How to Refocus After Making Mistakes

How to Refocus After Making Mistakes

Do You Have a Short Memory for Mistakes?

“Memory” refers to the length of time an athlete dwells on mistakes.

Some athletes have difficulty overcoming mistakes during a competition. They think about the mistake repeatedly, replaying the error in their mind.

The mistake becomes a distraction, taking the focus off performing in the present moment. When an athlete’s mind is stuck in the past, they tend to make more mistakes.

When you make mistakes in competition, you have the choice between two mindsets:

1. Overthinking Mentality – When you highlight your mistakes in your mind, especially during critical moments of competition, your performance will rapidly decline.

In addition, internalizing your errors fosters the fear of making more mistakes during the competition. The fear of messing up intensifies anxiety and becomes a greater distraction.

2. Short-Memory Mentality – Elite athletes have a short memory. In other words, elite athletes quickly reset their focus after a mistake and shift their focus to what is in front of them.

The mistake may serve as a corrective measure or provide insight for adjusting your game plan. In this way, a mistake provides feedback rather than distraction.

The ability to quickly refocus minimizes anxiety and immerses you in the game, so you are intuitively playing rather than thinking about play.

To examine the differences between an overthinking mentality and a short-memory mentality, let’s refer to the following example: 

A basketball defender gets faked out on a crossover twice in a row to allow the opposing team to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. If he is over-focused on his defensive mistakes, he will feel tight, have slower reflexes, be distracted, and make poor decisions during the game.

Conversely, suppose the player recognizes what he can do differently and resets for the next play. 

In that case, he will understand the tendencies of the opposing player, be more focused on their body rather than the ball, and be able to react quickly. In other words, he will play confidently and be more apt to trust his instincts.

Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott, in his 7th NFL season, is one of the most consistent, reliable kickers in the league.

Elliott has never missed a playoff field goal in 15 attempts and is the 10th-most accurate kicker in NFL history among players with at least 100 attempts.

Eagles long-snapper Rick Lovato credits Elliot’s success to his ability to reset after each field goal attempt, no matter the outcome of the kick or the game situation.

LOVATO: “His composure level has always been through the roof. You never see him shaking in his boots on the sideline. It’s always the same level from the first quarter to the fourth quarter. There’s no ups, there’s no downs…He’s got a fantastic goldfish-type mindset. You make it, move on to the next, and completely forget about the last one.”

Letting go of mistakes is a mental skill that should be on top of your list of habits to develop….

When you move past mistakes quickly, you will be less likely to lose focus or make mental mistakes.

Here’s the process:

Step 1: Start by being aware of your biggest triggers when you compete. What mistakes trigger you to become upset?

Step 2: How do you typically respond to these mistakes? What makes it so upsetting?

Step 3: How can you react differently to each trigger that will help you let it go and move on to the next play?

The more prepared you are to respond constructively to mistakes, the better chance you have of coping better with mistakes during competition.

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The Composed Athlete” was developed for any level coach, parent, or junior to professional athlete who wants to improve performance and gain a competitive edge. It does not matter if you are a fledgling junior athlete; or a seasoned professional, plagued with distractions; or you just wanting to learn how to improve your composure…

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