Confidence

What do all great athletes have in common? They are confident in themselves and believe that they will perform well every time they compete. Confidence is a feeling of certainty that comes from good preparation and positive expectations. When athletes are confident at performance time they are free from conscious thought and play more relaxed, loose, and clear-minded. They trust in their preparation which allows them to be more fully engaged in the game. Thus, confidence leads to positive energy and emotion as well as a present-minded focus.

Few of us realize just how much our confidence level is really under our control. Put another way, confidence is a choice. We can choose how hard we work to prepare ourselves for competition. We can choose to think and act in ways that convince us that we have the talent and skills to compete with anyone. We can decide to be optimistic and expect the best from ourselves and our teammates. We can make the decision to have positive self-talk and images while competing. When faced with challenge and adversity we can choose to remain composed and make the best out of the situation.

I’ve recently had an opportunity to work with an outstanding athlete who had been struggling with confidence. It was clear from watching him play that he doubted himself, was playing tentative, and was over-thinking while competing. As we talked, he expressed his disappointment with himself. Everyone had high expectations for him this season. However, no one was more demanding of this player than himself. Each time he competed he demanded perfection from himself. This led to unnecessary pressure prior to performance and relief once the game was over. During games, he was consciously telling himself how to execute skills that he knows how to perform automatically. What finally brought him to see me was his lack of enjoyment playing the game that he has always loved.

After he shared his concerns with me, we began to identify things he could do to begin to have a different experience. First, he said he needed to spend more time individually working on parts of his game. He needed to re-build confidence by spending time alone after practices getting lots of repetition with the fundamentals. Second, he learned that demanding perfection was ruining his season. Instead, he decided to embrace his team role and just play. I asked him what he looks like when he is enjoying the game more. He said, “I look relaxed and loose; I talk more to my teammates; I’m more aggressive and play instinctively; I smile more and show positive emotion when something good happens.” Third, I had him visualize himself playing with confidence. I’m happy to report that he has done everything we talked about and is playing well and having fun again. He has chosen to be confident and this decision elevated his game.

How to be More Confident

  • Choose to be confident
  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • There is no mental substitute for good preparation Use confident self-talk. “I can do this,” “I love to compete,” “I belong with the best”
  • Act like a confident athlete.
  • Wear a confident game face, walk with a swagger, play loose and aggressive, keep your head up, stand tall Utilize positive imagery.
  • Re-live past successes, picture yourself having fun playing the game you love, see and feel yourself executing your role with precision Talk through challenges and adversity. “Come on…you got this,” “Hang tough’” “Bounce back”
  • Trust yourself and let it happen. Confident athletes don’t have to consciously think or try hard during competition. Just play instinctively in the here and now.