Whether it’s a professional club team or the local U-11 youth team – Nobody likes to lose. It causes disappointment and frustration, yet it could still be the foundation for your future success. Susanne Amar, founder of the blog “Gone into the net”, writes about what she has learned about the “connection between success and failure” in more than a decade of soccer.

A few days ago, an acquaintance who is a die-hard BVB fan told me about her terrible evening during the DFB Cup final last summer. She suffers and fumes with “her” team. She gets wasted after the penalty shoot-out and defeat of Dortmund, and feels accordingly the next Sunday morning.

When a fan already suffers so much, then how do the players feel?

The eleven from Atlético Madrid that lost the finale of the Champions League. The team from VfB Stuttgart and Hannover 96, who had to say “Bye bye 1st Division.” The ladies from 1.FC Cologne that exit the Women’s first divsion. The boys of the U19 from Fortuna Cologne, who after one year in the Youth Bundesliga busy themselves in an Intermediate league. The players from SF Hamborn 07, whose exit from the C-Junior Region League West is sealed. Or Julian Brandt, Sebastian Rudy and Karim Bellarabi, who swept Jogi Löw out of the roster for the European championship in France. Also, Marco Reus, who, due to injury, missed the 2014 World Championship two times, but was also not present at the European Championship in 2016.

In competition, there is always a winner and a loser. That’s just a part of the game. Right at the end of the season, the frustration and disappointment is great for many. Shed tears after a missed victory. Explanations are sought after, why it wasn’t won, i.e., “could-a, should-a, would-a.” Trainers lose their jobs because they aren’t successful.

In sports, there is a theory:

"Without failure, there is no success!"

The youngest example is Borussia Dortmund…in the 2014-2015 season, they stood at 18th place at the end of first half of the season, and ended the Bundesliga on 7th place. People speculate and analyze. Were players like Götze and Lewandowski missing? Was Jürgen Klopp still the trainer in whom the team had confidence? Does the squad still have the motivation to play for the championship? Shortly before the end of the season, Kloppo declared his resignation, after which the team start winning a couple of games and, under Thomas Tuchel in the following season, somehow everything is better. That’s the impression an outsider would get. Were these bad months the valley for Dortmund, through which they had to go in order to now be successful again? What worked this transformation within the team is pure speculation that we won’t ever really know. In any case I would have loved to be a fly on that wall…:-)

The motivational coach and former basketball coach Christian Bischoff spoke about the concept of polarity in an interview in the magazine “Sportsfreund,” [German magazine] 12/2014:

[…] it always has two sides. There cannot be success where there is no failure. It is also a simple rule, that anytime you are very high, then at some point you have to come down again […]

For him, defeats are important in order to get really good. Success doesn’t come instantly, but is a path you travel to arrive at a goal. From his time as a basketball coach, he knows that before any large success, a depression must come first. Not officially confirmed, but here and there so-called “false depressions” can be created by the coach. The coach strategically sets up the team so that the probability of defeat in a game is bigger than usual. This situation should lead to a new kind of alertness of the group and shows if the team is ready for “the big games.”

For each of us it doesn’t have to be the big sport goal as in professional sports. We have our small goals. When we’re honest, it’s the difficult moments and the failures that are the situations from which we take the most experience – positive as well as negative. In the moment, we may not always be aware of it, but with a little distance it becomes clearer to see. When everything’s going well and everything is “peachy-keen,” then we don’t take the slightest thought as to how, why, or for what reason something is the way it is.

However, a defeat or failure is difficult, painful, frustrating, leaves pieces of you destroyed on the floor and makes you doubt yourself – no matter your age.

What do such moments mean for young soccer players

The seven-year-old that is frustrated because he gets substituted and can’t keep playing? The kicker from the U14 that just can’t make a lasting impression in tryouts? The player from the U’15, who misses the penalty kick? Or the goalie who can’t defend the decisive goal?

They’re done with the world. They don’t want any instructions and above all no sayings like “It went badly, but in order to have success, such failures happen in life…” As a mother, I see myself in the role of one who gets involved in my son’s live and sees what he needs. The shoulder to cry on, the short hug to show that “I’m here,” being together without the need for talking or conversation? I don’t know, as every situation needs its own approach. But I also need to be able to recognize when he doesn’t want anything from anyone and just wants to be alone. When he doesn’t need me…

To a sportsman, the multiple competitions are the gauges of success and defeat. In normal life, we engage in many small “fights” with ourselves, with our environment that allows us to experience highs and lows. We cannot change them, but we can learn to live with them. They release energy and impulses. The mature use these moments to expose and discover themselves, and how they can help me on my way to the goal next time is individual for everyone and needs time.

In Mid-February, the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League will begin. And as sure as the “Amen” in church, there will be winners and losers. And for individual players and teams it means: “To be successful, there has to be a depression first…”

This article was written by Susanne Amar, founder of the blog, “Ins Netz gegangen” [“Gone Into the Net”]. Find more info on her website (in German) or on our Blog.

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