How do you deal with failure in sports? It’s one thing to have your personal method of coping, you over-analyse mistakes, vow to work harder on some aspects and, eventually, accept that sometimes your competitor has the upper hand. However, when a team is involved, the dynamic shifts completely and, suddenly, criticisms are volatile territory.

Unfortunately, last Monday, the Barons were faced with this very situation. Playing with the same passion, drive and determination as usual, we were focussed and ready to steal another victory. However, the MK Knights First Team were too and occupied the step in front of us with consistency throughout the game. A decision to pull the plug in the final few minutes paved the way to a final score of 82:68.

Although my Journalism lecturer stresses the importance of impartiality, I also know full well where my loyalties lie and feel quite (very) bitter towards some of the decisions called throughout. I won’t elaborate because it isn’t sportsman like, it isn’t what this post is about and, above all, I can’t tell my ‘lay ups’ from my ‘rebounds’ so would make an utter ass out of myself 😊

The minutes after the game were sombre, I mean really damn depressing. Again, being outside of the team has its benefits, but that night, the periphery was not a space I wanted to occupy. Heart-breaking doesn’t even come close. One quality I can fully vouch for with the Barons is their sense of team and commitment, when things appear to fall apart, it hits them hard; their pride also speaks volumes, they keep their cool (well, sometimes… Chimere’s bargaining with the ref often being the exception… sorry Bud) and never fail to share the time after the buzzer with the opposition, be it congratulating or commiserating. So, here is my first mechanism of coping with failure, be a Baron. You don’t have to be happy, or even content, with the decision, but acceptance is key and sportsmanship prevails more than you could imagine. These guys have a ‘forgive and forget’ mentality which keeps their spirits high and creates a clean slate for the next game. The worst thing you can ever do is hold a grudge, it neither helps your preparation nor makes you a team player; all the team are hurting and your self-pity only adds a selfish weight that is not productive.

Second up is approaching the concept of constructive criticism without being so critical that your teammates hold hostility towards you or too constructive that you create a false sense of security and cushion the blow of their slip-ups. But, at the end of the day, we are only human so don’t be too harsh, that’s not what we’re all about. So, who approaches the task? The coaches, the captain, the players? As a primary foundation, it is strongly proven that whoever it is must have the respect of the players. As human beings, we don’t listen to those we don’t respect. Aside from that, I personally don’t believe there has to be a ‘designated’ deliverer of criticism. In all honesty, I’d have them all sit down and lay into each other to see what really surfaces- but I think that’s part of my deep-rooted twisted sense of humour. It’s also vital to know your players, how they think, how they play, their strengths, their weaknesses, and most importantly, know them as individuals. You cannot approach the outgoing, risk taker the same way you would, the unconfident reservist. Balance, balance, balance. Remember that words take a while to build us up, but they can pull us down so quick it’ll leave you in a daze.

Finally, although not to do with recovery, is the importance of maintaining focus to the end. When the outcome of Monday’s game became apparent into the fourth quarter, a few of the guys lost focus, whether through fatigue or abandonment, and tactics became disjointed. I always rave about the unit the Barons create, they are locked in with each other mentally and you can almost feel this collective shield around them. However, the negative prediction of the outcome saw them stepping outside of their headspace and theoretical shield; their thoughts were no longer parallel, which meant their game was equally individual. You train, work on tactics and run through plays until it’s in your blood, but the game itself is a mental process and takes a lot more concentration than the physical requirements ever would. This may seem a little harsh (sorry guys), but this is what I see. I know with all my heart that you can master the mental preparation, heck you’ve been doing it all term, but you just need to have trust in each other until the end.

This goes out to the one’s that doubt themselves. Your teammates have you, trust in them and don’t opt-out of that mental connection.

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