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Keeping your Head Up

By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA, CIC

When the final buzzer goes off, one team is the winner and one is the loser. But there is always more to the story than the final score. You can play well and come up short against a more talented opponent. It is also possible that a little bad luck fell your way.

During some seasons—and this happens to even the best of coaches—your team ends up as the loser every time that final buzzer sounds. You become mired in the dreaded losing streak.

What are some ways to cope? The first thing is to remember that in education-based athletics, it isn’t (or shouldn’t be) all about winning. That is not the ultimate goal. Young people can learn and have fun even if the game score is not in their favor.

It also should not ever be about you and your goals. If a losing streak is causing you to lose sleep, you need to re-evaluate why you are coaching high school athletes.

Overall, the key is to focus on being supportive and encouraging with your players. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Do an honest job of evaluating why you lost the game and determine what needs more work. Obviously, this means improving skills and execution, because you will still have the same players with their physical attributes and drawbacks. You can’t change their height or weight and some of your athletes may have limitations with quickness, agility, and other athletic traits. Therefore, figure out what can you change.

Continue to prepare by planning good daily practice sessions and diligently work on things that need improvement. Even if efforts in practice don’t immediately pay off in the next game, it eventually should. It may take until the following season, but perseverance and hard work are essential. You have to set the tone that practicing hard will be rewarded.

Don’t focus on the number of losses that may be piling up. Even though this may be difficult, the old truism of taking one game at a time is what you have to do. The day after any game, you should start to plan and prepare for the next one.

Remain positive and encouraging with your players. As long as they are giving their complete effort, get over your own disappointment and find ways to help them. Being negative with your team isn’t going to accomplish or improve anything. As a teacher, it is your obligation to continue to reassure, support, and nurture your student-athletes. You can’t throw your hands up in a display of giving up, because your team needs your help and direction.

Work on achieving attainable goals in every game. In basketball, for example, it might be as simple as how long can you play without the deficit reaching double figures? Or can your team improve its field goal percentage? Try to decrease the number of turnovers which the team commits. Even in losses, you should be able to document areas of statistical improvement. Game to game, you will be able to see and measure growth.

Use drills to improve the attainable goals that you have developed. For example, you can practice making entry passes for all of your offensive options in order to decrease turnovers. You can also work on dribbling versus defensive pressure and passing out of traps. With these drills, your players will gain more experience and confidence. The end result should be fewer turnovers and a step forward.

Continue to teach life-long values such as sportsmanship, leadership, and being thankful. After all, these aspects are the real foundation and purpose of education-based athletics. Therefore, regardless of the outcome of individual games, no matter how many losses occur in a row, keep working on these incredibly important goals.


David Hoch retired in 2010 after a 41-year career as a high school athletic director and coach. In 2009, Dr. Hoch was honored as the Eastern District Athletic Director of the Year by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. He was also presented with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Distinguished Service Award, and in 2000 he was named the Maryland State Athletic Director Association’s Athletic Director of the Year. Dr. Hoch has authored over 460 professional articles and made more than 70 presentations around the country. He welcomes comments and questions and can be reached at:

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