Learning from the defeats

Last Thursday night we fell short of qualifying for the Euros 2021 when Slovakia beat Northern Ireland 2-1 after extra time. When an opportunity like this presents itself and you just fall short, it’s a hard one to take.

The build up to this game was brilliant, everyone who was in camp was fresh and ready to go. The players, coaching staff and medical team did everything they could to get the team ready for this battle.

Games like this come down to small margins and that’s what happened last Thursday night. Two mistakes led to Slovakia’s goals and missed chances from us at the other end – including hitting the post – meant we didn’t get the result we wanted.


Understandably the mood in the camp was low. People may have been thinking they could have done more; they may have also looked at blaming others sometimes and this is a natural reaction after a defeat.

But once the physical and emotional knocks and bruises have settled, it’s time to bounce back. The beauty about football is that you don’t have to wait too long to get another chance with the next game against Austria on Saturday (this game will have been played by the time this article will be published) and Romania on Wednesday night. We as a coaching team will do everything we can to make sure the players are ready both physically and mentally to perform in these games. A lot of it will come down to the players. How will they react?

One approach that we will be taking in the lead up to the next few games is looking at the positives. What did we do well? What was good about our preparation? Once we focus on this we will be in a better frame of mind to look at the areas in which we can improve and what solutions we can come up with as a staff and as players.

This situation can be related to your own health and fitness goals. What happens when you are faced with defeat? How do you react?

Is it a case of blame or is it an opportunity to build resilience?

Our defeats can come in many shapes and sizes. It may be something as simple as having a lie-in rather than getting up to go to the gym or eating that extra bit of food which you know you didn’t really need. These are the small defeats that we can either dismiss as nothing or start to blame and make excuses for them.

‘I was too tired to get up’ or ‘someone put the extra bit of cake in front of me.’ These things will happen and continue to happen if we don’t take action and turn our old habits into new ones.


Let’s use sleeping in rather than getting up to go to the gym as an example. We need to look at what habits can we change so this doesn’t keep happening. The first thing you should look at is your preparation.

What time are you going to bed at? Have you
developed poor habits like watching TV or looking at your phone before you try and sleep?

This could be having a negative affect on the quality of your sleep and how you feel when you wake up.

Instead replace this habit with reading a book, writing or listening to some relaxing music to help the body and mind switch off before you nod off. Another habit that may be helpful, is to set your gym clothes out and ready to put on once you wake. This is one less task to think about when you first rise.

To help motivate you to get out of the bed in morning you could set your alarm outside your room so you have to get up to turn it off or have an accountability partner.

Someone who you know will be on your back if you decide to miss your morning gym session. It doesn’t matter what ‘defeat’ you are faced with. You can review the process and take new action, so you don’t make the same mistake again.

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