Trial and Error: How to Get over Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes are common, mistakes will happen, but mistakes do not define you as an athlete or coach. When we hold on to a mistake, we are typically feeling emotions of a fear of failure, wanting to be perfect, or just a threat to our ego. The mistake itself does not make us feel this way it is thinking about the mistake and replaying it in our mind that makes us feel this way. Unrealistically we are often told just to get over it, but that is not necessarily how our mind works. Here are three strategies to make sure mistakes do not stay longer with you than they should.




  1. Learn and Burn

  2. Learn from a mistake! If you must replay the mistake in your mind, find a way to learn from it, process, and move on. If we are not learning from the mistake, we are probably going to repeat it. For example, if you are an ultimate frisbee athlete and you are trying to throw a deep huck to a wide-open cutter that ends up floating a bit out of the reach of your teammate because of wind. There are a couple of things you can learn from that mistake. 1) How should you have thrown it knowing there is some wind? 2) Did you have to throw that or could you have looked it off for a higher percentage throw? 3) Based on the situation did we need to score quickly? When we are learning about the mistake, we are not dwelling we are trying to become future-oriented so we can make sure we know what to do if the situation comes up again. You can’t change the past so you might as well learn and burn.

  3. What’s Important Now

  4. What's important now? or WIN is an acronym that many have talked about before but it's soo good. It is all about getting our minds to stay in the present. When our mind is too far in the past, we are not focused on what we have to do in the present. If we are thinking about a past mistake, we are missing valuable information that might lead to another mistake. So, after a mistake refocus yourself by asking, “What’s Important Now?” Then find time after the game to possibly evaluate and reflect on how to handle these specific situations better. During the game, it is hard to find the time to reflect on past scenarios. Learn to stay in the present.

  5. Flushing the Toilet

  6. We will all make mistakes! Let me repeat that, we will all make mistakes! The idea behind flushing a toilet is being ok with making a mistake. Adam Thielen, wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings, has talked about using this technique he learned from his mental coach. Thielen said the coach taught them not just to think about the phrase, but to pair it with a physical act. So, when you think about flushing a toilet actually pretend like you are reaching for that leaver and flush it. Sounds silly but sometimes the silliest acts actually get us back into that present focus we need in order to perform at our best level.

These are just a few of the simple ways we can get over a mistake. It takes practice but the more you practice a mental technique the stronger it becomes.

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