It’s hard to lose. It’s even harder to lose gracefully.
Take the U.S. women’s soccer team: After their tough loss last week to Sweden in the quarterfinals at the Rio Olympics, the women were crushed.
“We were initially shocked, disappointed, hurt and heartbroken,” team forward Alex Morgan tells PEOPLE. “It was like a bad dream. It was just crushing.”
But since that shocking loss, Morgan says she has taken a more philosophical approach to her disappointment. The 27-year-old sat down with PEOPLE at the P&> Family Home in Rio, a sanctuary that supports athletes and their families throughout the games.
“It was horrible, but I do feel like I learned a lot more from losing than from winning,” Morgan says. “I was able to pick myself up, which is so important to do after a game. I feel like the next time we win, it will be that much sweeter because we know what it feels like to lose.”
“Obviously, it was really hard,” she says. “But winning and losing isn’t everything; sometimes, the journey is just as important as the outcome.”
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Despite controversial anti-Sweden comments from teammate Hope Solo, Morgan has a different approach to losing. “I saw her comments, but I feel like those are opinions I don’t share,” she told USA Today.
“I think it’s important to keep things positive,” Morgan tells PEOPLE. “Sometimes you don’t win, and that sucks, and you work on improving.”
WATCH: Soccer Superstar Alex Morgan Reveals How Sports Changed Her Life
Playing ‘Like A Girl’
With her Rio journey behind her, Morgan is hoping to be a role model to younger women. She has teamed up with Always for the #LikeAGirl campaign, which encourages girls to play sports.
“Whenever people say ‘women’s soccer,’ I want to correct them to say ‘soccer.’ ” Morgan says. “Every girl has had their sport diminished because they’re girls.”
The purpose of the campaign is to educate girls and young women about their sports options as they reach puberty and beyond.
For Morgan, the campaign is working. “The attitudes have definitely shifted,” she says. “When people say, ‘You run like a girl, you play like a girl,’ it’s not what it used to be.
“That shouldn’t be negative. You should be proud to play like a girl. We’re shifting the way people think about us.”