Witmer’s Wisdom: How to Process the End of Your Season, and Move Forward

The end of the season can leave complex feelings, but we can process them and plan for what's next.

Washington DC Grit at 2021 Mid-Atlantic Regionals
Washington DC Grit at 2021 Mid-Atlantic Regionals. Photo: Kevin Leclaire — UltiPhotos.com

Almost every season ends with a loss. Unless you’ve just won the championship, your season ended by losing a game.

Sometimes losing is okay. If you’ve played well, the team played well, and the game was clean it can still feel like the best experience that sport has to offer. But sometimes losing, especially at the end of the season, can leave some extra “residue” of unprocessed feelings or unresolved expectations. End of season losses are more than just the loss of a game, they can often be the loss of whatever potential you may have hoped for that you did not achieve. Even, or maybe especially, for those who win, the end of the season is the loss of certain routines, the pause of certain ambitions or relationships, or maybe just a loss of intensity of those things.

So today I invite you to process your losses so that you can move forward more cleanly and readily into what you want to do next.

Step 1: Acknowledge ALL of the feelings – the good, bad, and ugly.

I recommend using a blank sheet of paper. Simply write down everything that comes to mind: about last season, about your teammates, about the final game, about your own performance.

Just notice what comes up for you and write it all out. You’ll decide later which parts are logical. You can sort through later what thoughts you want to have. Right now the purpose is to just give a voice to everything that’s in your brain, whether it’s helpful or not, whether it logically makes sense or not.

Step 2: Separate the inflated from the core feelings.

This step is more challenging. Inflated feelings are feelings or ideas that you logically know don’t make sense, but you are having them anyway. They feel like inflated, temper tantrum, or “drama queen” versions of core feelings. Murderous rage, self-loathing, shame, self-pity, intense frustration – these can all be examples of inflated or self-indulgent feelings.

Core feelings feel more like the truth. They can still feel unpleasant, like deep sadness, regret about specific behaviors, anger. They can feel pleasant, but still unfamiliar or uncomfortable for some of us, like pride, self acceptance, intimacy with others. These are all examples of core feelings that are not being artificially inflated by unhelpful or illogical stories you might have in your own mind about what happened this past season.

Step 3: Sit with and experience your core feelings.

For those who are self-aware about your own inflated feelings, you may be tempted to skip this step and move quickly on to productive action. But if you resist, the feelings you’d rather not have will persist. Even an seemingly-illogical feeling usually has a core feeling underneath that wants to be heard.

If you have sadness, can you feel it and allow it to process into acceptance? If you feel anger, can you acknowledge it and allow it to become a feeling of motivation?

This step may need to happen more than once. It can be helpful to enlist a friend, as well. Telling someone that you are sad about the end of the season or have regret about things that happened and having those feelings acknowledged by a teammate who understands and supports you is a common and sensible way of processing your feelings. Hint: find someone who can listen without trying to “fix” your feelings.

Step 4: Decide your plan of action.

When you are ready, you can move on to taking some action toward next season. If you could have your way, what would you like to happen next? You cannot change the past. But how would you like things to go differently? What would you like to change?

If you felt sadness and now feel acceptance, maybe you’re simply ready to do the things you’ve done before and get on with it. Perhaps you don’t need anything to change. You’re simply ready to move forward. If you felt anger or regret or a deep desire for change, this is an excellent time to harness those feelings into determination and make a new plan for the offseason.

Either way, distill what you want to happen next into a sentence or two.

Examples of what this might look like:

  • “I’m ready to get back into training – I want to start going back to the gym 3X/week.”
  • “I want to take this month and do some cross training. I want a break from ultimate for now, but I want to stay physically and mentally healthy”
  • “I want more accurate throws and fewer turnovers by next season.”
  • “I want to be physically prepared and athletically more capable next season.”

Step 5: Make a plan you can believe in.

Check in with yourself. Do you believe the change you want is possible? And if not, what’s missing? Do you need some external support or additional knowledge?

In order to take action, you’re going to need a plan that you can believe in. The plan doesn’t have to be too complicated. In fact, it can be better to keep it simple.

If you want better throws, make a list of five people who would be good potential throwing partners. Over the next two weeks, schedule time to throw with them. You’ll quickly find out who’s a reliable partner. And with a few throwing partners lined up, can you throw for an additional two hours/week? And if you do that consistently from now until the spring, do you believe that will give you the throws you want?

If making a big plan feels overwhelming, then making small steps toward what you want may be a better strategy for now. Remember, if you’re starting now, you have time! And momentum will serve you better than starting a big plan and stopping when the motivation runs out.

Alternatively, you can borrow a plan that’s worked for others. This is why the Zen Throwing routine, our Skills and Technique membership, and S&C programs (UAP S&C, Strive & Uplift, GamePoint Performance, Morrill Performance, and Breakside Strength and Conditioning) are all popular options. These are plans that have worked for other athletes; knowing you’re using a plan that’s worked for other athletes can help you believe it will work for you.

Whether you create a plan you can believe in, borrow a plan you can believe in, or make small incremental steps toward the change you want to create, you’re now moving forward toward your next season in a positive way.

Next Steps

Almost every season ends with a loss of some sort. But at the end of the season losing takes on more significance because it is also the closing off of certain possibilities or potential.

Sometimes processing the season is as simple as acknowledging that losing sucks and it’s sad. And sometimes processing the season means acknowledging a deep desire for things to be different for yourself next season.

Either way, sorting through your feelings and desires puts you in the best position to move forward on purpose.

This month in the UAP we’ve been focused on the theme of Getting Started (or restarted). If you’re looking for a new start or want support as you process last season and move into the offseason, it’s not too late to join us! Members-only workshops, such as How to Program Your Motivation, are free for all UAP members. You can get a sense of what we’re about in our Level Up Your Ultimate Game group.

  1. Melissa Witmer

    Melissa Witmer is the founder of the Ultimate Athlete Project. She has been a part of the ultimate community since 1996, and is an author, content creator, and coach. Something of a citizen of the world, Melissa lives and works abroad and has instructed and connected ultimate players and coaches from all over the world.

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