An Athlete’s Guide: Coming Back From A Bad Game

When it comes to football recruiting, one bad game can feel like the end of the world. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, using a bad game as motivation can be the key to becoming a better player and attracting attention from college recruiters. 

In this version of “An Athlete’s Guide,” we want to give advice to our readers on how to flip the script after a poor outing. Showing resilience, and a willingness to improve on your weaknesses, can be just as impactful as the worst game of your career – but in an alternatively positive way.

Tips and Suggestions for football players

First, take a step back and analyze what went wrong. Did you make any mistakes? Are there areas of your game that need improvement? Once you’ve identified the problem areas, you can start working on fixing them.

Use the negative experience as motivation to push yourself harder in practice and in future games. Show recruiters that you’re resilient and determined by turning your bad game into a positive learning experience.

Don’t forget to keep your recruiter in the loop. Whether you have enrolled in Signing Day Sports’ Pro+ program, or you’re already in communication with college football coaches, they’ll want to know how you’re responding to adversity. It’s important that you’re able to make progress in fixing your problem areas. 

By staying in touch, you’ll show that you’re committed to becoming the best football player possible – which is exactly what college coaches are looking for.

How to be Resilient

In a book called, The Resilient Teen: 10 Key Skills to Bounce Back from Setbacks and Turn Stress into Success, Sheela Raja, PhD. writes about certain things to keep in mind when trying to bounce back from something negative. 

The Resilient Teen

The Resilient Teen

Her writing comes from the latest research in psychology, public health, and neuroscience. And while it does pertain to sports, it is also relevant advice for one’s life in general too. 

There are four components to staying the course, even when the going gets tough. First, is to care for your physical health. It can be beneficial to find a routine that works for you. And it’s also important to keep in mind any bad habits that may be hindering you in your athletic performance.

Second, you must care for your mental and emotional well-being. Keep your mind in the present rather than focusing too much on the past or future. This is especially important for football recruits who either dwell on poor outings or have a tendency to look forward to the future when they may, or may not be in college. 

The third component focuses on the importance of staying engaged with the world around you. Having a strong support system of friends and family is essential, especially in the bad times. Safe connections that you trust can go a long way in allowing you to return to your peak athletic form.

Lastly, a student-athlete needs to be able to find meaning, joy, and purpose all throughout their life. As a student-athlete, it’s common for your identity to get wrapped in being an athlete. But you are much more than that. 

Raja writes about how humor, community service, and activism can all play a role in building a well-rounded identity. That way, if you do have a bad game, it won’t feel as much like the world is caving in around you. You’re more than an athlete.

You Had a Bad Game, Where Do You Go From Here?

There are lessons to be learned from those who have experienced things before. Recently, the University of Northern Colorado has been going through a difficult stretch on their schedule. 

On the season, they are 2-4. Last week, in a game against Sacramento State, they gave up over 600 yards of offense and lost 55-7. 

Fair to call this a “bad game.”

The question moving forward is what to take from these early-season collapses. How can they build off of this and turn it into a positive learning experience. 

UNC coach Ed McCaffrey had a cautiously optimistic tone regarding the play of his team when being interviewed after the loss to Sacramento St. His mindset shows that he is taking this opportunity to show his team what they can improve on and how they can be better. 

“Hey, this is the worst we can play,” Coach McCaffrey stated. “You can only get better from here, but it’s not going to just happen. We have to work hard.” 

And there you have it: the perfect mindset in the face of major adversity. There’s no changing the past. There’s only learning from your mistakes, and working hard to overcome whatever challenge is in front of you. 


A player on the team, Jordan Knapke, mentioned in a post-game interview that his team is staying positive and focusing on being better for the next game. Remember this shining example of how each and every individual athlete should think to themselves after a bad game. 

“I think this is when you really see the character of the leaders on your team, when you face adversity,” said McCaffrey. 

Moving forward through the rest of the season, keep these things in mind. A bad game holds positive potential. Be the leader on your team that coaches want to see. Not only will it help your team’s performance, but recruiters will take notes of your individual character and willingness to bounce back.

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