Dear Coach Bryant:

My son was super excited that a coach from one of his target colleges was coming to watch him fence. Sadly, the coach actually watched him lose.

Now we’re not sure whether the school will still be interested. Do you think this loss will impact the coach’s confidence in recruiting him? 

Anxious in Atlanta

Dear Anxious:

I am sure your son is disappointed. However, the fact that your son lost may not necessarily impact his recruitment. Losses are inevitable. How your son handles a loss will leave a lasting impact on the coach. Here’s what I tell my student athletes in such situations: 

  • Seek feedback. Follow up with the coach to get feedback on your performance. Show your eagerness to learn. Coaches are not only looking at how athletes compete, but how they respond. Ask for insights. Then carefully listen to what the coach says, and value that feedback.
  • Accept responsibility. Don’t make any excuses about what led to your loss. Coaches know what they are looking for. They know what they are seeing. If you were playing against someone at a higher level of play, the fact that you did your very best will impress the coach more than if you had a big win against a lesser opponent. Even if that’s not the case, never blame anyone else (or anything else) for the loss.
  • Demonstrate sportsmanship. A loss is an opportunity to be a graceful loser. Coaches are watching how you respond and how you treat everyone around you, including your opponent. Win or lose, positive behavior makes a great first impression.
  • Maintain perspective. College recruiting operates on a scaled system. It may be that you lost against someone that coach could never effectively recruit, because your opponent is being recruited by higher-tier schools. Or, that coach might unsuccessfully recruit your opponent, leaving you the next in line. Just because you lost doesn’t mean you’re out of the running.

The Reality

You can only control what you can control. The one thing an athlete can always control is his or her effort and attitude. While we may not know everything this coach is looking for, I can assure you that every coach is looking for excellent effort and positive attitude. By exemplifying both, your son might be able to turn this short-term loss into a long-term win.

All the best,

Amy