Accepting Mistakes During Practice
How do you view mistakes during practice? Are they a way for you to learn and grow as a player, or are they something to fear and avoid?
In this article, we're going to uncover the dangers of fearing mistakes in practice, along with a strategy you can apply to better use mistakes as a way to learn and improve as a player.
Fearing Mistakes in Practice
It's easy to say you should see mistakes as a way to learn and grow...but that doesn't mean it's any easier to do. While accepting mistakes as a natural part of improving is necessary, the reality of what happens can be quite the opposite.
Just because you know it's okay to make mistakes during practice doesn't make it any less frustrating if you find yourself playing below your normal skill level.
But that's exactly what happens when you do focus more on an area of weakness.
There's an athlete I'm working with right now who's been focusing a lot during practice on a weakness within his game. Since he's been giving so much attention to that one area (which isn't a strong suit quite yet) he's been making more mistakes.
He talked to me about how frustrating he was finding it and how his confidence was beginning to go down as a result.
What I told him is the same thing I want you to truly take to heart: sometimes you must open yourself up to playing worse in the present to improve over the long-term.
His focus on his weakness will make him a better player. Right now, however, it is leading to him making more mistakes than usual during practice. That's okay, since overall his skill level will increase as a result.
But there's another element that can make accepting mistakes during practice hard. Your coaches.
There's another athlete I'm working with who is fighting for a starting position. He's a quarterback, and one of the major areas of his game he needs to work on is confidence in his reads.
Put another way, he needs to get better and more comfortable with making quick decisions with his reads.
When he doubts himself and his throws, he hesitates. This hesitation closes the window, causing an open receiver (and what was a good read) to turn into an interception.
To gain confidence in his reads, we discussed the importance of being more trusting in his decisions and quicker with his decisions during practice.
But the major concern he had was that this would lead to bad throws during practice. And, I told him, he was right. It will lead to bad throws. But it will also lead to good throws and confidence over time.
No confidence will grow if there's too much fear surrounding mistakes in practice. He will only continue to hold himself back, due to worry about messing up in front of his coaches.
Have you ever felt that before? Where you're afraid of making a mistake in practice because of what your coaches will think? Or, more specifically, because of the effect them seeing you mess up will have on your playing time?
While that worry may be a real one, it is also a limiting one. To truly become the best you can be, you must open yourself up to failure during practice.
Learning How to Accept Failure in Practice
As I said earlier, just because you know you shouldn't fear mistakes in practice doesn't make it any easier. The frustration you feel is still there and very real.
But there's also another way of looking at mistakes during practice. And that's as a great opportunity to learn and improve. Something this strategy will help you do.
Step #1: Know Your Goal
Whether long-term or short-term, you need to have a goal set for yourself.
A long-term goal will help keep your sights on improving. The first athlete I mentioned had the long-term goal of becoming a better player. This goal is the reason he was okay with his short-term performance taking a bit of a step back.
He knew that the small step back he was taking would ultimately lead to a large leap forward.
Getting clear on your long-term goal will help keep you focused and motivated, even if your immediate performance isn't as good as you'd like.
In addition to a long-term goal, you also need a short-term goal. Now, with this short-term goal, what I'm really talking about is a daily objective for practice.
In other words, you need to know exactly what you're wanting to work on that day.
It's easy to have practices turn into a performance. Especially when you're fighting for a starting position. But you must remember that practice is the time for improving.
To improve, you must know what you're wanting to improve. By setting a daily goal for yourself, you help center your attention on improving, rather than performing.
Step #2: Change How You Evaluate Practice
Post performance evaluations can either be helpful or hurtful, depending on how they're carried out. To work on accepting mistakes during practice, you want to make sure you're reviewing your mistakes after practice in a productive way.
By productive, I mean a way that helps you learn from them and improve. The opposite of a productive way would be a hurtful way. Where you think about the mistakes you made during practice and beat yourself up and become overly self-critical.
Whether after a practice or a game, your evaluation system needs to accomplish two goals: build confidence and find areas to improve.
The way this would work for you after practices is going through and thinking about what you did well. I encourage you to note any progress you're making, no matter how big or small.
Because remember, if you're working on a weakness, it's not all of a sudden going to turn into a strength. It takes time. And during this time, there are many small progressions made along the way.
You want to focus on the progress as a way to remind yourself that the mistakes you're making are worth it and are keeping you on the right direction towards improvement.
The second goal of the evaluation is improving. Once you've identified what you did well, you want to think about your mistakes and use them as lessons. This continues to reframe how you see mistakes during practice.
Turning them from something to fear into something you can use to learn and improve as a player.
To accomplish both goals, there are questions you can ask yourself:
- What are some positives of my performance today?
- What can I learn from my performance today?
Answering those questions is a great way to build your confidence after practices, along with learning to accept mistakes and use them to grow, instead of something to fear and get mad at yourself over.
Are you afraid of making mistakes in practice?
It's easy to fear mistakes, but doing so only limits your growth and limits your performance in the moment.
Fear leads to tension and underperforming. It also puts you into a performing mindset during practice, instead of a training and improving mindset.
To help accept mistakes during practice instead of fearing them, be sure you are clear on your goal for the day, and begin changing the way you evaluate yourself and your game following practice.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
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