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Good Mistakes

All ultimate players make mistakes on the field. There’s a huge range of things that you can do wrong, affecting the game, your team and yourself. Drops, throw-aways, not clearing, getting frustrated, forgetting to drink – these are all possible mistakes. There are many more and we’ll all experience these mistakes at some point.

A player looking to improve their skills and abilities should consider how good they are at dealing with mistakes. This is a skill that is as relevant to your performance on the field as many others. Your mental fitness needs to be just as tuned and functional as your physical fitness.

A few months ago I read a post on this site by Stephen Winters. The post is about stats in ultimate but the standout sentence for me was as follows:

But the difference between Thomas Kuhn and me is not that he is incapable of making simple mistakes. The difference is that he did not spend the next ten minutes of the game thinking about how much he sucked as a player because of one little mistake he had made.

I read that as a goal for anyone who is trying to improve how they deal with mistakes on the field. Thomas Kuhn plays for Canada’s worlds team. I am equally as impressed by (and envious of) the mental ability demonstrated by the example above as I am by the physical abilities and skills of a worlds-level players.

The key is to forget about the mistake in the short term and get on with your job on the field. Alternatively, use the mistake as fuel to fire up. If you’ve thrown the disc away then make sure that you do whatever you can to re-gain possession. Play some outstanding defence and generate a turnover.

That said, mistakes are good for you and shouldn’t be forgotten about completely. Mistakes help players identify shortcomings and build frameworks for improvement. It is easy to come away from a game feeling sucky about various situations that occurred. In the past I have felt terrible after a bad game however I am slowly learning to look at the game more objectively, identify the mistakes, and see them as further opportunities to improve.

In my post about Catching the D I wrote about a mistake I made on the field. At the time I didn’t deal with my mistake very well at all. I spent far too long in a selfish grumpy haze which was really unfair to my teammates. The mistake I’d made had resulted in a score, but it continued to affect our team whilst I struggled to deal with it, mentally.

However the mistake has been beneficial in the longer term. I learnt a lesson the hard way and this provides clarity and focus in similar situations on the field today.


It seems that there’s two key aims for those wishing to improve their skill of dealing with mistakes:

  1. When you make a mistake during a game, let it go and keep playing.
  2. After the games are done, do some self-analysis. Don’t be too critical but recognise that you have some challenges and areas to improve on.

Personally I am still working on both those aims. At my most recent tournament my captain was thoughtful enough to point out that I was improving in this regard. It isn’t easy, but each player has the ability to limit the damage of a mistake and turn each one around into a good mistake.

11 thoughts on “Good Mistakes”

  1. Also, in my experience, it can be helpful to ensure that yourself and teammates know the difference between mistakes and bad habits. Mistakes are easier to fix since you know that you shouldn’t have thrown that pass, for example, but bad habits (aka, repeated mistakes) are a lot more difficult because the occur over and over again. In other words, I would rather have a player who accidentally forgets (makes a mistake) to catch the D than one who never catches the D.  

    1.  @EMaxfieldJr Great point… I think a discerning factor is wether the player who makes the mistake realises what they did wrong, and then has the impetus to correct their actions.
      There’s definitely a role for other members of the team to play in terms of watching their teammates and advising them of bad habits or areas of improvement. It can be a fine line to tread for a teammate as often players are giving themselves a hard time already, without needing further comments from others… 

  2. Couldn’t be written any better. Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

  3. This is a good post. This post gives truly quality information. I’m definitely going to look into it. Really very useful tips are provided here. Thank you so much. Keep up the good works.

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