Volleyball is one of my favorite sports to watch live.
It’s powerful, fast and requires laser-sharp focus. One of the most significant mental challenges of the game is managing mistakes – letting go of mistakes quickly.
Mistakes are an incredibly important part of the learning process and they are absolutely required in order to develop as a player. I know, this is tough news for all you perfectionists out there.
Not managing mistakes tends to generate a lot of extra thinking and emotion. And that causes players to focus on how they’re feeling, which is usually frustrated!
Once the emotions creep in, game performance suffers.
Let’s look at Ashley as an example.
Ashley is a club volleyball player with hopes of playing in college. She is hardworking, talented and loves the game, but recently her performance wasn’t as good as it should be.
She came to me with a lot of aggravation about making too many mistakes and asked if I could help her in order to increase her chances of getting recruited. I quickly apologized to Ashley and told her that I couldn’t help.
“Why not? Isn’t that what you do?”
I replied, “No, I don’t help athletes avoid mistakes.”
Ashley pondered for a moment and asked, “But if I’m still making mistakes, I will still get frustrated and my coach will pull me out of the rotation!”
“Yes, that’s usually what happens.” I said.
Ashley: “I don’t get it. How do you help players like me?”
I went on to explain to Ashley that—
“It’s not about not making mistakes — it’s about effectively managing mistakes you make.”
For example, if you fail to dig a ball on defense — one you probably should have gotten — you have a couple of choices:
• You can dwell on it, get frustrated, wish it never it happened and worry about if it might happen again, or
• You can give yourself a brief correction and change your focus towards the next ball.
No extra thinking and no emotions are triggered so you still have 100 percent of your focus for the next ball.
This drastically decreases the likelihood of making another mistake.
Ashley and I did work together and it took some time, practice (successes and failures) and lots of repetition. In time, Ashley created new habits to manage her mistakes. She made fewer and she recovered quickly.
Mistakes are part of the game and we all make them, but those who are mentally tough, don’t let mistakes break their confidence. They quickly learn from the mistake and move on.
Erika Carlson is a certified mental trainer and owner of Excellence in Sport Performance in Pleasanton.