It wasn't the start Adam Thielen envisioned.
Just 42 seconds into the Minnesota Vikings' playoff game against the New Orleans Saints, the star receiver fumbled.
The Saints pounced on it, sending the Superdome into a frenzy.
But as Thielen went to the sideline after that play, he didn't hang his head or slam his helmet.
Rather, he flushed an invisible toilet.
It's a habit that dates back to his days at Minnesota State Mankato, where the idea of "flushing" errors or bad plays was so prevalent the team kept a toy toilet near their bench.
As far as I know, the Vikings don't have a toy toilet, but Thielen flushed the fumble anyway and went on to have a fantastic game. His decisive 43-yard catch in overtime virtually sealed a Vikings victory.
"(I was just flushing) that play away," Thielen told ESPN of his physical and mental response to the fumble.
"It's actually something from college, our coaches used to make us do—flush the bad play. We actually had a little mini toilet on the sideline and we'd have to go over and flush it. So that's where that came from."
The fact Thielen is still flushing bad plays away seven years later speaks to its power. Every athlete hears about the importance of "forgetting the last play," but attaching that mental reset to a physical action can create better results.
"A mistake ritual is a physical gesture or technique that helps athletes quickly acknowledge a mistake and move past it, allowing them to refocus on the most important play—the next one," reads a blog post from the Positive Coaching Alliance on the topic.
"In PCA Workshops, we encourage parents, coaches and athletes to develop a mistake ritual. When a young athlete makes a mistake on the field or court, they often immediately look to their parent(s) or coach for their reaction. Seeing a physical motion like 'brush it off,' 'flush it' or 'let it go,' will help athletes refocus on the next play."
Photo Credit: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
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