Learning From a Mistake you Make as an Athlete | Q&A with Coach Diana

Today’s Topic: Learning From a Mistake you Make as an Athlete


Hi everyone. I’m Coach Diana with Complete Performance Coaching, and I am going to do a Q&A today. The topic that I’m going to talk about is something that several athletes have asked me about recently, especially as competition season gets underway for gymnastics, but also other sports.

Q: How do I manage when I make a mistake to make sure that I don’t continue to make mistakes over and over again?



We often hear in sports coaches and sports psych people will say, “You have to focus on one skill at a time, one play at a time,” which is correct, but it’s a lot easier said than done.


Get Rid of Your Mistake

When you’re in a competition setting, and you make a mistake, you really need to do something to actually throw the mistake away and then refocus. If you keep focusing on the one mistake that you make, then you will, one mistake will turn into two, to three, every event might go downhill. You really want to control it after the first mistake.

I always tell my athletes that I’m working with, “When you make a mistake, do something visibly to get rid of the mistake.” Whether it’s wiping your forehead and getting rid of the mistake. If you’re a gymnast and you’re on bars, you might spit on your grips and then you go re-chalk, and that action is really getting rid of the mistake.

A lot of baseball players that I’ve worked with have done something like step out of the batter’s box, and they take their bat, and they crush the ground, and that’s like crushing their mistake. Pitchers will sometimes throw dirt over their shoulder. If you’re on balance beam, you might just wipe the bottoms of your feet, like you’re wiping off the mistake. You really need to do some action that’s get rid of the mistake in your mind. It’s over and done with, and now, we need to refocus.


Learn From Your Mistake

After you take the action getting rid of the mistake, then you need to have a follow-up with that, and I suggest something little like taking a deep breath and then having some positive self-talk. So, some focus words like, “I’ve got this. You can do it.” Something to get you back in the frame of doing well versus focusing on the mistake.

A lot of times with some sports, like gymnastics, you have several events and you might fall on your first event, in the beginning of your routine, and you have very little time to get it together to finish up that routine. So, if you have a routine that you’ve worked out in your mind, that you’ve practiced, all of that can be done in a matter of seconds. Know what you’re going to do to get rid of the mistake. Visibly get rid of the mistake.


Stay Positive After the Fact

Then, practice taking a deep breath, even just one, and then follow it up with some positive refocus words. “I’ve got this, you can do it, this is a new at-bat, or a new pitch.” Something to get you refocused on what’s happening. After the competition or the game, or match is over, then you can go back and work through the mistakes that you’ve made, analyze them, deal with them, maybe do some mental imagery with them.

But in the moment, you don’t have time to do all that, especially if you’re in the middle of a beam routine, or bar routine, or in the middle of a match, and you don’t have time to do much. So, have an action plan, visibly do something, even if it’s walking over and getting a drink of water out of your bag, to where you can just let it go. Then, follow it up with a deep breath, and then some positive self-talk to get you refocused.


Only Allow it to Happen Once

That way, that one mistake can be your only mistake, and you don’t have to carry it through the rest of the routine, or to other events, to the next at-bat, any of that. Okay, so those are my tips for dealing with or managing mistakes in a competition. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave me a message, or you can send me an email at diana@completeperformancecoaching.com, and I will be happy to answer them.

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