After joining Manchester City from FC Porto a few weeks ago, Eliaquim Mangala enjoyed a dream start to his career in the English Premier League as a center back with a Man-of-the-Match performance in City’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea. However, in his second appearance only a week later against Hull City, things did not go as well for the 23-year-old. In the 21st minute, after Manchester had jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, Mangala failed to get himself into a good position to properly clear away a service from Hull City’s Liam Rosenior. Instead, Mangala’s positioning caused him to turn the ball into his own net off his head. His own goal was only the start of a frustrating first half, however, as he conceded a needless penalty 11 minutes later, when he awkwardly took down a Hull player in the box. Despite Mangala’s first-half errors, Manchester City was able to retake the lead and earned the three points off second-half goals from Eden Dzeko and Frank Lampard. After the game, team captain and fellow center back Vincent Kompany was quick to offer his support for his newest teammate: “It’s part of being a defender,” Kompany said. “As defenders, we have to deal with this, it’s part of the job. But I always look at the reaction and we saw it from [Mangala] in the second half…he just got on with it and stood up to the task. The rest of the game, he played well, he stayed professional. You could not have asked for more…That’s all you can do, it’s always about the next minutes and that’s how I think about it.”
As a player, it is important to develop “temporary amnesia” in response to your mistakes. When they do happen (and they will), forget about them for the moment so that you can keep your focus in the present. It is important to maintain a focus on a part of your game you can control (i.e., effort, better positioning, communication, etc.) that will allow you to recover from a mistake and rejoin the action. Dwelling on the mistake that just happened or worrying about future mistakes that might possibly happen will only take your attention away from your role in the game, and the responsibilities you have as a player in the moment. To help maintain your composure and focus after a mistake, consider using a refocusing cue (i.e., “Flush it” or “Next play”) to help pull your attention immediately back to the play. Then, after a game, take time to reflect on and objectively evaluate your play, considering the strengths of your performance and any mistakes from which you can learn.
As a player, you can also play a significant role during and after a game helping teammates cope with errors in their performance. Just as Kompany was quick to acknowledge that mistakes are “part of the job,” help your teammates recognize that mistakes are a natural part of the game. Rather than yelling at them when they mess up during training or competition, help them respond effectively. Most players are acutely aware of their performance, and they know immediately when they have made a mistake. Angrily pointing this out to them will not help them respond effectively to it, and it will take your focus away from where it needs to be. As Man City prepares for its next EPL game against Aston Villa, Mangala should learn from his mistakes and his successes and go into the next game focusing on how he can accomplish his role on the field.
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