Making Sense of a Competition That Didn’t Go as Planned: Insights and Reflections

Making Sense of a Competition That Didn't Go as Planned: Insights and Reflections
Written by Frosso Patsou

In the world of sports and competitions, not every outcome goes according to plan. Whether you’re an athlete, a dancer, or a performer, facing disappointments and setbacks is an inevitable part of the journey. In this article, we explore the process of making sense of a competition that didn’t go as planned. We dive into the emotions, insights, and lessons that can be gleaned from such experiences, empowering you to grow and thrive in the face of adversity.

At some point in their journey, most athletes and performers find themselves asking the question, “Why did I lose?” Whether it’s a sports competition, a dance performance, or any other competitive event, experiencing setbacks can be disheartening. However, it is during these moments of reflection that athletes and performers can uncover valuable insights and opportunities for growth.

Perception and critical thinking play a pivotal role in the development and enhancement of an athlete’s or performer’s skills. By analyzing the factors that led to a loss, individuals can identify areas for improvement and take necessary steps to maximize their athletic performance. Self-awareness and a keen ability to assess one’s strengths and weaknesses can be transformative in bouncing back from defeat.

Understanding the intricacies of the competition involves delving into various aspects of the performance, such as technique, strategy, mental preparation, and external factors. Evaluating the effectiveness of each of these elements provides valuable information that can contribute to future success. It’s important to remember that losing a competition does not define an athlete or performer. Rather, it serves as an opportunity to learn, adapt, and come back stronger.

By embracing a growth mindset and utilizing the power of self-reflection, athletes and performers can turn setbacks into stepping stones towards greatness. Analyzing the reasons behind a loss helps in developing new strategies, honing skills, and refining the mental and emotional aspects of competition. With a commitment to continuous improvement, athletes and performers can navigate the challenges of competition and strive for excellence.

Remember, the path to success is rarely linear, and setbacks are an inherent part of any competitive journey. Instead of dwelling on defeat, embrace it as a catalyst for growth and self-discovery. Embrace the lessons learned, make adjustments, and forge ahead with renewed determination. With each setback, you have the opportunity to redefine your approach, strengthen your resolve, and ultimately achieve your goals.

In other words to be able to understand where the result of the match or the competition can be attributed to, whether it was won or lost.

Making Sense of a Competition That Didn’t Go as Planned

In a group, if we ask all 12 players, where can you attribute the victory or defeat of their team, you will hear 3-4 different answers for “performance reasons.”

A typical example is the following:

In a teenage soccer match, a very experienced team played against a newly formed and less experienced team both in terms of coaching as well as in terms of competing. The result was pretty much as expected and the more experienced team defeated their opponents with a relatively large difference.

When the players of the team that lost were asked about the causes of the defeat the following different answers were given:

“It was bad refereeing”
“The course and the weather conditions were not appropriate”
“Our good player was injured and was unable to help the team”
“We were having a bad day”
“We were not good”
“We played well but the others were better.”

It is generally accepted that our understanding of the causes that led to the result of a match greatly influences our actions, our feelings, the way we operate, our confidence and our motivation for the competition and for sports in general.

In the previous example, the first 3 answers virtually transferred the “problem” of defeat to external and uncontrollable (by the athletes) factors. Such answers bring about both positive and negative impacts.

Specifically, we would say that they have an advantage as the athletes’ unconscious behaviour

shows that it protects the “I” and their self-esteem.

Moreover, since the causes of the defeat are external there is an expectation that the situation may change in the next race and thereby this creates new incentives for the next race which allows failure to be overcome much more easily.

On the other hand, if this tactic and the same causes are constantly attributed to the failure, athletes will not try to rectify the situation and learn from their mistakes and they will not try and improve them and finally, they do not learn to accept defeat and the superiority of opponents. It is possible that they are always looking for an excuse to justify the result.

Many times what an athlete calls luck someone else calling capability.

E.G. a tennis player who succeeds in four consecutive games to turn around the 40-0 result, may be, by his / her opponent be considered lucky whilst he/she can consider himself/herself a capable and superior player.

In Sports Psychology the term “Internal control” refers to the ability of an individual to believe that they are personally responsible for what is happening and that the behaviour can affect the outcome. This specific thinking method is the main component for the maximization of the performance of an athlete/performer.

The various theories about the causes of specific performance in sports which had initially developed had shortcomings and gaps until the final theory was formed whereby added was to the already existing origin of control or otherwise causal origin -the term controllability.

Research shows that the most appropriate approach is to attribute the result both internal and controllable factors (stable or unstable).

Internal as I must be responsible for the results. The recognition that success is mine is in a psychological sense preferable to attribute success to an external factor.

Painful but also preferable is to accept responsibility even if I fail because that way I can improve and become better.

Controllable and stable when it comes to winning so I may believe that I can repeat the result and have the abilities and skills so that the next time I will be awarded victory again.

Controllable and unstable when it comes to defeating so I can believe that my attempt failed due to factors that can be changed by my behaviour and my improvement and are not set in stone.

The key is to accept responsibility when I am at fault and believe that this can change because I am able to turn around the next race’s result from negative to positive. Athletes/performers must learn to accept responsibility for their performance, but not at the expense of their self-confidence.

Aerial acrobatics and Pole Dancing are indistinguishable from other types of competition and the feelings experienced by the athlete/performer when he/she is called upon to do what they need to do.


A good competitive appearance should give me the confidence and the ability to act and to conquer via efforts I have made and a bad appearance must motivate me in improving. The fact that certain sports do not have the ability to provide instructions (by the instructor – trainer – coach) during the execution, but only before or after creates a high degree of individual responsibility. Therefore, it may be more of an immediate need to attribute the correct causes to a win or a defeat each time.

About the author

Frosso Patsou

Patsou Froso is a Psychologist, holding a bachelor's degree from Panteion University and a master's degree in Sports Psychology. She has completed a four-year counseling program and specializes in cognitive-synthetic counseling process. Additionally, she holds a bachelor's degree from the Department of Physical Education and Sports Science at the University of Athens. She is a doctoral candidate at Panteion University in the Psychology department.