The locker room is silent, heads are hung low and the players are waiting for you to address them — follow these 4 strategies
Pre-game motivational speeches are legendary in our culture. Everyone remembers giving or hearing an epic pre-game speech, which helped fire up the team. These speeches, however, are far and few between and are more suited for Hollywood than anything else. More importantly for your team, what should you say to them after a heartbreaking loss or close defeat? I have had the opportunity to grow as a coach because of some devastating losses. Here are four ways to move on.
1. OWN IT
Be accountable to your players. If coaches don’t admit to poor preparation or game planning, then you can’t expect your players to hold themselves accountable either. More importantly, if you make an emotional mistake (getting a technical foul called in a close game), apologize to your players. If not, then players consider this acceptable behavior.
2. STAY THE COURSE
Reinforce your philosophy, game plan and decision making process after a loss. Communicating these aspects during the scouting report, pre-game and post-game, student-athletes become aware of the how and the why of what you’re doing. If they understand the why, they are more likely to buy-in.
In addition, remind players that, “one loss does not define us” as coaches or players. Reiterate this concept so student-athletes don’t lose personal or team value after a close defeat. Sometimes, the opposition is red hot from the field or your team goes cold at the foul line. It happens. Do not allow players to get discouraged due to game trends or anomalies. Basketball is a game of statistics and usually they shake down to the law of averages.
3. 24-HOUR RULE
The hectic moments after a loss sometimes cloud our judgements. Look at game film first before you criticize your team or turn to drastic measures. Watch the game tape and address the team about their mistakes at practice the following day when emotions have cooled.
There are a couple exceptions: if your team was not prepared when leaving a timeout huddle in a critical, end-of-game situation or if they were not playing hard. Address these situations immediately after the game. You define the culture of your program and what is/is not acceptable.
4. LIMIT YOUR WORDS
To go along with the 24-Hour Rule, limit your words after a close defeat. This lets you be coherent, keeps you from saying something you regret, and allows time for you to meet with assistants and gain their perspective on the outcome.