What Your Athlete Can Learn From the NFL

As a student of the mental side of any sport I was intrigued by a particular play during yesterday's the Chargers - Patriots game to see what the response would be after the game and today in the media. The play involved the Charger's fullback Mike Tolbert fumbling late in the game on a drive that would have put the Chargers ahead in a game they would lose to New England 35-21. Tolbert's fumble was unique because it was on a second effort in changing directions to get more yards that a Patriot defender poked the ball loose from Tolbert.

Certainly on one hand the fumble was devastating to the Chargers efforts to win the game, but on the other hand Tolbert's mistake was a mistake of "effort." Football like softball contains a very wicked individual game within the larger team game. As expected the media and Tolbert himself pointed to his mistake as the reason San Diego lost the game. Even his coaches addressed the fumble as a problem. Poor Mike Tolbert looked emotionally crushed at his locker being interviewed with a dozen microphones and cameras in his face.
from K.C. Alfred, San Diego U-T

The question for Tolbert is how will he respond to such a difficult play and game (where he also failed to score on a 4th down play from the New England one yard line). As in softball no one player or one play truly decides the outcome of a game and there are always myriad opportunities for the team to play better -- as was surely the case with the Chargers.

It is safe to say that if you are a running back or quarterback in the National Football League you are going to make mistakes. Like softball football is a game that will kick you in the stomach some days (literally!). Mike Tolbert's error of effort should be partially excused by his coaches (as opposed to a mental error).

So how does the story of Mike Tolbert's fumble pertain to your athlete? She needs to distinguish effort from results. Sometimes in sports the harder you try, the more effort you give the more likely mistakes will happen. However, as a coach, I can never fault an athlete for making an error of effort. Sure mistakes can be very costly in any game, but to maintain your athlete's self-confidence and proper mental attitude--that mistakes are learning opportunities--it is important not to compound to the agony the athlete already feels.

If your athlete views her mistakes as both an inevitable part of the game and as an opportunity to learn from she will be well on her way towards becoming a consistent peak performing athlete.

In summarizing his fumble Mike Tolbert's response is one you would expect from a professional, "You don't have a choice but to to move on and try to get better from it." This is a great attitude that your athlete can learn from and, hopefully, emulate after a mistake or poor at bat.

To learn more about how your athlete can recognize then master the 21 Mental Performance Killers that sabotage her success visit us at Winner's Edge Softball.

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