Here is the scenario: Going into a game/performance, an athlete's confidence is high, he/she is motivated to perform at his/her highest levels to come out with a win... and then an error occurs. So does the athlete spiral into a funnel of mistakes or maintain his/her confidence and find a way to get the job done? It all comes down to whether or not they are demanding perfection.
When an athlete puts pressure on him/herself to perform perfectly, he/she is unable to accept and forget about mistakes that occur. Even though there are times when an athlete can have a flawless performance, (known as being in the zone), there are going to be games/performances where mistakes occur. No athlete has a perfect performance every time they step out onto the field/court, so accepting that mistakes are inevitable, will allow an athlete to maintain their focus on the competition. As previous blogs have discussed, being present centered and focused on the here and now is essential for optimal performance. Therefore, if an athlete is worried about a mistake that occurred a few plays back, or fears the possibility of a future mistake, they are going to miss key elements of the competition and fall into a trap. Negative thoughts begin to fill their head and frustration takes over. The biggest problem is when the athlete becomes so discouraged about their performance and as a result falls into a rut that lasts for several games leading to self doubt and fear of the game. So what can the athlete do to help alleviate their need for perfection?
Understand that mistakes happen. Mistakes do not dictate the type of player/performer he/she is, how they overcome mistakes does.
Take a deep breath and stay focused on the skills needed to perform in that moment.
Develop a three second memory. Forget about the mistake during the rest of the game/performance. Address the mistakes at a later time; did the mistake occur because of a technical error that can be corrected and avoided in the future or was it just a result of the circumstances?
Ultimately, if a mistake is feared and then occurs, the athlete becomes tense, anxious, and begins to experience a deflating confidence, while the athlete who understands mistakes can and will happen, is able to remain relaxed, focused, and confident, which allows them to still reach high levels of performance. Forget about perfection, and aim instead to be an athlete who is able to handle the pressures of competition to perform at optimal levels, even after a mistake.
So the question is: are you going to be the athlete who thrives or flounders after a mistake?