MENTAL MISTAKE #5:
MISSING THE POSITIVE FEEDBACK FROM FAILURE
The Post Competition Assessment
A skater will miss a jump, trip, fall or even hold back and try and play it safe. If you participate in skating, failure & mistakes are inevitable.
And that’s ok. Mistakes and failure can actually be good for your young skater. Learning from mistakes is a valuable tool in a champions mental toolkit.
“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.” Coach John Wooden
In my skating career, I had many setbacks. As a soloist and later a pair skater I endured many injuries from broken bones to muscle pulls & sprains, as well as many disappointing performances and competition outcomes. I remember how difficult it was to accept that I would not be able to compete that year due to a broken ankle, or that if my partner and I had not made that final mistake in our program we could have placed 1stinstead of 2nd.
But what I remember most was a relentless desire and focus to do whatever was necessary to be stronger when my injury healed and to be better at the next competition. This is all part of competitive skating.
Failure is our ally, not our enemy. Reframing failure and viewing it as valuable feedback is the first step to overcoming the fear of failure. I teach that there is no such thing as failure – failure is just feedback.
It’s what we do with it, the feedback from failure that makes the difference.
Getting hung up on the mistake, the fear of failing or focusing only on the wins and losses distracts skaters from important learning opportunities that can occur when a mistake is made.
“It may seem counterintuitive, but failure is the greatest teacher,” said Dr. Jim Afremow, “We learn best by making mistakes or experiencing disappointments, and then growing from them.
Defeat and disappointments are an integral part of sports and life – but it’s how we respond to them and learn from them that makes us truly successful.”
After experiencing a disappointment in skating, athletes can do one of two things.
- They can either feel bad about themselves and the outcome of the event
- They can learn from what happened and come back stronger and smarter.
Resilience is paramount to building confidence. Confidence cannot be built in the presence of fear. When you conquer something difficult, you don’t fear it anymore.
Long-term success is always more important than short-term results. Failure is your ally, the feedback from every mistake gives you the instructions to performance success, not something to be feared or to be devastated by. It is said that without risk there is no reward.
A bad performance is a temporary event and doesn’t have to negatively affect a skaters training. It is your choice how you handle adversity.
So, even if you as a skater fall in your program, play it safe and double instead of triple, for example, you will become a better skater and build confidence as an athlete and person by learning what happened and why, and knowing how to handle similar situations next time. This is the necessary growth of a champion skater.
LEARNING FROM MISTAKES AND DISAPPOINTMENT
Steps for parents to take to help their child learn from disappointment:
1. Acknowledge and allow your child to express their feelings after the event, be a great listener!
If your child is in the mood to talk about the game and the difficulties, let them express their feelings but don’t give solutions or explanations to the child’s feelings of disappointment, anger or frustration.
Let your child know that you hear them and that they are not criticized for how they performed or how they feel about it. Do not try to change the child’s mind or take their words literally. The last thing you want to have happen is your child learns to keep quiet after experiencing difficulty because they are afraid to express feelings without getting a backlash or a lecture from their parent.
2. After emotions subside, help them see the learning experience, the positive feedback.
When your skater is calm and emotionally ready to discuss their performance, then it will be time to give them a healthy perspective on the competition. This might be hours or even a day later.
3. Inspire them by reminding them of their proven strengths and abilities and why they love skating and competing.
This process is ongoing during the days following a difficult event. Whenever appropriate, and when you have their full attention, ask them or remind them why they love to skate, what are all the great and fun things they enjoy about skating and competing.
Find as many positive things to compliment your skater on, what they have done well, how proud of them you are! Remember, they have coaches that let them know all their weaknesses every day, and judges that identify all the errors and mistakes.
Shower it on them – but the compliments must be believable and sincere.
What do you do after a disappointing performance?
You can’t get better as a skater unless you’re willing to fail! Why? Because failures, mistakes, and losses provide you with a valuable source of feedback.
Mistakes & failure tell you what you did that was incorrect and what not to do next time.
Every time that you fail, lose or make a mistake, you have a choice, to take the feedback and to identify what is needed to improve or dwell on the mistake and allow it to erode your confidence.
This is either an opportunity to excel and lift up the level of your training and performance or beat yourself up and learn very little, possibly making the same mistakes the next time.
There are 2 common ways that skaters deal with setbacks.
- Positive self-talk: Beating yourself up, using failure as evidence that you’re inadequate, weak, “no good”, etc. Athletes who do this use their failures to emotionally beat themselves up. This is the skater who breaks down in tear, throws their skates or kicks the ice, and says to themselves, “You loser! You do this every time! You will never win!”
Using your mistakes and losses in this way does not help your training. This kind of self-abuse only serves to erode your confidence, dissolve your motivation and interferes with your performance.
- The way champions deal with failure and mistakes. To them, failure is nothing more than what they have to do to get to their goals. It is their road map. Failure and losses are the pieces to the puzzle necessary for achieving goals. They are the “map & flashlight” that directs you through the dark tunnel, it focuses the light on what is needed to improve and necessary to get you to your goal.
If you constantly beat yourself up when you fail, then you’ll be more reluctant to take the risks necessary to get you to your goals.
Many Olympic or Famous Athletes will admit that their success came with setbacks and failures and without those mistakes and failures they would not have reached the level they had and become the champions they are today.
- Use visualization to condition a successful performance: This is important because it communicates with your unconscious mind or UCM. The UCM’s job in your brain is to protect you and to get you what you want. So, if you are only focusing on visualizing or imagining failure, you confuse your UCM into believing that is the outcome you truly desire– essentially setting yourself for failure. The failure more than likely becomes the natural outcome.
In my Mental Toughness Training, the visualization techniques that I teach not only help skaters and athletes alike deal with performance anxiety but provide a conditioning program for the UCM to focus on the task at hand and provide your mind and body with the blueprint & directions, like a “flashlight & map” for performance success.
MENTAL TOUGHNESS MIND GYM TRAINING
MENTAL MUSCLE EXERCISE:
- “Do it for the love of skating.” Reminding yourself what you love about skating & competing can be a powerful motivator.
Make a list of everything you love about skating and competing and make it long! Read it frequently to remind yourself when training gets tough and your confidence weakens.
During the team competition at the 2014 Olympics, Frank Carroll was overheard (via TV) tell the nervous 18-year-old U.S. skater Gracie Gold “Think about how much you love skating!” as she glided onto the ice for her performance.
- “Next!” An important and effective “motivational motto” used by many athletes to help move on from an error. Worse mistakes than the one made can occur during any performance. The motto “next” reminds skaters to leave their mistakes in the past and focus on what they need to do in the coming moment, “in the present”. Dwelling on a missed element at the beginning of a program won’t help you focus on and perform the next difficult element. The time to analyze or lament over mistakes is when the performance is over, this is where the learning from feedback is so important.
It IS important though, to have a plan of attack for when a combination jump or a mandatory element is missed, this is something that needs to be addressed in practice with your coach, it’s your game plan that is set ahead of time so that a skater can practice it and be prepared for when an adjustment to a program is needed in the moment, this way a skater won’t get derailed and spiral downward mentally when they need to adjust their program on the fly.
- “Aim for excellence, not perfection.” This is a great motto for anyone whose perfectionistic tendencies prevent them from getting anything done. Needing your performance to be perfect can cause a skater to become paralyzed with performance anxiety, this can show up as circling the ice, and making excuses for not attempting jumps during practice. Focus on the process, not the outcome.
Gracie Gold’s coach Frank Carroll emphasized that “It’s not the perfect skater that wins, it’s the best skater.” Accepting failures and glitches in one’s program is simply part of the competitive process.
- Be proactive, this is where positive feedback helps. By goal setting and frequently tweaking those plans, you are able to analyze your performance and plan appropriately for the next competition. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What were my errors and mistakes?
- Why did they happen? (Make sure you answer without judgment, or self-criticism, analyze in a dispassionate way as if you were doing this for your best friend)
- Where do I need to improve most?
- Were the mistakes due to a technical skill still needed to learn, a physical skill to make the body stronger or a mental skill that needs to be conditioned to the UCM.
- What do I need to do in order to make the necessary changes for improvement? (Your coach, fitness instructor or mental trainer will be able to assist you here if you are unsure)
It all comes down to “ACTION”, in order to improve and reach your goals, action is needed.
Analyze, develop positive feedback and create a plan for improvement, this process will build a “CAN DO” attitude and confidence, in the process toward success.
Keeping your thoughts on the past and dwelling on what did or didn’t happen during a performance creates a cycle of negative self-talk, and a focus on avoiding failure and inaction, rather than pursuing success. It’s easier to circle and come up with reasons not to attempt that jump than to miss it and fall or underrotate.
Use each setback as motivation to improve and to perform better at the next competition. So, you had a bad day. A bad year. Can you use those failures as a springboard to success?
Google your favourite athletes, you’ll find that almost every Olympian has used a significant loss to motivate themselves to improve in the coming year.
Which of your favourite skaters do you admire? How have they used adversity to become a better skater?
What setback in your skating can you use to “motivate & launch” you to success?
Don’t miss my Fearless Tip #6 next week!
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Christine Reeves Beleznay, CMTT, CLC. CNLP
Certified Mental Toughness Trainer, Certified Life Coach,
Certified Neuro-Linguistic Practitioner
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