Last week I played in my first game at Providence Park since my concussion. It was just a preseason game, bt I had been waiting 18 months for that moment. Last year, I watched our games up in our team suite. I had to wear earplugs because the noise of the crowd gave me a throbbing headache. Also, tracking my teammates zig-zagging runs invoked neck tension and nausea. By the end of the games, I felt over-stimulated, as if I’d actually participated in the match myself.
My first game playing on Providence Park was a big milestone. I trotted onto the field, feeling a tidal wave of adrenaline and gratitude. Holy crap we out here doin this thanggg! That ecstasy lasted for about 10 seconds, then I was submersed into the game.
35 minutes later, the whistle blew and the game was over.
Our team won. I played my first minutes since my concussion. Yet, instead of being happy, I was swallowing back tears. A rational minded human would think that coming back from an 18 month injury is an incredible feat. But as a lifelong competitive athlete, my performance, in my mind, wasn’t good enough.
I know this is a common theme amongst athletes. We tend to be so hard on ourselves. Our mind instantly re-traces all the things we did wrong, and those feelings of frustration pile up until we think that our life is over as we know it.
But if we take a step back, and allow ourselves to really feel and process everything we realize that:
bad games are inevitable
we most often think we played a lot worse than we did.
even if you really suck it up, excessively drowning in our sorrows is not beneficial
Arrow Tip: How to Bounce Back after a Bad Game
Here’s 6 questions to ask after a “bad” game to get yourself back into a happy place. The key throughout all of this is to play the role of an observant, non-judgmental scientist. Take your time with each question.
What do I feel?
Allow yourself to feel your frustration/sadness/embarrassment and express what didn’t go well for you. I went home, screamed a few times. Kicked my legs like a needy child. And then I worded why I was frustrated…”I am pissed because I blew it. I sucked. My lungs felt like they were going to collapse, my body felt like jello , I slipped on the ball, I dove in on a tackle… Be as real as possible. Curse, punch pillows, scream…do what you gotta do, and take as long as you need, to flush out all the feelings.
What are my beliefs behind this feeling?
In my case:
–That was my one chance to show that I deserve to be here
-My energy sucked, I am never going to be in good enough shape to play
-My coach is going to think I suck and now I’m never going to play
-I am not a good soccer player and don’t deserve to be on this team
-to be frustrated, I have to play a game and it doesn’t go well.
Do I need to believe these thoughts? (Hint: The answer is always No)
What can I believe instead that will allow me to feel at peace with my performance?
Go through each belief, and replace it with a new beneficial belief.
In my case, I reframed:
-Bad games are an opportunity to expose weaknesses and grow
-The only way for me to be frustrated is to play a game, and not learn from it
-The fact that I’m frustrated is a good thing. It shows how much I care about my sport…it’s a good thing
-I can use this frustration as motivation, to highlight areas of improvement, and further hone in on my craft and ball out even more
-the past does not equal the future, just because I had one bad game does not mean I have to feel frustrated
What went well for me in my game?
In my case:
-I played my first game back in 18 months
-I am still breathing
-my team won
-I made several clean passes
-I headed two balls without any symptoms
-I did not actually collapse a lung
This allows us to see that we were likely over-reacting, and might simply need to take a chill pill. In our roughest games, there is always something to be grateful for. Even if it’s as simple as making through the game alive!
What steps can I take to improve next game?
Come up with a few intentions you can make to continue growing as a player. For instance, anytime I make an error on the field, I now quickly say to myself “I love myself, onto the next one.” Yes it’s cheesy. Yes, I actually repeat that to myself. Yes, it works wonders.
The plan can be more action oriented, as well. Examples: show up to training 20 minutes early to work on passing technique, visualize 10 minutes of defending before bed, meet with conditioning coach and put together a fitness program.
I ask myself these questions every time I have a “poor” performance, whether it’s in a game, a training, or any area in my life. It’s a great tool, to get yourself back and motivated to be your best self. The worst thing we can do is dwell on our mistakes. We all have bad games. We all have bad days. Some of us have bad breath. There’s badness all around. But when we embrace the badness, and use it as an opportunity for growths, that’s when we reach the greatness within. And ball out.
Do you have a certain way you cope with bad games? Let me know in the comments!