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Mental Performance Series: Recovering from a Mistake

In sports mistakes are a large part of the competition. On any level of sports mistakes will be made whether in pee wee league or to the highest level of elite performers. In this article we will focus on the 3 R’s of recovering from a mishap during competition. The 3 R’s can be used anytime you are in competition or you need to get it out of your own head.

1.      Recognize – Recognize that you have made a mistake. When a mistake has happened in a game we will often automatically know that a mistake has occurred. A teammate will tell us or a coach will inform you of the mistake made.  This is no time to sulk or get frustrated because during competition there is usually a short window to regain focus before you need to be ready to play.  Take the information from your coach, instructor or self-correct the mistake in your mind.

2.      Regroup – regrouping is 2nd part of the 3 R’s that allows you to do whatever it is you have to do to release the feeling you may have as a result of your mistake. You might take a deep breath, find a trigger word that helps you to refocus, or any other regrouping tool that you have in your arsenal of mental tools that can help you to move on after an error. This also has to be done quickly because once again in the heat of competition there is not a lot of time to be spent on   regrouping before you may be called upon to perform again.

3.      Refocus – the last R is to refocus your attention back in the game. When you refocus you have put away the mistake you have just made and moved on to the task at hand. The key here is to be in the moment and not think too far in the past and give no thought to the future. The only focus in competition should be strategy and execution of your performance in the moment play to play.

The great part about this mental performance tool is that the athletes ultimate goal is to refocus there attention to what they are in control of which is the strategy in the game and the execution of their own level of performance. If done correctly this tool leaves very little time for sulking and thinking of the past errors in performance. The athlete should always be focusing on the here and now of their performance during competition which will help them develop better play.


Article written: by Kojo Arhin sports psychology consultant and strength and conditioning specialist at Compete Sports Performance and Rehab in Lake Forest, CA.