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How To Break Out Of A Losing Streak
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Arrgh, another passed ball, another loss.
"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do." -- Steve Jobs

This quote has got me thinking on an unrelated subject: how to break out of a losing streak (in sports or life). One of my kids is on a team that is 0-for this year. I think they are clearly better than they show on the field, but they always seem to find a way to blow it. Their lack of self-confidence is visible to everyone.

So how do you break out of a losing streak? Like Steve Jobs said, I think you first have to be crazy enough to believe--to ignore the reality of what has happened in the past and actually believe this time it will be different. You have to believe that even though that other team looks bigger, faster, and more skilled--you really can beat them this time.

But wait. One definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and expecting a different result, so perhaps it’s not enough to believe in yourself. You also have to do something different—like Jobs said you have to change things. In a sports context, you have to avoid all those little mistakes you’ve made in the past and put it all together. How do you do that? Three words: Practice, practice, practice.

I think back to a time in high school when we were facing a big rival who'd beaten us 12 years in a row. 12 years! Theirs was a bigger city and a bigger school. They players were usually bigger and faster. Somehow our coaches made us believe we could do it and got us super-motivated...and we did it! We whipped ‘em good. I’ll never forget that night.

What did we do differently? The years have erased my memory of the little details, but I remember working really hard at practice that week before the game and our coaches did some motivational tricks that got us really fired up. In the game, we simply avoided the mistakes we’d made in the past while the other team made more than their share of mistakes.

Which is why I am skeptical that my kids’ team will make any dramatic improvements any time soon. Other activities have cut into their practice time, so it’s hard to see why they should be any better in their next game.

It is magical when a team pulls a big upset. But I think the reality is pretty simple: you step up your work habits to the point where you convince yourself that you have made a change. Then it’s easier to believe in yourself. And that’s how losing streaks get broken.