Athletes often talk about mistakes as the cause for a loss or a bad performance. In this sense, mistakes get a bad rap.
When we look at tennis greats, we applaud them for their outstanding achievement, but what you don’t see are the thousands upon thousands upon thousands of mistakes they have made in their career.
How is that possible?
How can the best tennis players also be the greatest mistake-makers?
“The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.”
Theodore Roosevelt gave us this pearl of wisdom back in 1900. Not only does this saying apply today, it is particularly profound in the arena of sports.
Here are five reasons why getting comfortable with mistakes will help your game:
- Mistakes and success are not on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Mistakes are a prerequisite to success.
- Mistakes are the little steps in the learning process. Let’s go back to the first time you picked up a tennis racquet… You picked up a giant racquet, hoped to serve the ball over a net that was far away and land the ball in a little box. Were you successful the first time? The 2nd time? The 20th time? Each attempt provided feedback for how to serve the ball differently, more effectively and more efficiently. Imagine now if after your first attempt you gave into the fear of making mistakes… Attempt #2 would have probably never taken place.
- Fear of failure gets in the way of focus. Mistakes happen. During a match the key is to learn and let them go.
- Missing well is a sign of a strong competitor. Going for the right shot, even if the ball goes out or in the net can be motivating. If you know you went for it, and your strategy made tactical sense it can be a confidence booster.
- Champions turn a momentary let-down into an even stronger desire to win. Yes a mistake can be frustrating, AND it can also fuel a stronger focus. The key is use positive self-talk, hit the mental re-set button and play the next point with renewed determination.
Learn From a Professional
Nineteen year-old Louisa Chirico made a splash at the Madrid Open. Chirico, ranked 133rd at the start of the Open, made her first WTA Tour semifinal and she did so by going for her shots. Chirico committed to play aggressively and beat 39th-ranked Daria Gavrilova, 7-6 (1), 6-2 en route to her highest WTA finish and moving up to a 74th ranking.
Jay Gooding, one of the coaches who has worked with Chirico, points to her fearlessness and ability to move on from mistakes as her greatest assets.
GOODING: “She’s very strong physically and she can move. When she was younger, she wasn’t afraid to miss. Normally in junior tennis, especially in America, everyone is pushing, and moon-balls, and she was never afraid to miss. She missed a lot, but I liked that. As a coach, I think, okay, there’s a lot of upside there. You can always tone that down; it’s tougher to get someone to hit the ball than to slow it down.”
Chirico’s successful showing at the Madrid Open has more to do with her mental strength than her physical prowess. Chirico is comfortable with making mistakes, that is, she is not afraid of taking risk… There is no fear of failure.
Tardio Tips: Getting comfortable with mistakes
- Getting comfortable with mistakes does not imply you are choosing to make mistakes. It means you view mistakes as opportunities to grow your game.
- During practice, get into the habit of asking yourself, “What does this mistake teach me about how to improve my game?” Was my strategy the right one even though I missed?
Trust your shots and learn from mistakes.
Going for it may just fuel your fire even more.
Read more on playing mentally tough here: Self-Doubt Equals Self-Destruction for Tennis Performance
To learn more about mental game coaching click here: Contact Perform Sports Psychology