We’ve all felt it at one time or another, that unbelievable feeling that you can’t do anything wrong. You feel 10 feet tall, bulletproof and fearless. It’s that unmistakable confidence that allows you to perform flawlessly, effortlessly no matter who you are playing against. There’s no doubt anywhere to be found and the self confidence is overflowing.
Now, on the other hand, we have all had those days where everything goes wrong. Self-doubt and worry have you second-guessing your skills and abilities. In the last game you performed brilliantly, today, you perform poorly. Your ability to execute has vanished and you can’t seem to do anything right. You are not the same player at all; a little distracted, intimidated, making mistakes and your self confidence has taken a vacation far far away. You may even wonder why you bother to play this game when you feel this bad about yourself. If only there was a way to access that overflowing level of confidence whenever you need it!
Every athlete understands that self confidence has a direct effect on how well, or how poorly you play. Every coach understands that and has told you at one time or another to just be confident out there, believe in yourself. When the cup runneth over with confidence you play great, when the cup is dry, you play like you have never set foot on the field before.
If self confidence was as simple as having the belief in ones self and telling yourself to feel confident, you would always play fearlessly. An interesting tug of war goes on when things are not going well. The little guy standing on your right shoulder is saying “believe in yourself”,” just feel confident” Now the little guy on your left shoulder is saying “you suck” “you’re the worst player here”, “just give up”. Guess which little guy tends to win the tug of war?
How do you get that little guy off your left shoulder and begin to build up self confidence? It starts the same way as building a house. You need to start with a solid and strong foundation.
Confidence is a mental skill and, just like the physical skills of your game, they need to be learned and practiced. The more you practice the mental skills, the more mentally tough you will become and your levels of confidence will skyrocket.
Sports confidence is built on the foundation of your physical skills and abilities. The formula which all of my mental toughness programs are built on is PERFORMANCE = POTENTIAL – INTERFERENCE. It seems pretty simple when you look at it, but your sporting performance can only be as good as your potential if there is no interference. Self confidence is built on your skills so you need to have the appropriate level of skill and ability to perform. This also includes your drive, desire and determination to become better. Put in the time and effort to build up your physical skills, your strength AND your mental toughness. You will build confidence much easier than if you have been taking short cuts and not putting in the effort. I’m sure you have heard the adage “Somewhere out there someone is working harder than you and when you meet on the court, they WILL beat you.” Always put your best into training and practice. When you train hard, you know you train hard. It is so much easier to have overall confidence in your skills when you work hard at them.
Here are a few confidence tips that athletes, coaches and parents can use to build overall confidence, reduce negative self-talk and work towards consistent peak performance:
There is an interesting feature built into our brain where we tend to default to the negative. This can be a great survival mechanism, but it doesn’t help much in sports competition! When we can practice seeing the positive and focusing on positive thinking, self confidence is much easier to build. Negative thinking destroys confidence. You may not be able to eliminate the situation but you can eliminate the negative thinking and negative self-talk associated with it. When you focus on positive thinking, you DO NOT destroy your confidence, you actually put more bricks into building that solid foundation. Practice this in all aspects of your life and it will become easy to be confident in your sport. I remember working with a young soccer player who used to take a lot of shots on net but now would pass the ball instead of taking the shot. He had become so focused on the negative thought “If I take the shot and miss the net or don’t score, I let my team down.” Changing his focus to see the positive completely changed his outlook and his confidence came soaring back ; “By taking the shot, I give my team a chance to score a goal.” Even if he missed the net, or the goalie stopped it, he was still completely confident.
This relates to focusing on the positive, like the soccer player. above. Focusing on the positive always makes you feel good. It is a fact. Performance psychology research shows that when you feel good, you will play good; when you feel bad, you will play bad, or perform poorly. If you want to have confidence and achieve a peak performance, work on feeling good first. One great technique to accomplish this is to focus on your successes. Keep a journal and write down all of your successes where you can look back on it if needed to see how far you have come. Confidence is built on success, where the reasons why you CAN outweigh the reasons why you CAN’T. Focusing on your success makes you feel good. Big or small successes, they always make you feel good.
Focus on yourself, not others. You will never have confidence if you are comparing yourself to others. Understand that there will always be players that are better than you and you will be better than others as well. That is a fact when it comes to sports. What is important is that you play to YOUR potential. Focusing on and comparing yourself to opponents or even teammates, will always make you feel bad and, as mentioned above, you always want to feel good first. Players with the highest self confidence are not concerned with the abilities of others. They have the ability to execute a peak performance by focusing solely on and giving 100% of their own skills and abilities. Those who are good at doing this always seem to feel confident in everything they do.
Only concentrate on the things you can control. When it comes to playing to your potential, focusing on something that you have no control over sucks away your confidence like a vacuum. You can’t control the draw in a tournament, the umpires, your opponent or the rain, so the more you focus on those, the more reasons you have to be less confident. Focus only on what is in your control and your overall confidence will remain rock solid, because you build your confidence on YOU. When you find yourself focusing on something else, ask yourself, “Is this something I can control?” If the answer is no, move on.
Don’t be your own worst enemy but be your own mental toughness trainer. Work on all of the confidence tips mentioned here. As you replace the negative selftalk with positive selftalk, and focus solely on the positive in the situation, any mistakes, errors, or failures can be looked at as a learning experience to help make you better. There is no such thing as LOSE – you win or you learn. Develop and practice your mental skills. Become more mentally tough and that confidence will soar. Plus, when your levels of confidence are not where you want them to be, you will now know ways to easily get it back!
Ken Ansell – Your Mental Toughness Trainer