We all have to deal with losing at some point or another, but like most things in life, there are appropriate ways to handle it. If you are a coach, here are seven things you can keep in mind when your team doesn’t win.

1. Be their strength. I know it sounds much easier than it actually is, but this rule could also apply when your cheerleaders are on the mat. A stunt fell, someone is off, another forgot their spot. Whoops–it happens. I can guarantee that they already realized they messed up, and the first thing they are going to do is look to you. When their name gets called at a competition for any place other than first, they are going to look immediately to you, too. Put a big smile on your face. Nod at them. Assure them, without even having to speak, that it is okay. They are probably around you so much that you have developed telepathic communication. Use it for the greater good.

2. Have a pep talk. There is a time and place to dissect everything that went wrong; immediately following a loss is not that time. Tell them that you are proud of them, and that you’ll get the trophies next time. That’s what we coaches are here for–to make sure they DO get them next time. Wait until practice to go over the competition, if you even do it at all. The loss is a negative; it’s best to throw positives at them to keep their spirits up.

3. Explain the score sheets with parents and cheerleaders. Instead of me telling my team what went wrong, I show them. I explain what each score means, I read them what the judges wrote. It just makes a better connection for them if they understand what happened. That outside voice tends to give them more motivation to get the job done.

4. Have some fun. Yes, practicing and fixing all the mistakes are what is on your mind, but the sting can linger. If you notice your cheerleaders getting frustrated, break it up. Let them dance it out, shake it out, cry it out–whatever it takes to allow them to feel comfortable and happy again!

5. Take ownership if it’s on you. I am the first person that will admit if I didn’t put in enough, or if I felt something was legal that actually wasn’t. It’s easy to blame the cheerleaders themselves, and, yes, it can be their fault. However, chances are you haven’t always been 100%. Could you have encouraged them more? Maybe talked a bit nicer to them? Did you leave out a few stunts because you didn’t think they were ready for them? It’s okay if you did, just don’t put false failure on those who are looking up to you. Also, don’t allow them to point fingers at one another. It’s different if you pull someone to the side to help them with a problem area, but don’t shame them in front of everyone, and do not allow others to shame them either. There is no ‘I’ in ‘team’; if they lose, they lose as a team.

6. Let them feel like they have a say. The routine isn’t going well… why? Have you ever sat down and asked them what was going on? I have noticed that ever since I started to do that, my cheerleaders have been a lot more responsive. We address direct problem areas to clear up any confusion. Let them pick a song they like for the routine, and allow them to have a say so (or, think they do) in the routine. “What do you think about this?” Odds are, they’ll tell you that they love it. They will feel special that they helped you in making their routine, and they’ll want to give their all.

7. Remember, it’s not the end of the world. It’s not the first time a loss happened, and it definitely won’t be the last. We have off-days, we have rough practices. It is okay. Pick your head up, wipe their tears (and your own), and try again. Take it easy on the self-hate, and the finger pointing, and just breathe. There is always next time.

How else can coaches shake off a competition loss? What worked for your team? Share your stories in the comments!