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  • Writer's pictureMindy McCarthy

A Short Memory can be a Positive Attribute

As I am sure you have guessed, I do like watching a lot of football. Sunday night in the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals, Russell Wilson (Seahawk’s quarterback) threw a pass that was intercepted by Budda Baker for the Cardinals. Baker took off the other direction down the field in what looked like was about to be a 95 yard pick 6.

Enter: DK Metcalf.

Metcalf, a wide receiver for the Seahawks, took off after Baker and chased him down stopping him before he reached the goal line. Sport statisticians have assessed that Metcalf ran 22.64 mph to reach Baker. (Yes, that is very, very fast)

While the number of athletes who can run that fast on any given day is certainly in the minority, the point is that Metcalf did not give up and hang his head when he saw the opponent catch the pass instead of his teammate. Even though he had nothing to do with the play at hand, he exerted all of his energy and focus in preventing Baker from turning an interception into a touchdown for the other team.

How many times have we seen players on the field, court, course, or what have you hang their heads when a mistake is made instead of trying to do something about it to prevent another mistake from happening?

A teammate makes a bad pass towards a player and that player decides to stand there and shake his head instead of getting back on defense. A golfer misses a putt, and he slumps his shoulders and hangs his head thinking about the mistake that was just made. A tennis player hits a shot that didn’t go where she wanted, so she did not prepare herself for the ball coming back towards her end of the court.

The truth is that none of us are perfect. NONE OF US ARE PERFECT.

We are going to make mistakes. It is how we handle those mistakes that can determine what our elite performances truly look like.

I work with a lot of high school athletes who are trying to get recruited by colleges. Many of these athletes focus on having a perfect performance whenever they are playing in front of coaches. The truth is, though, that perfect performances are not going to happen. What I tell them frequently is that college coaches are not looking for you to be absolutely perfect in all that you do when you are competing, but they want to see how you handle mistakes and adversity, how you handle being coached, and what kind of teammate you are. Coaches can look up your stats on paper anytime, but when they come to see you play they are there to see what kind of player you are and what other attributes you could bring to their team in the future.

For these reasons, it is beneficial for players who have “short memories.” This means that they forget about the mistakes that they have made and move forward. They constantly think about what they can do to contribute right now instead of thinking about what has happened in the past.

The truth is, we make mistakes, and those mistakes quickly become a part of the past. The past can no longer be controlled. Focus on what you can control, and figure out the best ways for you to move forward.

The worst thing to do is to turn one mistake into multiple. For example, a basketball player makes a bad pass throwing the ball away. She then charges at the opponent who now has the ball fouling her. The one mistake (the turnover) then becomes another (the foul).

If this has happened to you before, close your eyes and relive the situation. However, this time when thinking about it, let’s rewrite the script. After the first mistake occurs, what are some things that you could have done differently in order to move forward and still find ways to contribute?

Thinking about these differences, what is going to help you do this in an actual competition? Take some deep breaths, identify a mantra that can motivate you, and find something that is consistent in your competitive environment that can help you refocus. An example of this is looking at the rim of a basketball hoop or looking at the foul pole in a baseball field.

We are all going to make mistakes. Have a short memory. Refocus. Move forward.

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