The Oracles of Volleyball: Mental toughness key after a loss

Aug. 09, 2016, 3:02 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 9, 2016) -- How do you mentally bounce back after a tough or disappointing loss? Three U.S. Volleyball Olympic Teams have faced that question after dropping pool play matches during the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. 

Some of the country's greatest Olympians share their best advice on moving forward after losing a match on the world's largest stage. 

Kent Steffes
U.S. Olympian, beach (1996)
Olympic gold medalist, 1996
The same way you bounce back from a tough win. You have to focus on doing the right things in the next game and try to win every point.  

alumLloy Ball
U.S. Olympian, indoor (1996, 2000, 2004, 2008)
Olympic gold medalist, 2008
I have an example both ways. 

In 1996, we won our first two matches easily and we were playing well. Then we ran into a Brazilian buzz-saw and got beat 3-0. Myself and some of the other young guys never got over it. We lost the next two matches and were knocked out of the medal round. The same thing happen four years later. We got beat first match of the Games by Argentina and never recovered. We went 0-5!!

On the other note, in Beijing we went through a terrible tragedy. Then in our first match went from 2-0 to 2-2 with Venezuela, which was not a good team. The difference this time was we were more mature and had been through bad times. That night we met as a team and decided it would be a disservice to ourselves, our coaches and our families not to put that performance behind us and play as a team and for each other. 8-0. Gold Medal!

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Holly McPeak
U.S. Olympian, beach (1999, 2000, 2004)
Olympic bronze medalist, 2004
Bouncing back after a tough or disappointing loss is important especially if you aren't in the elimination rounds. Use it for motivation to be more focused, more prepared, and ready to dominate! The time to do your best is now and this is what you train for!c

Eric Fonoimoana
U.S. Olympian, beach (2000)
Olympic gold medalist, 2000
Dain and I were in an exhausting game against Portugal in the semi-final match in Sydney. After a little over an hour, the score was 10-10 and I shot a ball out-of-bounds to make it 11-10. We were playing side-out scoring in a game to 15 win by 2. The strategy for Portugal was to serve me every ball. I called a time out. As we returned to the court, the ref gave me a red card for coming out of the timeout to slow and a called delay of game to make it 12-10 Portugal. I was furious and trying to calm down. Dain was mad but we both needed to deal with the situation at hand. I sided out the next ball. Dain went back and served two aces and I blocked a ball for a point to make it 13-12 us. We switched sides and Dain dug the next ball and put it away to make it 14-12. Then, he aced Portugal down the middle to finish the game 15-12. Five straight points and we were in the gold medal match!

My advice … breathe, keep calm, stay focused and if you can make big plays for your team, go for the gold.

Ryan Millar
U.S. Olympian, indoor (2000, 2004, 2008)
Olympic gold medalist, 2008
Sometimes a tough lose is exactly what you need to figure out something very important. “You don’t just get to win.”  I heard Reid Priddy say that Doug Beal taught him that lesson. This rings louder than ever at the Olympic Games. Just because the Men’s Team won World League and the World Cup, doesn’t mean they get a pass on Canada. I am excited to see how they respond against Italy!