In my previous post, I explained the reasons why a players performance is often better in practice than it is when competing. I highlighted the requirement to build consequences into practice sessions to enable sportspeople to identify mental skill improvement areas allowing them to perform the same way in competitive matches. Consequences act to provide a basis for identifying Good Errors, namely those errors which occur in the service of an identified longer term goal.

Unforced Error?

In tennis, a player's unwillingness  to accept that he/she will make errors is best summed up by the commonly recorded statistic of the 'unforced error'. It is this meaningless statistic that commentators will focus attention on during a match as if all 'unforced errors' are the same. For any sportsperson's development it is better to refer to the Good Error as one that occurs to further the development of the individual or team irrespective of the sport.

Image result for google images golfer making an error
For example, it is not uncommon for a tennis player or golfer to play conservatively even though he has promised himself that he will develop his game by playing more aggressively. This is an example of the 'inhibitory mind' focusing on not making an error (even though this is likely to lose him the contest and many more to come). In this  instance, not making errors comes at the expense of  a commitment to a long term goal of playing aggressively. Now, imagine that same player before a match or practice choosing to play more aggressively and rewarding himself every time he does so. He commits to hitting the ball more aggressively and will encourage himself for being aggressive irrespective of the outcome of the shot. In this way the player learns to accept that he can make a 'good error' in the short term to develop his game in the long term. 

Keeping the End in Mind

Knowing what your end goal looks like (for example, how different your game looks after the mental and physical improvements have been made) is central to maintaining commitment to the change process itself and for accepting 'good errors'. If you can see and feel your game developing in the way you want it to, then you will be more committed to practicing than if you focus solely on what your results tell you. It also allows your mind to commit to something counter-intuitive - the good error!

Enhancing the mental side of your game in this way is no easy feat. As Juan Coto (mental coach to the succesful British Tennis player,  Jo Konta) said recently, a player has to be humble, courageous and disciplined to make meaningful long term gains. But with a suitably long term emphasis and a consistent focus on 'good errors' you will create the freedom of expression and enjoyment you are seeking in your game.