happens all the time.

About Mark SchwabLosses during the season do not matter if you’re competing with fervor, giving yourself every opportunity to achieve victory, willing to take coaching, laboring to improve and keeping a loss in perspective. You have control over two significant cogs-in-the-wheel attitude and effort. Attitude and effort, when at full strength are difference makers. You can win a lot of matches on this alone. And a lot of times a rebounding attitude and complete effort is exactly what’s needed.

A loss in November, December, January, and February is independent from a win in March. Each match is independent from any other match, but you have to stop the bleeding. A lot of this is about being able to separate results, not allow previous results to bleed into future matches and outcomes. I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but when it’s you, it’s not that easy. Never underestimate the power of talking to someone who has gone through it, you trust, or just someone who will listen. A lot of times you have to pay someone to listen but I trust you have support that will listen free of charge if asked. But then you have to talk and let it out. We feel alone or defective when really there are volumes of people around you who have been down the road, understand, willing to help. You find it will pass, but you have to take action and unhook from hopelessness, melancholy, and pessimism.

None of us will ever know the person / competitor we can be without loss, pressure, adversity, etc. Sometimes we need losses or hardship. They act as a turning point for us. The true difference and only “thing” that matters is what an athlete does with a loss. Your opportunity to succeed will present itself again very soon and what you do between now and then is what matters. Some athletes give-in, give-up, quit, let-go, or make excuses, which only weakens them. But others are unaffected, stay even keel, thrive, rise, adjust with defeat, defeat actually makes them better and more effective.

Staying patient, poised and collected is crucial during matches and between matches. Spending time paying attention to your breathing, slowing down, and focusing on the moment, how you’re qualified and capable goes a long ways. Sometimes you have to say what the ….! I’m just going out and do what I do best. The results will take care of themselves. There is too much unnecessary pressure, some from others but mostly self-induced.

What does defeat do to you? Does it break and finish you, or do you become more determined and motivated? How have you handled prior adversity? We all have to answer the bell of difficulty and defeat. Do you just talk or do you move and execute? I encourage you to be a tough warden on movement, progress, and finishing strong.

Remember, time invested wisely can change things. Seasonal losses are not finality or ruinous. They only matter at the time and are quickly over. There is a future date that is much more important. There is always a future date!

Fact is losses during the season are not fatal. What does matter is that you pick yourself up, take note, honestly address what needs to be addressed, seek input and help where needed and make adjustments. A loss doesn’t have to be failure at all, it is just delay. The future has always been up for grabs. What you do will dictate your place in it.

A loss can chip away at your confidence. The thought you need to realize is that your capacity for occasional or frequent defeats can be separate from your capacity to reach your goals.

Frequently the adjustments will be “back to the basics.” Maybe you need to change some behaviors. Exchange them for behaviors that will give you the best opportunity to succeed. There is only going to be ten NCAA Champions and 80 All-Americans, but those could be different week-to-week depending on one’s mindset. Some of the winners would be the same week after week, but for the most part it depends on who puts it together mentally. The athlete who goes out to win, competes to win, and a never deviates is on the right path.

Defeat is nothing but a little education. What happens a lot of times is we shut down, instead of competing to win – going after it. We begin to compete not to lose – we protect. And this is not a strong recipe to succeed. It’s similar to a cat that jumped on a hot stove and burned his tummy. The cat never jumped on a hot stove again but never jumped on a cold one either. The value of experience is crucial. But it can be damaging if it prevents you from trying again or hesitant in your competing.

The message is to help athletes understand results can be so different period-to-period, match-to-match, week-to-week, month-to-month. You may have been knocked down, but there are multitudes of winners who have been knocked down. Without a doubt, a loss can be lucrative.


Mark Schwab is an assistant coach at the University of Northern Iowa. Previously he spent nine years as assistant coach at the University of Minnesota, helping the program to seven top-three team finishes at the NCAA Championships and two NCAA team titles. As a wrestler, Schwab was an All-American for the University of Northern Iowa during the late 1980s. Schwab earned his bachelor’s degree in 1990 from the University of Northern Iowa and his master’s degree from the University of Minnesota in 2003. Schwab returned to the University of Minnesota to get a second emphasis in sport psychology on his existing master’s and completed that in 2010. Email Mark at mark.schwab@uni.edu.

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