The Most Important Play in Sports

What's the most important play in all of sports? The touchdown? The home run? The hole in one? Any sport or game has certain moves or plays that are crucial for a victory, but under all circumstances the most important play of all is......

.....the next one.

This may seem like a trick answer but it contains a powerful lesson. Any athlete, no matter how skilled, makes mistakes on the field of play.  Sometimes these lapses "get inside their heads", causing them to lose confidence or try too hard to compensate for that costly error.  It hardly ever helps for a player to be overly self-critical.

Good coaches know this and encourage their team members to "shake it off" after a poor play. Sometimes the best advice is to just get back in the game and return to a good ready position.  This is the way to get back "in the zone" where skill and practice come together in smooth flow 

This same advice holds true off the field or court. I recently had a client who was struggling mightily to get over the end of a romantic relationship. In addition to feelings of grief he worried obsessively whether he would be able to trust his ability to form a healthy relationship in the future. He could not let go of what had already taken place and was running the risk of jeopardizing his future happiness. Since he enjoyed playing competitive softball I encouraged him to consider this question of "the most important play in sports" and to keep his eyes on what's ahead rather than spending excessive energy beating himself up for past things he could have done differently.

There's a lot of benefit from learning from mistakes but it's important not to be overly destructive to your own emotional well-being in the process. Shake it off and get ready for what's coming next. The ball might be heading your way.


Bill Herring, LCSW, CSAT is an Atlanta psychotherapist.  He helps adults live more healthy, happy and fulfilling lives. One of his specialties is to help people who have trouble with sexual behavior that violates their relationship commitments, personal values or sense of self-control.