How to Deal With Losses and Come Back From Them

By Elisabeth Clay

I want to start this by saying it’s not easy to open up and let people see my “weak side,” especially not when it’s posted on the internet for anyone to read. BUT I think it’s important for people to see and know that everyone goes through things and struggles at some point or another.

My Struggle

For last year’s Pan Ams (2017) I was training mostly no-gi, getting ready for ADCC trials. I was still training the gi but not like I normally would for Pan Ams, or normally at all. I would have to be told to put the gi on because I was so focused on trials and the fact that no-gi wasn’t my thing. It’s very hard to find a good balance when you don’t have time between different rule sets, gi/no-gi, etc. I weighed in for the 152lb division at 138lbs (I think lighter actually).

I went in and made a number of mistakes the cost me the weight title and the openweight title — I left that tournament with a silver and a bronze. I was completely deviated. The year before I had won double gold. How did I just lose?!

When I flew back to Alaska the first thing I did was get right back on my cardio and training.  I was so frustrated when things were working in training that I wasn’t able to pull off in the competition. I kept exclaiming to my training partners, “why couldn’t I have done this two days ago?” (There were a number of colorful words added in there). I was so frustrated and upset with how I had done and was not able to let it go. I rewatched the videos and was on the verge on tears. I hate to cry, especially in front of people. This is something I struggle with. I’m a perfectionist with my BJJ and nothing is ever perfect, especially in competition. My professor kept telling me I had to let it go.

I Had to Get Ready for ADCC

ADCC trials were in four weeks. I had to get my stuff together; I had to get my head right. I ended up training pretty much all no-gi and went on to win ADCC trials. You’d think that’d would bring my confidence back… It didn’t. I never did a lot of no-gi, so after winning this tournament I was very proud of my no-gi abilities, but I had lost all the confidence in the gi, something that I had trained for over four years almost exclusively. I thought many things: about maybe never competing in the gi again, maybe that I just wasn’t that good at it, that I should move to just no-gi (maybe that was my thing). But I had always wanted to be able to do and be the best at both.

I kept training for both and got ready for Worlds in June. I was so nervous going into Worlds, I don’t think I ever told anyone, except for my Mom (and even then I don’t know if I did), but I thought about pulling out of Worlds. I didn’t want another Pan Ams experience, I was so devastated after that performance that I didn’t think I could handle it again. I didn’t want to, I already had no confidence in the gi and I couldn’t go through another bad loss.

I ended up going to Worlds and winning the weight but losing the openweight to one of the girls I had beat in weight. I was upset again, but not as bad as I was at Pan Ams. I still didn’t have my confidence back; I still had no confidence in my gi game. It had been months and I was still so unconfident in gi, something that had always been my comfort zone. I never got as nervous for gi as I did no-gi…Gi was my THING. How, after doing it for so long was I now not confident in it?

Fast forward a few more tournaments, winning them but still struggling, I hurt my knee and was out for seven or so months of competition. This break from competition gave me the time I needed in training to focus back on the gi and fall in love with it again. At the same time, I got my confidence back. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t still lose, but I’ve at least gotten my confidence back by falling back in love with training in the gi and having fun with it.

Getting Your Confidence Back

Try new things, and love what you do, and your confidence will come back with it. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I go through this, but I learned and grew so much from this. And yes, it took me an entire year to go through and figure this out, but if that’s what it took, it was worth it and I would do it all over again just to learn this lesson and be where I am today.

Become your inner lion or lioness, and do what you love! Whatever that may be.

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