Key Strategy # 2 – Ability To Let Go Of Mistakes
High level coaches look beyond acquiring physically talented players. They look for athletes who can stay emotionally balanced and recover quickly from mistakes and adversity.
Once again let’s do a quick self-assessment: Ask yourself and reflect on these questions?
- When you make a mistake how long does it take you to get back into your game?
- When a mistake happens what is your usual self talk? Are you knocking yourself down? …Or …Pumping yourself up?
- When something goes wrong are you more concerned about what your teammates or coaches may think? …Or …. More concerned about bouncing right back into action to affect the game?
- When a mistake happens are you likely to be thinking you don’t want to make another error? …Or … Is it forgotten quickly and you are back in the moment?
At any level of sport the skill to let go of mistakes and get back performing your best is extremely critical. Average players can hurt their performance by being slow to recover from a mistake. A player’s body language may change, their movements tighten up and thought processes slow, and their focus is stuck in the past and not in the present moment of the game.
I often relate to the analogy of driving a car. When a mistake happens it’s like a driver’s focus is completely in the rearview mirror. That’s not a great idea for driving and not a good idea for helping your athletic performance. Great players have “bounce back ability” which is a skill to recover quickly from mistakes. They are always focused in the moment. What happened 10 minutes or 10 seconds ago does not matter because it is in the past and cannot be changed. They understand …
The only time you can affect the game is in this precise moment …in the NOW.
So what is a good strategy for letting go of mistakes?
Some mental coaches like to break in down into three steps:
Step1– Let it go, get rid of the frustration, release it.
Step 2– Understand / realize the mistake made and what you want to do differently next time.
Step 3– Get back to the present moment / back into your game as quickly as possible.
Another suggestion is to have a favorite “trigger word” or phrase to quickly release a mistake and get back in the moment.
Some used successfully by athletes are:
“Flush it” (out of here)
“ Next” (get the next one),
“Delete it” (remove the mistake and ‘see’ the right choice or option for next time)
It’s best if you can find a personal trigger word or phrase that works for you .Here are a few examples used by athletes in different sports:
Soccer – I fix my shin guards / I take a deep breath…exhale the mistake away.
Tennis- I adjust my strings/ by the time I turn around from walking back to the baseline the mistake is gone.
Basketball -I imagine shooting the mistake into a trash can / pounding the mistake away into the ground with the next dribble of the ball.
Golf- I replay the shot correctly in my head before I move on/ my mistake is corrected by the time I put my club back in the bag.
Lacrosse – It disappears as I count backwards 5-4-3-2-.1 / I grab the cage on my helmet and give a quick tug to get myself refocused.
It’s important to note each sport with its demands, physicality, and speed of play, dictates how much time a player has to overcome a mistake. It has been my experience, regardless of the sport, the faster you can recover from a mistake the quicker you can get back to positively affecting your game.
By finding the right strategy and practicing letting go of mistakes, both in your sport and in your daily life, you will discover a key ingredient to what makes great athletes and great people.