"The Transformative Power of Mistake in Tennis Player Development"
Often, we underestimate the value of error in general in our lives and even more so in the world of tennis. Instead of embracing it as a learning tool, we fear it, avoid it, judge it, and worst of all, justify ourselves behind it. Reflecting on my own experience as a coach, I acknowledge that in the past, I made the mistake of focusing excessively on my players' errors. However, fortunately, my perspective has evolved, and I have understood the fundamental importance that mistake holds in the process of player development and growth.
This perspective shifted as I realized that, in my attempt to correct errors, I often overlooked the unique nature of each one. Broadly speaking, I can classify errors into three types:
1. Mistake by distraction: This occurs when a mistake is coming due to a lack of focus and intention in an action where I am normally reliable.
2. Mistake by Irresponsibility: This happens when a mistake is coming while attempting to solve a problem with actions with a very low probability of success.
For these two types of errors, intervention is firm and clear with a simple question: Can you explain how you arrived at that decision?
3. Constructive mistake. this is the good one and is the key to learning. It's the necessary error, the one that opens doors to new skills and decisions. This error should not be feared; it should be valued, provoked, and above all, listened to.
The key to evaluating an error lies in discerning the intention behind it. A constructive mistake is an error made with the right intention, and I believe it should be cultivated and encouraged, as it's the necessary condition to meld capacities with probabilities through a continuous cycle of trial and error. My own version of this cycle consists of five stages:
- Feedforward (anticipation)
Intention sets the goal, feedforward assesses and "feels" the probability of success, action is the execution, and the result is the consequence, finally, feedback offers essential information to adjust and improve the process. Error is, in itself, feedback.
"Every mistake brings all the information to adjust whatever needs to be adjusted."
Although the error itself already brings valuable learning information, the most usual pattern is to not listen to its message due to frustration, leading the player to deny, justify, or judge it. Another significant factor for not listening to the mistake is that players are used to receiving feedback from coaches and even parents. So my question is, how am I supposed to learn to listen to my feedback if it's being constantly given to me? But that's a topic for another blog.
In summary, through my personal experience, I've come to understand that error is a powerful and necessary tool in tennis player development. My evolution as a coach has led me to embrace the transformative potential of error and to adopt a more balanced approach to my relationship with it. Mistakes should not be feared or avoided; instead, they should be promoted and used as an ally on the path to continuous improvement in tennis and, why not, in life as well.