Does the fear of messing up haunt you before your games? Are you preoccupied with what you could possibly do wrong during your contests? If fear of mistakes is a “close teammate” of yours, then you need to learn to get better control of your focus of concentration.
Allowing your concentration to drift to all the things that could go wrong either before or during your games is a surefire mental strategy for tentative, poor performance. Your fear of making mistakes will almost always crank your nervousness up, tighten your muscles and steal your self-confidence. NO ONE, regardless of their ability, talent or physical conditioning can perform at their peak when worried about mistakes.
So if this is a problem of yours, listen up: EVERYONE MAKES MISTAKES! EVERYONE! There’s absolutely no way that you or any other athlete can avoid making them. Even when you’re playing exceptionally well, you’ll still mess up a few times. When you’re having a normal day, you’ll mess up even more. However, when it’s one of those bad days, and EVERYONE HAS THOSE, you’ll make a ton of mistakes. The key issue for you to consider here isn’t making the mistakes. The key here is how do you then react to them, i.e. how do you deal with them.
You need to train yourself to not fear messing up. You need to “normalize” them for yourself. You can make mistakes and still have the performance of your lifetime. You can mess up and still be around to make the game saving or winning play. But you can only do this if you can learn to change your relationship with mistakes.
You need to learn to both accept your mistakes when they happen and then forgive yourself for making them. Perfectionists have a difficult time with both of these. They mistakenly believe that they should never screw up and when they do, they mercilessly beat themselves up. Expecting perfection and then punishing yourself when you’re not is a great way to make yourself unhappy and totally sabotage your game.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that mistakes are NOT the enemy. You’re wasting valuable energy “mobilizing your troops” to fight against them. Instead, try to keep your focus on the task at hand, what you have to do, RIGHT NOW, in the present. The antidote for fear of mistakes is to direct your concentration away from the future and into the NOW on what you are doing in the performance. Every time, and I mean EVERY TIME YOUR FOCUS DRIFTS INTO THE FUTURE AND YOUR WORRY ABOUT MESSING UP, QUICKLY RETURN YOUR CONCENTRATION TO THE NOW!
Remember: Mistakes aren’t the problem. How you react to and handle them is!