The Winner’s Mentality at National Championships in Ultimate Frisbee

The National Championship in ultimate frisbee is one of the most important events during the season for each player. It doesn’t matter if you’re in it for fun or competitiveness. It’s where all the training, tournaments, and effort lead. That’s where all active teams get to meet up and show off what they’ve been up to these past months. Sports skills are always at the forefront of each team’s preparation, but there’s another vital ingredient that deserves more recognition. It’s the winner’s mentality, which is the real game changer. In this article, I invite you to explore what stands behind the winner’s mentality definition. Check out examples of how to develop and apply this mindset in the context of ultimate frisbee. Particularly when facing the challenge of losing games and facing tough teams.


Winner's Mentality - Why it matters in sports?

Psychology has been a popular subject in sports and among high-level athletes for some time now. It can make a significant impact by incorporating a few strategies into teams’ arsenals. Of course, physical fitness, skill mastery, and consistency in training are vital parts of any winning team. But when you focus only on the physical aspects, you’re giving up on great power within yourself. Psychology in sports is a vault of knowledge that can enhance your sports performance. It’s a gym for your mind, which teaches you resilience to reach your goal.

Let's Get Into Details. Defining Winner's Mentality.

Winner’s mentality is a mindset characterized by a belief in oneself and one’s team, a focus on improvement, and a determination to succeed. It’s not about being perfect or never making mistakes. Instead, it’s about having the confidence to overcome challenges and the resilience to bounce back from setbacks. Your ego can tell you a different story, but each failure is a building block for your future success. Winning and losing are two sides of the same coin. You cannot rely on favorable conditions, hope, or chance to determine the game outcome.

The winner’s mentality is not a fixed mindset. It’s about embracing growth, self-affirmation, beliefs, and seeking opportunities. It’s the stories we tell each other and the obstacles we overcome. Challenges become opportunities and a lesson on how to work around them. It’s the fuel to thriving and not “faking it till you make it” attitude. Winning mentality is a long-term strategy and a multiverse of sorts. It focuses on planning, adapting, enforcing a positive attitude, enhancing available skill sets, encouraging habits, and taking action. The way you think can build you up or bring you down.

Winner's Mentality is...

Positive Self-Talk:

Players with a winner’s mentality engage in positive self-talk, using phrases like “I can do this” or “We can come back from this” to maintain confidence and motivation during tough games. (With AKS Zły we like to bring ourselves back with “Massive comeback!” 😉 ) Affirmations help maintain confidence, even in challenging situations. With a foundation of positivity and optimism, players learn to believe in themselves, their team and focus on improving and the importance of teamwork.

Clear Goals:

Teams set specific, achievable goals, which keep them motivated and focused. The goals aren’t fixed. They are adjusted to the situation and challenges, so there is no unhealthy pressure on the players.

Celebrating Small Wins:

Recognizing and celebrating achievements, no matter how small, is very important. It encourages teamwork and lifts up the team spirit even in challenging circumstances.

Adaptive Learning, embracing mistakes  and resilience:

Instead of dwelling on losses, teams with a winner’s mentality use each defeat as an opportunity to learn, adapt, and improve. They watch game footage, analyze mistakes, and implement changes in strategy or tactics. Mistakes are a part of a learning process and a path to improvement. (Have you ever read “The Obstacle Is The Way”? Try it.) Teams learn how to come back from setbacks. Losses are temporary rather than insurmountable obstacles and teams learn how to be resilient and handle pressure and adversity.

Being competitive:

Players are driven to succeed and they’re not afraid of competition. They push themselves to be the best they can be and are willing to learn from their mistakes to grow.

Teamwork and Trust:

A winning team mentality is built on trust and collaboration. Players trust their teammates, and they work cohesively, knowing that they are stronger together. It’s important to cultivate a sense of unity, trust, and camaraderie among team members. Each player has a task and each person is an important part of the team strategy. To win, everyone has to work together, be supportive of each other, and trust.

Winner's Mentality is not...

Negative Self-Talk: 

Players who engage in self-deprecating or defeatist thoughts will bring down the mood of the team. Negative self-talk can heavily influence players’ performance in the game and distort the view of the match.

Fixed Mindset: 

When players believe that their skills and abilities are fixed and unchangeable, they are less likely to put in the effort needed for improvement.


Dwelling on Failures: 

Continuously revisiting past defeats without a constructive plan for the future can keep a team stuck in a negative cycle, hindering growth and progress.

Lack of Accountability: 

Players may not take ownership of their errors, which can lead to repeated failures. Acknowledging mistakes is a way to learn from them in future games. Players need to accept their mistakes and seek constructive criticism.

Inconsistent Effort, lack of preparation, and overconfidence: 

Not giving consistent effort in practice and games, leads to unreliable performance. Teams can’t rely solely on talent, because it discourages teamwork. Players should be confident with their skills, but at the same time, they shouldn’t be arrogant. Overconfidence encourages disrespect and underestimation of the opponents.

Fear of Failure: 

Players who play it safe to avoid making mistakes, limit their potential. Those with a winner’s mentality aren’t afraid to lose, because it’s a part of the learning process, so they can come back stronger.


Losing Focus: 

Teams easily lose concentration and composure under pressure. It leads to losing sight of the goals and can harm the overall strategy. As a result, a team may have a late start in the game and lose the game.

Blaming Others: 

One of the indicators of a poor winner’s mentality is blaming teammates and coaches for losses. It deflects responsibility and prevents the team from learning and improving. This approach encourages selfishness, discourages teamwork, creates a hostile environment, doubt, and unnecessary pressure.


Polish Ultimate Frisbee - Post-Pandemic Reality

The Polish scene went through some down- and up-grades with the recent pandemic, making it impossible to make big-scale tournaments. Naturally, the team landscape considerably changed as did the priorities for some players and their teams. A two-league format was introduced to the players just before the plague hit us. It was supposed to make the championships more competitive and liven them up a bit. The teams got the incentive for progressing and introducing new people to the sport.


Shaking Things Up

During the 2022 outdoor season, the Polish Ultimate Frisbee scene witnessed an (almost) newly concocted team-up to shake things up. An indoor ultimate champion and a beach ultimate champion? It’s a match! Zawierucha and AKS Zły Kosmodysk joined forces as an answer to player shortages and a need for long-term strategy. Other teams could start looking over their shoulder, and in the 2022 National Championships, they did. With a small rebranding and working out a mutual view of the team, you can be sure that AKS ZŁY Ultimate has some tricks up its sleeves. Yes, still. 😉

The National Championships in 2022 went pretty much according to plan. The first squad was going for gold, and the second had a task to get into the Top 8. That 3-day Championship event under the moody Wrocław sky was one to remember. There was a lot of hype and support between the two squads. It was a highlight for me, because you get to be a part of such a positive energy buzz. You can focus on good games, and feel that when you give it your all, it’s not taken for granted.

Despite 2nd place for AKS 1 and 8th place for AKS 2, it was a lesson in acceptance of the situation. This was the groundwork for another year. We knew we had a lot of work and were willing to take on the challenge. Nothing is set in stone, and you’ve got to put in the work. Success is in the small steps, small victories, and routines. How we end the match often starts in our heads because it’s how we think and act. It’s our attitude towards ourselves and our opponents.

Success Is Not Linear, So Think Of It As A Delayed Gratification

One thing is sure – a team’s success is built on few close-knit ingredients. However, it’s not exactly an instant gold medal that’s the result (Delayed gratification tastes so much better). It’s not the outcome that’s important, but the journey. It’s what lies ahead, and it’s a process. It needs the effort and people on board to keep it moving forward. The goal is to build the groundwork for the future and enhance the team skill-set. That’s why every step of a journey matters. Creating detailed plans is a carefully drafted chapter for a grand finale. It’s a brand new look at the scene caught at a standstill for a while.


With so many players in the club it’s a challenge to satisfy everyone. There’re many factors to ensure the success of the team. An advantage is that you can have two teams with differing goals. The first squad can aim for total competitiveness. The second squad can be a safe space for other players to acquire skills and take more risk-free responsibility. However, two squads still make one team, which cheers each other up and pushes each other to aim for more. Let’s not forget that you lose the game once you start doubting your team.

Focusing on Winner's Mentality - AKS Zły Road To Ultimate Frisbee Championships 2023

Ever since the merge, the team started establishing a common strategy. The squads were made up based on many factors, and despite different goals, the aim was to build a monolithic team culture. It was vital to continue the work that Kosmodysk started with psychology in sports. The aspect was new for some players from Zawierucha.

The team had a clear plan for the upcoming season and how to reach it. It focused on long-term team strategy, which included a possibility of failure. That required enhancing teamwork and acquiring knowledge of the winner’s mentality. We’re lucky to have a sports psychologist in our ranks! During our camps, there was a place for a sports psychology workshop.

It enabled discussions and brought mutual team vision to life. We discussed establishing focus and getting back from spiraling negative thoughts. We talked about being a good teammate and what is important within a team culture. During the games, that paid off! You could feel the support and energy bouncing off the turf whenever we cheered for each other.

AKS Zły at the Championships after a friendly game and using winner mentality skills to use

No Plan Is Ever Set In Stone

This year’s championships brought AKS ZŁY a few obstacles and plot twists. Our captains didn’t keep a fixed approach but discussed how to face the ‘here and now’. When the second squad games didn’t go as planned, we re-adjusted our goals and mindsets to reach our new optimum. Yes, the group we ended up in was a tough one. On the other hand, it’s no excuse for not giving your best effort. It was an obstacle we had to face and try to overcome. The result was that the atmosphere was not thick with impossible expectations, and we focused on a long-term game. The pressure wasn’t killing off our vibe, and we could focus on improving our in-game skillset.

The first squad also had to re-evaluate their game plan and focus on the upcoming games. The downside of having two squads is that in key moments like a game to go, you must play against each other. It was the case for us these past two years. This year, while playing in the playoffs, the game was fired up, and no one was about to give up once the game started. At the same time, there was mutual respect despite the second squad losing. As a team, you need to be ready for things going not according to plan. Sadly, a game that should have been a final happened during the quarter-final. AKS Zły Ultimate 1 played against Savage Ultimate an exciting game with a Universe Point. You can watch the game on frisbeepl YT channel.

Lesson learned and...?

Even during a tough game, when we didn’t start with the right focus and let the pressure get to us, we came back by supporting each other, reestablishing our mindsets, and giving our best. During moments like that, it would be easy to get angry at each other and give up because we were losing anyway. However, we took a stand and showed ourselves that even if it was tough, we could still cheer each other and push ourselves to be our best. Even though we had a lot on our minds, we could talk about it and still find something positive. After Championships like that, it’s hard to look on the bright side, but at the same time, you get to see if what you learn on winner’s mentality sticks with you and your team. There’s plenty of room to bounce back from 5th and 10th place.

Applying Winner's Mentality in Ultimate Frisbee

It may seem that if you assemble all the best-skilled players, it will automatically determine your success. Yes, it is an easy route when you go against less skilled teams. However, when you get to the higher level it gets complicated. Winner’s mentality is built on a foundation of positivity, accountability, resilience, and a commitment to growth and teamwork. Teams, which embrace even a fraction of what it stands for are more likely to endure. Here are a few tips on how to apply to apply winner’s mentality in your team.

1. Set Clear Goals: 

At the beginning of each season or tournament, set some goals for yourself and your team. These goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. They can be both short-term (winning a specific game) and long-term (making it to the playoffs). Having clear objectives keeps the team focused and motivated. The goals should also have a positive vibe.

2. Embrace Mistakes: 

Encourage players to acknowledge and learn from their mistakes. Create a supportive environment where errors are seen as opportunities for growth, not as failures.

3. Develop Mental Toughness: 

Train players not only physically but also mentally. Teach them techniques to stay focused, composed, and positive, even in challenging situations.

4. Celebrate Small Wins: 

Recognize and celebrate small victories along the way, whether it’s a well-executed play, a successful defense, or a game well fought. This positive reinforcement can boost team morale and confidence.

5. Stay Unified: 

Foster a sense of unity and camaraderie among team members. When players trust and support each other, they are more likely to maintain a winner’s mentality even in the face of adversity.

6. Focus on the process: 

Don’t get too caught up on the outcome of each game or tournament. Instead, focus on the process of improving. This means working on your individual skills, developing your team chemistry, and executing your game plan.

7. Be a good teammate: 

Be supportive of your teammates and be willing to help them succeed. It’s important especially when it gets tough. Remember that everyone makes mistakes. It’s important to learn from them and move on. So, don’t dwell on your mistakes or beat yourself up over them!

8. Have fun: 

Ultimate Frisbee is a sport, so don’t forget to have fun and enjoy yourself! Fear of losing and negative attitude can lead to misunderstanding within your team and with your opponents. Players with a winner’s mentality are more likely to enjoy the game. They are focused on the process of improvement and the importance of teamwork, and they’re not afraid to lose. That could also gain you a point for a Positive attitude and self-control. 😉

By applying winner’s mentality, you can see an improved performance of the players on your team. The players will be more confident and able to take risks. They’ll be eager to put in the hard work required to win and work better as a team. Supportive environment will be encouraging for them and the games will be more enjoyable as a result.

Welcome Your New Ultimate Frisbee Skillset

Winning is not just about the final result. It’s about the approach you take towards your victories and losses and how you perceive them. It’s about committing to a common goal in a supportive environment. While a gold medal may seem like the ultimate achievement, sometimes falling short of the end goal can still provide valuable learning experiences for the team. The journey itself is a testament to the fact that hard work pays off. It’s the approach and the ability to identify what can be done next that truly matters. Teamwork is about building mutual goals, creating a supportive environment, and fostering good sportsmanship. Every piece of the puzzle is essential, and once you recognize this, you’re on the path to success. All you need to do is keep up the hard work and see where it takes you. Winner’s mentality will be your guideline.

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