How To Win When You’re Not Winning

how to win when you're not winning

Guest writer: Osi (see bio at the end)

NETBALL. It’s a fast-paced game of intense decision making and endurance and, for most of us, an integral part of who we are. I mean even our colleagues know which sacred day(s) is set apart for the most important 40 minutes of our week. But what happens when we get to THAT game; the game where we face the undefeated team at the top of the league or have been too complacent and are now facing the prospect of losing a must-win/should-win game. We’ve all been there before, whether it’s Q1 or Q4; perhaps the game isn’t going as well as we had hoped and we’ve lost our drive. In netball – and in sport in general – we use the term “heads dropping” to describe this phenomenon. So what can we do to combat this? Below are a few tips from Sports Psychology which may help you and your teammates find the strength within to dig deep and keep your heads up.


Focus on positive experiences. When your teammate makes an interception, gets a turnover or scores a goal, celebrate it. Let them know that you see them and that they’re doing a good job. There is a wealth of evidence to support the use of positive psychology in sport. At its most basic level, this kind of extrinsic motivation acts as positive reinforcement which leads us to have positive thoughts. Such positive thoughts release chemicals in the brain such as serotonin which, aside from being linked with general wellbeing, help you and your brain function at peak capacity. Therefore, the more positivity there is on the court the more positive outcomes you are likely to get in the form of better and more successful play.


Linked to positive psychology is the idea of present focus. Practice the art of being present and in the moment. Dropping heads is often a symptom of dwelling on past mistakes – maybe a sequence of unforced errors by you and/or your teammates. And let’s face it, when playing outdoors and with exposure to the sometimes very unforgiving elements, multiple errors are bound to occur. So it is important to remind yourself and your teammates to forget what has been and to stay in the here and now, focusing on what you can do and change.


I hate to say it but sometimes we’re just too fancy for our own good. Going back to basics is a major key that we need to constantly be aware of. We’ve all heard the phrase about being “in the zone.” In psychology, we call this Flow State and this happens when someone engages in an activity to the point of complete absorption and experiences feelings of energised focus and enjoyment. By overcomplicating gameplay we are at risk of getting into our own heads and becoming too analytical of how simple movements are performed, increasing error rates. By sticking to basics, you are able to play a clean, more consistent game of netball which can help achieve those crucial turnovers and goal conversions. So, at risk of sounding like a broken record, Let It Go and Just Do It!


This might seem a little extreme for social netball but setting goals, both personally and with your team, is crucial for success. Make them realistic, yet challenging. Centralise your goals on yours and your team’s strengths. This being said it is also worth knowing your oppositions’ strengths and weaknesses, their position in the league and who their playmaker (best player) is. Creating goals around these factors not only gives you focus (which is essential for regrouping when things are going south), but also allows you and your teammates to be on the same page, encouraging team cohesion which is essential for successful play. It is important to mention here that Sports Psychology encourages having goals between an upper and lower band. For example, “We’d like to win the league but getting to the finals will still be a great achievement” is a great way to set goals that manage expectations. Why not go down to your next match a bit earlier and catch the last quarter of a game in your league? You’ll be able to analyse two teams at once and can also fit a good warm up in too.


Finally, be confident in yourself. Believing in your own ability to carry out a task is core to loads of psychological theories of success. When you feel your head dropping, use positive self-talk to remind yourself that you can do it. Be your own biggest fan!

And whatever you do, whatever the score, remember that you are a part of a team, and that win or lose…

About our guest writer Osi

I have to give you a bio on Osi because she has had an incredible netball story – she joined Cumberland Netball Club’s H team in 2014 and shot her way up to their National Premier League squad within two years. She is now also playing for Brunel University Firsts in BUCS Prem while studying sports psychology. I’m expecting to see her in the England dress within a couple of years or I’ll be disappointed…