Learning from losing: Tips and reflections

Shawn Foltz-Emmons, Ph.D. | June 03, 2022

A recent USTA webinar addressed the subject of losing. Losing can be a challenging aspect of playing tennis, yet losing is inevitable. Using the loss to learn can turn the loss into a productive experience.


Our webinar discussed various aspects of dealing with a loss, and five highlights are as follows:

  1. Have a routine that you maintain whether you win or lose. This can help provide comfort and a sense of security that may be lost due to losing a tennis match. This will also possibly help normalize loss.

  2. Keep the perspective. Tennis is a game and a part of life, but hopefully not what a player, coach, or parent hangs their hat on as a benchmark for their self-esteem or identity. Losing will happen: It's what you do with the loss that can help the next one have less of a negative impact.

  3. Improvement in tennis is a process, which means that it will have ups and downs, good days and not so good days. Keep your focus on moving forward. Assess what worked and what didn’t work. Look at a loss as an opportunity to learn.

  4. Maintain positive self-talk no matter the result. For example, language such as “It's ok, it happens, and I’ll do better next time,” may help to move past any disappointment.

  5. Remember that the player will most likely need reassurance that a loss will not change how you feel or think about them. 


Although losing a tennis match may be challenging, giving your best effort, having a positive mindset, and remembering that the goal of tennis is to have fun are essential pieces to keeping a loss in perspective. Losses are part of life, and developing a routine or plan to manage the feelings associated with a loss may help to navigate them.

Shawn Foltz-Emmons, Ph.D., is a former WTA touring professional and current licensed psychologist who has been recently appointed to the USTA's Sport Science Committee. A nationally and internationally-ranked junior player who went on to an All-American career at the University of Indiana, Foltz-Emmons competed as an amateur at all four Grand Slams in 1984 and 1985.


She was the second-youngest player to earn a WTA ranking in 1984, and was also the singles and doubles champion at the 1986 Orange Bowl.


In the present, Foltz-Emmons owns her own business, Advantage Performance Consultants, and consults, advises and provides her services for various companies across the country. She is also brand ambassador and psychologist for SonderMind, a Denver-based company which offers technology-driven solutions for therapists and patients seeking online and in-person appointments, and is the tennis advisor and psychological consultant for the First Serve Tennis Foundation, whose mission is to improve the lives of Arizona youth through transformative and engaging tennis programs.

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