The USWNT just beat my team 13-0, what do I do now?

CBM.0 - The USWNT just beat my team 13-0, what do I do now?

In this week’s advice column: How to recover from public humiliation, even when it’s REALLY bad.

Welcome to Couldn’t Be Me, a weekly advice column where I solicit your personal dilemmas and help out as best as I can. Have something I can help you with? Find me @_Zeets.

This week we talk about humiliating losses. We’ve all gone through them, instances when you lose so badly at something that it makes you question your self-worth and whether you deserved to be competing on the same field in the first place. It can be a loss as visible as a historic defeat in an international tournament, or more innocuous like a college track meet where you just happened to be pitted against a future Olympic champion. Those losses can be tough to recover from, but taking losses is also inherent to being alive. And they never have to be fatal.


I’m the coach of an international team that just competed in the biggest competition in the world. The fact that we made the tournament was a big success for us, but we really wanted to leave a good impression. The last time we were in the tournament, we lost by a historic number of goals. I don’t even want to mention how many. It was obscene. Unfortunately, not only did we not make the best impression again, but we lost by an even bigger margin this time. So much that there were arguments about whether our opponents should have been celebrating so much as they ran the score up.

I don’t have too much time for whether what they did was right, but it is heartbreaking for me and for the players that this is how our adventure this summer has started. Our team isn’t the best, and a lot of that comes from institutional failures, so this may just be a case of growing pains, but that understanding doesn’t help with how bad it feels to be at the receiving end of such a decimation. We have at least two more games, but I’m not sure how to get the players up for them after such a disaster.


International tournaments are so peculiar in that not only are results determined by talent and coaching, but gaps in funding and resources, as well. No matter the sport. Often when you see a team losing by a large margin, what you’re seeing is the on-field outcome of a lot of failures off-the-field. These failures occur for a combination of reasons that can include things like disinterest, lack of money, corruption, sexism, and a lack of leadership.

The difficulty is that, even with all of this knowledge, players still want to win. And losing so badly will naturally dent one’s confidence. No matter how much players talk about moving on to the next match, no one forgets games like that. I still remember games from childhood tournaments that still hurt. I can’t imagine the pain that comes from experiencing that level of loss on the international stage.

And then there’s also the pain of knowing that you’re part of the team that has to suffer in order for future generations to prosper. It’s your visible pain and historic defeats that will serve as motivation for the institutions around the team to take an interest in improvement. Your generation is the sacrificial lamb.

What your team is doing, even in losing, will be an important step towards a brighter future. And hopefully one day you can look back at the loss and feel detached, and almost not recognize the experience, because things will be so much better.

I think it’s important to remind the players that they deserve their place on the international stage. That the loss doesn’t diminish them nor their accomplishments thus far. They should know that even if feel like the butt of a bad joke, that for many of their own fans, and especially for children who have never seen themselves reflected on such a big stage, they are inspiring and beloved.


I did decathlon and heptathlon in college. Because it’s a lot on your body, you can only do a couple a season, and for the most part, you just do individual events at meets to try and prepare for the full thing without the damage to your body that seven or ten events can do.

So because of that, even if you’re a little banged up, coaches tend to make you do a full hept or dec if you can make it onto the track, because you only have a few chances.

Senior year, I tweaked my hamstring and we thought I tore it, but it turned out to just be a strain. Since it wasn’t too bad, my coach still wanted me to do the full hept at the upcoming meet because it was the last one before conference, and it had a lot of elite competition which is good for scoring high.

I proceed to have the shittiest meet of the year. Season lows in five out of seven events. Literally limping down the runway for the long jump and high jump. One of the other guys in the hept kept offering help, kept cheering me on, kept telling me that I can make it through, and that he knew I was hurting but he was proud of how hard I was competing.

That guy? Ashton Eaton. Who, in the same event, as I had the worst meet of the year, broke the collegiate record all while being the nicest guy I’ve ever met. I didn’t know that made it worse. But it definitely does. You know what’s worse than getting washed in one event? Getting washed in six in a row, wearing a skin tight fucking unitard.


I had to look up Ashton Eaton because of this question, and now I’m not sure if it’s heartwarming that such an incredible athlete took time to look after you, or if it only looks nice from a distance but felt condescending in the moment. I know when you’re in a competition, you don’t want people treating you as a charity case, even when you’re obviously struggling. Sometimes you’d rather push through it and suffer on your own, rather than have someone bring attention to your failings. That feeling is part of the warrior mentality that goes with being an athlete.

I’m guessing that same mentality pushed you to compete even when you were obviously hurt. For some reason, the reality of being hurt always seems to lose to the idea that we can push through pain and still be great. The injury becomes part of the conflict of your eventual victory. It’s a challenge to be beaten.

That is, until you get out there, and it’s much too late to bail on the competition, and you have to deal with the embarrassment of public failure. And some better, more healthy guy, saying that he is proud of you for trying.

If nothing more, I think these cases are an argument for trainers and doctors who aren’t beholden to teams and schools. Athletes often have to be saved from themselves and their coaches. Your will is to compete, and the coach is often looking to do what’s best for his or her team, even if that means trotting you out there with a limp. A medical professional who could override the coach and yourself could have saved you from being washed in six events.

And in stead, you could have used that time to laugh at other people in unitards being washed by a future Olympic gold medalist instead.

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