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  • Writer's pictureTaylor Cook

Validating Progress in a Losing Season

performane evaluation sheet, checkmark excellent

There is nothing more frustrating or challenging for athletes than finding and validating their progress during a losing season. 

From a young age, athletes are conditioned to rely on external results, rewards, and praises to validate their performance and worth as an athlete and even as a person. We see it in both athletics and academics. In sports, coaches have been known to give more attention to athletes that excell for their age and place a huge emphasis on winning results. In school, teachers offer gold stars to the students that excell and parents typically focus on their childrens final report card grades.

People's feelings of success and worth are constantly being validated on the external and uncontrollable factors rather than building internal and controllable measures.

As a goaltender, I frequently felt the weight of a loss on my shoulders and would internalize a team loss as a personal failure. Many athletes respond in similar ways because they learn to become reliant on external validation at a very young age - looking to their parents, coaches, and teammates to confirm whether they have done a good or bad job. They wait for a pat on the back, to be told they are talented, to win a gold medal, or other awards and praises to feel that they are doing well. When athletes become solely reliant on external factors to validate their performance it negatively impacts their overall motivation, confidence and resiliency.

Now more than ever, it is vitally important that coaches and parents start teaching their athletes and kids how to build their own internal measures of success and begin validating their own performance. Help them search for the positive feedback in their performance - where they did well - and find the opportunities for growth - what they can do better. This is a controllable factor that will allow them to sustain their levels of motivation, build confidence and resiliency, and most importantly are transferrable to all areas of life.

Building Internal Validation

What does success mean to you?

The first step to building internal validation as an athlete is deciding what success actually means to you. Instead of basing your definition of success off of external factors such as wins, goals, assists, points, championship titles, try looking inward at how you feel when you are performing at your best. Those internal measures will tell you a lot more about how you are performing than any win will.

Create self-accountability.

There is always feedback that can be gathered from every performance - win or lose. Whether you are an athlete or a coach, if you find yourself feeling down or questioning your efforts after a loss or a losing season, remember to take a step back and look for the progress you have been able to make in that game or season. 

First, find the positives in yours or your teams performance. Look at what went well - no matter how big or small. Identify where you showed up in a strong way and where you were able to see some improvements from previous performances. 

Next, identify the opportunities for growth. Look at where you or your team struggled. Was it an isolated incident or consistent throughout the performance? Was it a specific skill or move? Was it a specfic type of play? Try to find the weak points and where you can and want to improve moving forward.

Work with a mental performance coach.

If you or your athletes are struggling with the mental side of the game, reach our and find support! The best way to do this is to search for a mental performance coach. Every athlete and team is constantly searching for ways to get the edge on their opponents. It used to be personal trainers, nutritionists, and specialized skill coaches - all of which offer significant benefits - but has since become the norm across many sports. That edge now lies in the athletes mental game.

If you'd like to learn more about mental performance coaching for your athletes, book a complimentary consult.

This newsletter is in association with The Athletic Mind podcast. Be sure to listen to this weeks episode, Validating Progress in a Losing Season.


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