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Losing to Win: A Clinical Perspective on the Experience of Loss among Elite Athletes

Reid, C. (2012) Losing to Win: A Clinical Perspective on the Experience of Loss among Elite Athletes. In: Thatcher, Joanne, Jones, Marc V and Lavallee, David, (eds.) Coping and Emotion in Sport. Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 261-283.

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Loss is a theme that runs through the life stories of most elite athletes — we could go so far as to say that in many cases it is the thread that holds the story together. When we think of champions we like to think of those who have overcome adversity, who have come back from monumental defeat. But it is also true that the experience of loss can be the weak link that relegates potential champions to mediocrity. What is it then that determines whether an athlete’s experience of loss will be formative or destructive? Why do some exceptional juniors become paralysed by fear of failure and fail to make the transition to elite status? Why is injury—related ‘depression’ an increasingly common referral for psychologists working with elite athletes? This chapter examines the ‘loss experience’ of the elite athlete based on clinical observations from the author’s work with elite athletes and their coaches. The second part reflects on a model for intervention forged during seven years of working with the Australian Women’s Hockey Team as they reconciled to a disappointing Olympic campaign in Barcelona in 1992 and moved toward two consecutive gold—medal Olympiads.

Publication Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Psychology
Publisher: Routledge
Copyright: The Authors
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