Do you lose confidence and beat yourself up after a poor performance or tough loss?
Do you crumble and lose composure after the first mistake of the game? I bet you did not know that setbacks can be used as a way to improve your confidence in sports. The best athletes know how to overcome mistakes and poor performances so they can move forward with confidence instead of heartache. In this article, I teach you how to assess your performances to be your own best friend and to use mistakes as an opportunity to gain confidence and improve your performance next time.
Many of the young athletes I observe and work with as a mental game coach are very quick to pick out what they did wrong after a game or sporting event and criticize their own performance. This holds especially true for the perfectionistic athletes I know. For these athletes, mistakes and poor performances are an opportunity to dwell on the past and be negative about future competition, but this does little for confidence going forward.
The first step to learning how to be your own best friend is to oust the self-critical and judgmental behavior that ruins any self-confidence you have left in the tank. Being self-critical means you probably get frustrated easily with your performance, an emotion that keeps you stuck in the past while you replay that missed jump shot that would have given your team the lead over and over again in your mind.
Some athletes get so down on themselves that they reach a state of I do not care anymore and just want the game or match to be over as fast as possible. This is not a good mindset to have if you want to improve confidence.
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” ~Thomas Edison
The second step is to learn how to react to mistakes so you can play on with confidence. You first have to realize that just because you gave up the ball does not mean you have to be frustrated and down on yourself. Partly, your lofty expectations (I should never give the ball up I am too good for that) cause you to get upset and think too much about the error.
I tell my students not to look in the rear view mirror. Do not focus on what is in the past that you cannot change. Refocus as fast as you can on the next point, play, or shot. You have to make the mistake OK in your own mind so you can focus on the next play, shot, or point.
I teach my students a simple three-step process for getting back on track after a mishap. This is simple a tool to help you refocus when needed, called the Three Rs for refocusing: Recognize, Regroup, Refocus.
- The first step to changing behavior is to RECOGNIZE faulty thinking. Here you recognize that you are thinking ahead about future outcomes (â€œWhat if they score on me and we lose?
- The next step is to interrupt the faulting thinking. REGROUP by distracting yourself to stop the chain of thought (Stop thinking about the end of the game or if you win or lose! That will not help you right now.).
- The last and most important step is to REFOCUS on the task in front of you. You can do this by asking yourself a simple question: “What do I need to focus on RIGHT NOW to execute the best play for the team?”
The goal of using the three Rs is to help you refocus on the next point or shot when you get sidetracked. It is OK to lose your focus momentarily, and this will happen to most athletes during a game, but smart athletes recognize when they are off task and quickly get back to playing in the here and now the present moment. Next time you notice you are off-task, try the three Rs for getting back on track.
The third step is to be able to assess your performance through rose-colored glasses. It is easy to pick on yourself after a game or performance (I stunk it up today), but that does not help confidence. I suggest that you focus on two things you did well in the game first! No one is going to help you feel confident, but yourself. You have to take control and think about good things that you did well during the game or performance that make you feel like you contributed to the team.
I am a believer in using your errors to improve for the next performance. It is best that you try to be objective (non-emotional) about your performance and assess your game stats like a reporter would. This can help you decide what you need to work on in the next practice or two to improve those weaker areas of your performance. This can only help give you confidence going into the next competition knowing you are a better performer.
Finally, I am sure you can think of MANY reasons why you are a good athlete. Do not let a dark cloud hang over your head because you had one bad day on the playing field or made a couple costly mistakes. Remind yourself of the great performances you have had and the good plays you have made. Your self-confidence should be based on the many practices and games you have had in sports, not the last error you made. Pretend to be the most positive coach you know and give yourself a pep-talk after the game.