5 Scientifically Proven Ways to Bounce Back From Mistakes

We've all been there at one point or another in our playing career; we are getting served off the court, hitting out, hitting into the net or doubling our sets.  We feel frustrated, like we are letting our team down and we started getting defeated.  

Let's look at some ways we can navigate those situations.  What we really want to do is call a timeout and go practice passing, setting or hitting for the next hour then return like a badass.  Unfortunately unless we want the games to run for days on end we have to focus on the mental aspect and what can actually control in those moments.  

Here are 5 scientifically proven ways to bounce back after any mistake.

1. Breathe

*Sarcastically rolls eyes * "Oh great advice, I never knew I needed to breathe." Right you've heard this over and over again but it does work and here's why.  When you make a mistake you put your entire body into fear mode which then invokes this tiny evil walnut sized part of your brain called the amygdala.  This nut sized evil entity is responsible for your fight, flight and freeze response.  Now even though your not running from a bear, your brain thinks you are.  Cue anger, adrenaline, and shut down of your prefrontal cortex (the rational part of your brain).  Taking about 3-5 DEEP breaths (think zen master in through your nose and out your mouth) can get your nervous system out of this response mode and will allow you to get your head back in the game, literally. 

2. Use Your Teammate(s)

After we make mistakes our response can be to shut down and go inside ourselves.  As tempting as it may be even for introverts you have to go to your team even if it's just one person.  Science has shown us over and over again we are social creatures and we derive a good portion of our happiness from positive social interactions.  Reconnecting with the people around you after a negative experience speeds up mental recovery time.  

3. What did you do right?

There's no possible way you screwed up every aspect of that play.  Odds are unless your an actual baboon you probably did something correctly.  Were you positioned correctly, were your feet there, was your swing good, etc... Looking towards the positive instead of instantly saying "I'm the actual worst player in the history of all sports" (sometimes we really go for it) primes our brain for possibility.  We need this possibility mentally to recover and improve.  When we are positive and thinking about rainbows and butterflies we perform better physically.  It also is just proven to make us feel happier and who doesn't want that?

4. Visualize

Did you know your brain has a hard time telling the difference between reality and what you make up?  This is why children who come to you with made up stories will actually cry real tears.  My sister once made up a lie to a flight attendant, got too carried away and started crying in flight (cue the fake violins).  

Visualization is so powerful which is why almost all olympic athletes use it.  Here's how we are going to use it after any mistake.  After the mistake has happened, visualize the exact same scenario but this time it goes perfectly.  Your pass was right on target, you crushed for a kill or you executed a set so magnificent that everyone in the stands immediately gave it a chef's kiss.  Weirdly (and kind of scary) enough your brain will now process that as a memory, making your next play that much better.

5. Reset

If you've ever owned any electronic you know the best way to fix anything is to turn it off and turn it back on again.  I swear I could run my own tech support company with a recording of the phrase "have you tried turning it off and back on again?"  Well the same is true for us, reset yourself after every mistake.  I'm a big fan of the phrase "ok well that happened."  Resetting helps you focus on the present which is what you need to pass the next ball, set like a god and crush the ball so hard an actual tombstone erects in its place.

Next time you "oops" on the court/sand just remember to breathe, use your team, think about what you did right, visualize and then reset.

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