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Embracing Mistakes to Become Your Best

By Positive Coaching Alliance, 11/02/18, 12:00PM CDT


Athletes need to accept that mistakes happen frequently

Refocusing on the next play keeps your efforts and energy on what’s most important.

Athletes are often afraid of making mistakes. You might think that making a mistake means failing or will lead to disastrous outcomes.

But mistakes shouldn’t be feared. Being afraid of making a mistake leads to tentative and unimaginative play.

The hardest part for most athletes is recovering after a mistake. Athletes need to accept that mistakes happen frequently, and they need a specific approach to bounce back after they happen.

We recommend developing a mistake ritual, something you do or say, that communicates to yourself and your teammates and coaches that you recognize the mistake, and you’re moving on. Some common mistake ritual words are: "Flush it," "No sweat," "Let it go," and "Brush it off."

Mistake rituals will help build mental toughness and encourage recovery. Bouncing back from mistakes is so important, because refocusing on the next play will help you perform your best. The most important play is always the next play.

Refocusing on the next play keeps your efforts and energy on what’s most important. You can also “park” certain mistakes to be addressed later. If you are missing the goal when you shoot with your left foot during a game, perform your mistake ritual, refocus on the next play, and set aside a deeper look into this specific skill at a future practice. Some mistakes, however, should just be left behind.

The last page of this excerpt is a worksheet that will help you develop your own mistake rituals.

This article was excerpted from Jim Thompson’s book Elevating Your Game. To purchase the entire book, and to learn more about other PCA books, click here.

These books are used in PCA’s live workshops. To learn more about our interactive student-athlete workshops, click here.

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Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) develops BETTER ATHLETES, BETTER PEOPLE through resources for youth and high school sports coaches, parents, administrators and student-athletes. PCA has partnered with roughly 3,500 schools and youth sports organizations nationwide to deliver live group workshops, online courses and books by PCA Founder Jim Thompson that help those involved in youth and high school sports create a positive, character-building youth sports culture.

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