Ask PCA

Athlete, Coach, Leader

What Team Building Activities Can I Use To Help My Team Move on from Mistakes

Hey coaches!! I need some ideas. I'm looking for a team building activity that shows the impact on the team when players are not able to move forward after an error or when they are not hitting well. We are revisiting the "mistake ritual" for individuals but I want to show how it can impact the team when they can't focus on "the next pitch"(our team's definition of "the most important part of the game").

This last weekend, we had a few players that were not doing as well as they usually do and they would sulk at the end of the dugout. Despite other players encouraging them to cheer and provide positive support, they still sulked and it impacted their performance throughout the day. As a result, we (as a team) didn't get their best effort. Through an activity, I want to show that when we don't have everyone's best effort (focus, intentions, communication, etc.), we are not as good of a team. Thank you in advance!

Response from PCA trainer Marc Schmatjen

The skill of actually letting the mistake go - erasing it from your brain and being fully ready for, and focused on, the next play - is one that needs to be practiced, so it's great to hear you are working on the mistake ritual. It needs to be physically practiced just like any other skill. And like any skill in sports, it takes time to master. The thing that makes it different from a regular "ball" skill, like fielding a grounder, is the fact that you can't see it actually working. You can visually see someone fielding the grounder correctly - you can't see someone's thoughts. But we CAN show our athletes what happens when they don't forget the mistake, with a fun and humorous drill using backpacks.

This takes some advanced planning to have enough "mistakes" (backpacks) on hand, but usually most or all baseball players will have gear bags - backpack style or gear bags that at least have straps or handles. You can also ask them to bring their school backpacks to practice that day.

Now simply run a drill - you choose - and every time someone makes a mistake, they have to wear it. They have to literally wear the backpack mistake and stay in the drill. Chances are great that they will make another mistake right away because the backpack is hindering their movement. They now have to strap the second mistake on too. This is where it gets funny, and also very educational when they try to field the third grounder with one backpack on their back and another on their chest. Time for mistake backpack number three to get attached to their body somehow. And so on. Let them soak in just how ridiculously difficult it is to do anything right with all the extra baggage, and then hit them with the metaphor.

This is exactly what is happening to you when you can't let your mistakes go. You are mentally loaded down with things that are not only not going to help you, but they are also going to hinder you. You are taking yourself out of the game and no longer helping yourself or your teammates. That's why the mistake ritual skill is so important. It might just be the most important skill in sports to master. Every athlete at every level is going to make mistakes. Everyone fails. That will never stop so please don't fool yourself into thinking you're out here practicing how to be perfect. That will never happen.

You are out here practicing how to perform at your highest level while NOT being perfect! The ability to let your mistakes go is how you get there. You have to learn how to take that backpack off, and eventually learn to never put it on in the first place." Good luck, and thanks for coaching!

Stay connected