Reflection: A skill that can help you learn from bad performances


We have all had bad performances, whether they happen during training or matches. But they don’t always have to affect us negatively. Have you ever been guilty of thinking along the lines of “it happens to everyone at some point, I’ll just put it down to a bad day at the office”, and not done anything about it? With this mindset, we are not using the information that bad performances give us.


This is where reflective practice can help. The main objective of this is to learn from each and every performance, good or bad, and find ways to improve. By doing this, we give ourselves the best chance to learn something new, to change something that is not working, and to work a little harder than we think we can. This enables us to be able to always be aware of what we’re doing and thinking, which will help in the long run, and to minimize the number of bad days by improving various areas of our game including confidence.


In order to do this effectively, we have to really focus on what you feel and how it affects us, sometimes moving us to an area of discomfort as we confront our fears, anxieties, and other forms of stress. This requires time, commitment, and input from support personnel as well as ourselves. It’s important to remember to be as honest as possible, because there’s no point trying to lie to ourselves when we will always know when we’re doing it! Here are a few steps to help get you started with incorporating reflection into your routine:


  1. Identify a recent bad performance, and dig as deep as possible into your thoughts on it, what were your potential fears, anxieties, and emotions during the event?
  2. Identify as many of your strengths as you can: How would they help you with the emotions experienced?
  3. Identify your weaknesses. This will require honesty and can be uncomfortable at times, but with time this will become easier and will prove to be a key skill that will help you in the long term. Try and understand how they might have led to the bad performance in the first place. For example, did pressure or nerves cause you to react differently in certain situations and consequently cause a breakdown of a particular skill/technique? This could eventually lead to discoveries that could shape your plan of action aiming to improve the mental/physical/technical areas of your game.
  4. Try and recall as many decisions you made during the performance as possible Think about why you made those decisions and see whether they make sense to you now. If not, what would your responses be if you were in that situation again? What would you have done differently?
  5. Talk to your members of your support network (coaches, mentors, physiotherapist, strength and conditioning coaches, family etc) about your performances. While they might not be able to tell you how you felt and why you made the decisions you did, they are going to be able to point out other areas that you can work as well as offer assistance.
  6. Formulate an action plan. Write everything you got from points 1-5 down, and come up with a strategy on what to work on and how you plan on achieving it.
  7. Evaluate the plans and make changes if necessary.


Following these steps on a regular basis should give you more to think about, and to help you identify additional areas of your game that need working on. You can then turn up at each training session with a specific purpose, rather than just turning up to training and going through the motions.


If you have found this blog helpful, be sure to stay tuned for our regular blog updates on

James Lau

HCPC registered and Chartered Sport Psychologist based in the North-East of England.






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