Playing Backwards

Former Utah Jazz coach, Jerry Sloan, used to talk about avoiding playing backwards.
Coach Sloan was referring to that moment when you get “beat” by an opponent, and then instead of getting back on defense, you stop to feel sorry for yourself. He would go on to explain that as you’re sitting there fretting about your mistake (or the great effort by your opponent) the opponent is on the other end of the court making an easy basket. His wisdom was, in effect, saying don’t turn one mistake into two.

As a musician (and a husband, father, brother, and friend), I find myself in that mode all too often.

Earlier this week, while playing a particularly difficult piece with the ballet orchestra – Stravinsky’s Capriccio, I completely misread the conductor’s cue and totally botched an exposed entrance. It was just a mistake. But, I had the hardest time getting my head back in the game. I was playing backwards. For the rest of the show (nearly an hour), I made mistake after mistake. Most of them counting mistakes – mental errors. I kept thinking of Coach Sloan’s advise, but was unable to regain focus.

I study this topic a lot. I read articles by sports psychologists, and even music performance psychologists like Dr. Noa Kageyama who writes a great blog – The Bulletproof Musician. But the grasp of how to master my own “opponent” (the guy that lives in my head that won’t leave me alone), seems to be always out of reach.

So, I am asking for help from all four of the people that follow this blog.

What do YOU do to regain focus, and a high performance level after making mistakes? 


BJ Bedont


About rbedont

I'm a husband, father, and brother. I'm a professional musician, teacher, and doctoral student. That sounded like those "I'm a Mormon" commercials. Oh ya, I'm one of those too. I like to cook - it's much cheaper than going to a shrink. I envision this blog as a hodgepodge of all of those things, plus some shenanigans.
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2 Responses to Playing Backwards

  1. Count me among the proud four.

    I try to choose (in advance) something positive and productive to focus on. The mistakes that derail me most usually happen in my fingers, so I try to concentrate on what I’m doing with my air instead, and let my fingers run on autopilot as much as possible (assuming I have prepared well).

    This is an idea that I was first exposed to in Timothy Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Tennis, and it of course also appears in The Inner Game of Music (which I personally don’t like as well).

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