[Strategy] What To Do When Players Are Afraid To Make Mistakes

What To Do When Players Are Afraid To Make Mistakes

A lot of young athletes are afraid to make mistakes when they’re improving.

One of the reasons is because today’s generation of athletes have grown up with social media.

They’re constantly comparing their average life to the highlight tape of someone else.

They’re constantly stressed because they know people are filming them on their phones.

Not only that, but they’re constantly under pressure when they see other player’s pull off a fancy move flawlessly… 

Without seeing how many times they had to record to make it look perfect.

And it’s because of these reasons players of all ages are more self-conscious, nervous and choose the “safe” option now more than ever.

Which is a huge problem when it comes to player development and pushing players to reach their full potential.

Let me explain why this is a problem by first addressing the science of skill development

According to countless scientific studies…

The fastest, most efficient way to learn and master a new skill is to get as many reps as possible in a specific unit of time.

The key is the density of reps.


You want to go as fast as possible to get as many reps as possible.


When you dive deeper into how the brain actually learns a new skill to turn moves into automatic reflexes on the court…

…It reveals something surprising.

The more mistakes you make, the faster and more efficiently you learn a new skill

We’ve all heard the term muscle memory. But muscle itself doesn’t have memory.

It’s the brain that controls the muscle.

The brain encodes the sequence of movements to execute a move.

And it does this most efficiently when the player makes lots of mistakes.

Without diving into the science too much (it’s dense and hard to understand), it works something like this…

The brain needs to clearly recognize what a correct rep is.

And it does so by contrasting against what an incorrect rep is.

The brain remembers what’s correct and what’s incorrect during sleep.

Put another way…

Making lots of mistakes in practice shows your brain what NOT to do, which in turn, makes learning WHAT TO DO so much more efficient.

Which means…

A player who makes MORE mistakes in practice masters a skill FASTER than a player who doesn’t

Now you understand why it’s so important for players to make mistakes, let’s dive into a strategy you can use here.

(Which works for coaches, players and parents teaching their players).

But first, it’s important to explain how you actually remember new skills and new moves.

So you can supercharge any workout and give any athlete the best chance possible of learning more efficiently.

Immediately after a workout…

Your brain likes to replay the sequence of movements.

This is all 100% subconscious.

You aren’t even aware it’s happening.

But it is happening.

And it’s during this replay that your brain reviews what a correct rep is and what an incorrect rep is.

Meaning you’ll remember it better when you’re asleep.

One strategy is to have a few minutes of “idle time” at the end of a workout where a player sits quietly for a few minutes.

No phones, no chatting and no distractions.

A workout for players to remember new skills faster and more efficiently

You can use workouts like this with your team in the gym… Or as a player at home.

Quick word of warning…

You can apply this strategy to a player’s workout in basketball – OR any other sport OR whenever you’re learning any other skill – as a coach, parent or player.

But it might take time to get your player(s) and team to buy into the process.

Here it is in 5 steps:

  1. Teach a new skill
  2. Get as many reps as possible in a specific amount of time and make lots of mistakes
  3. Get more reps and make more mistakes
  4. “Idle time” at the end of a new workout so your brain reviews what you did
  5. Encourage healthy sleeping habits so your brain remembers what you did

So what to do when players are afraid to make mistakes when they’re learning a new skill?

Start by explaining this process so they fully understand how they learn.

Research how athletes learn new skills, and encourage your athlete to study the process too.

Find teams who actually use techniques like this and use it as a tool to motivate your player(s).

Then, add a competitive element to each workout.

The player who gets the most reps out of the team wins a prize.

Or your player competes against themselves by trying to get a higher number than yesterday and the day before.

Use the numbers so you can objectively track progress and improvements.

Keep showing players how much they’re improving to boost motivation.

When they improve, change the number of reps to the number of correct reps and do it again.

So there you have it.

One proven strategy based on science for getting players to accept making mistakes is not only normal, but a critical part of the learning process.

And how to execute this strategy with your team.

Want a resource to help you design workouts like this?

If you haven’t done so already, you can get my Full Basketball Curriculum which contains 130+ proven teaching points and over 1200+ drills to execute each move.

Everything is arranged into 13 progressive levels so you always know what the next step is.

We have a new assessment tool which allows you to accurately determine what any player can do, and what they have to do next in every skill.

I’ve designed the program for coaches, players and for parents of young players.

Each video shows the coach or parent how to teach each new skills, and simultaneously shows the player how to execute the move against a live defense.

Simply choose the most appropriate workout from the curriculum.

Design a session based on the 5 steps above.

Track progress.

Experience exponential improvements.

You can get access here:


Or if you’d like me to work with you 1 on 1 to take your game to the next level, book a call with my team to see how we can help.

Go here:


Keep Getting After It


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