Monday, March 7, 2011

Dealing with Mistakes

We as coaches have players make mistakes all the time, right? Of course! Mistakes are going to happen. Mistakes are the lifeblood of true deep learning. My partner in coaching/twitter, NYC_CoachO, posted a great quote from Og Mandino that speaks to the power of pushing through and persevering over mistakes.

We all want our players to learn. We all want our players to implement the Mike Krzyzewski ideal of "next play". Yet, as I look at coaches and how they handle the mistakes of their players, i am amazed at how often mistakes are considered a BAD thing. Coaches will berate and badger players over their mistakes and players can't move on, fear trying, and ultimately don't learn from those mistakes.

Last summer while working Coaching U Live, I got to meet world-class sports psychologist, Spencer Wood. During Spencer's presentation, he focused much of his time on mistake management. Another colleague/twitter friend of mine, JoeyBurton, posted notes from Spencer's portion of Coaching U. One of the great takeaways from this is Spencer's idea of visualizing himself taking a picture of the mistake, crumpling it up, and throwing it away.

Another coaching/twitter friend, CoachLok, posted about using "Flush It" as a form of dealing with mistakes and used an example from the 2008 NBA Finals.

I have always been fascinated with psychology, especially sports psychology. I've known about the power of bouncing back from mistakes. I've even heard of techniques similar to those that Spencer Wood discussed at Coaching U. They are all ways for athletes (and coaches alike) to allow for mistakes to happen yet learn from them in the process. But most of those tools were individual and had to do with just visualizing.

Through my journey of being certified to be a trainer for Positive Coaching Alliance, I have learned more about mistake rituals. Mistake rituals are similar in goal to the visualization process, but have a couple of added dimensions. These simple additions can really increase the power and effectiveness for your players and ultimately for your team.

The first difference is that a mistake ritual is a physical action. It is something you DO. It goes hand in hand with the visualization process, but the action provides multidimensional approach/multi-sensory learning. The more senses we can incorporate, the more effective this becomes.

The second difference is that the mistake ritual is a team thing. This mistake ritual is a signal not only to the individual who committed the mistake, it is also a signal to his coaches and teammates. It allows the player to say to coaches and teammates, "I recognize my mistake. It is behind me. AND I am going to learn from it." <=There's Coach K's Next Play.

Some of the great ideas that I've picked up from PCA are:

-Flush It - This worked for the 2009 LSU baseball team, the 2004 Cal State Fullerton baseball team, and Canada College men's basketball team. Players would make a motion like flushing a toilet. I personally like this one, because if you make a CRAPPY play, you just flush it!

-No Sweat - Players wipe their brow like wiping sweat off their forehead.

-Brush It Off - Players make a motion like dusting dirt off their shoulder.

-Shake It Off - Players shake a body part (or their whole body) like shaking sand or water off.

I also like the Flush It because it is quick. While you could possibly incorporate Spencer's photo idea, it may take too long to act like you're taking a snapshot and crumpling it up. I don't know. Never tried it. I just see it lasting too long and ultimately leading to another mistake like not getting back on D. BUT, the message is still just as powerful!

Please feel free to leave comments if you have other mistake rituals you've used or heard of. I would love to hear other ideas along those lines.