#1 Tool to Help Athletes Recover From Mistakes in Competition

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Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

If you’re an athlete, chances are you’ve been here more than once. (And if you’re a parent of an athlete, you’ve no doubt seen this unfold!)

You make a mistake in competition or practice. 

Then, the next thing you know you make another mistake. 
Then another. 
Then another…

And all of a sudden you’re “in your own head” and can’t figure out how to play well again. 

Best case scenario you coast the rest of the way through practice or the competition and hope to not make things worse. 

Worst case you’re benched or chalk it up to a terrible practice, leaving you feeling defeated. 

Here’s the deal, though. 

Mistakes and failures will always happen if you’re an athlete. They are as normal as breathing and as common as that lay-up, serve, or back handspring. 

The difference between “good” and “bad” practice or competitions are in an athlete’s ability to learn from and recover quickly from these mistakes. 

The #1 way to do this? Have a failure recovery system. 

Enter: The Mistake Ritual.

This is a tool I use with every single one of my athletes. Because it works!

It’s a combination of a breath, a reset word, and a gesture to help athletes bounce back quickly from errors, failures, and mistakes. 

Here’s how to create one…

1. First, learn how to breathe! 

The first part of a mistake ritual is a deep, intentional breath. Breathing in fully through your nose, filling your lungs and belly, then exhaling completely is the simplest way to get back to the present moment when a mistake occurs. 

Practice it now! Breathe in fully until you can’t take in any more air. Hold for a second. Release. 

Taking a breath like this calms our nervous system, helping us to be less stressed and more focused. 

2. Create a Reset word

This is a word or a phrase you will say to yourself at the top of your breath. This word should reflect how you want to feel and/or compete. 

You can find this word by writing out your best playing moment. Spend 1-2 minutes writing about this in detail. When finished, read it over and come up with the word that best describes that moment. Ex. Prepared, calm, aggressive, on fire, etc. 

3. Come Up with a Simple Gesture

To wrap it all together, come up with a gesture you’ll do on the exhale of your breath. Something that will physically bring you back to the moment. 


Press middle finger and thumb together
“Brush off” a shoulder
Adjust your sock or ponytail
Touch the inside of your shoe

Whatever it is, it should be quick and easy to do. 

Next step is to practice! Make sure to practice your Breath + Reset Word + Gesture often in practice and competition to make sure you have it on hand when you need it.

Bonus if you can visualize yourself making a mistake, using your mistake ritual, and coming back stronger the next play! 

Note: If you play a sport that is fast paced and you don’t have 2 seconds to do your mistake ritual, you can do it on the move! Imagining your mistake ritual as you transition to the next play is just as effective! 


There you have it! My #1 tool for helping athletes bounce back faster from mistakes in competition. Remember – it only works if you practice it! 

Want more tips, trainings, and strategies to help your female athlete develop lasting confidence and elite performance? Join other coaches and moms within the Elite Competitor Society, our free Facebook group jam-packed with resources and weekly live trainings to help you and your athlete! See you there!

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