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How well do you bounce back from mistakes?


What happens when you make a mistake? Are you slamming a club on the golf course? Throwing your batting helmet off heading back to the dugout? Banging your stick on the boards on the ice rink?


Or, simply thinking about that mistake for the next few holes, next at bat, or next shift? Mental performance coaching involves a lot of work teaching athletes a skillset that helps with mistake management, letting go of mistakes and moving forward.


It simply is human nature to get upset after a mistake, a play you feel like you should have made, or a skill you have done a hundred times that did not go the way you wanted. The key component to this, however, is not to DWELL on that mistake. As athletes, we have been told to "forget about it,", but I do not think athletes have been explained the "how" part. How do we forget about that mistake? Just because we have heard a coach yelling from the bench to "Forget it! Move on!", does not necessarily mean that the athlete can because most of the time they do not know how.


I think what we get caught up with as athletes, and coaches, is the notion that we should not feel upset about that mistake, that somehow we need to learn to disregard it immediately and move on to the rest of our game. I think that is a misleading sentiment.


We need to accept the fact that it is ok to get upset. It is perfectly normal. However, what we DO want to do is is become aware of that emotion and get a sense of when it starts to take over our thoughts and distract us from the remainder of the game. Additionally, we want to see if our emotions get the better of us to the distraction of the rest of the team or, sometimes, with a penalty (as in the case of a misconduct call in hockey, technical in basketball, or getting thrown out of the game in baseball). Handling mistakes and composure when those mistakes happen can significantly influence our confidence and play the rest of the game as well as impact our teammates and fuel opponent's confidence.


How we manage our mistakes goes a long way in helping our mental game as athletes. Mental performance coaching helps provide athletes with three major themes when helping them deal with mistakes.


1) Awareness - Become aware of when you sense that you are spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about your last mistake. Have you taken an at bat that you did not like out to the field with you when back on defense? Are you still thinking of that turnover in your defensive zone that happened three shifts ago when playing hockey? The quicker you can become aware that this is happening the quicker you can move on the step two.


2) Regroup - Once that awareness sets in, use your mental game skills to regroup your thinking process. Take a couple of deep breaths. Use some piece of equipment to let go symbolically of your thoughts (unsnap your helmet and grab a drink from your water bottle after your shift in hockey. Take your gloves off while looking at the flags blowing in the wind after an at bat). Then, move to step 3.


3) Reset - Now you are ready to simply reset your thoughts and focus on the next play, pitch, shift, or shot. A big part of mental performance coaching is helping athletes find those reset thought patterns that help them focus on the present moment and not a past mistake.


Take your mental game to the next level by learning the skill set to help you deal with mistakes. It will help you become the best version of yourself on the playing field, court, course or ice.

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