4 Confidence Building Strategies for Athletes
"How do you build confidence?" I ask Tom. "By playing better and getting more hits at the plate." he replies. Tom is like many athletes I have worked with over 12+ years in business. While he is a talented athlete and even has achieved his childhood dream of playing professionally, his confidence is shaky. This is because Tom lacks prime confidence. Prime confidence is a deep, lasting, and resilient belief in your ability to achieve your goals. It is through having prime confidence that you are able to stay confident even if you are not performing well. For many athletes, like Tom, confidence comes from how well they are performing, so confidence is often like a roller coaster, up and down. When you have prime confidence you are neither negative when faced with challenges nor overconfident when things are easy. You seek out challenges and pressure, you want to test yourself.
Prime confidence is about getting to a place where you believe you can achieve your goals, know you can deal with and handle whatever comes your way, and confident you can give it your best effort. While each building block to prime confidence will help you, when you combine them all is when you truly see your confidence grow. Here are the 4 confidence building strategies for athletes:
Strategy #1 - Preparation Breeds Confidence
Preparation is one of the foundational aspects of confidence. The more prepared you are heading into a competition the more confident you will be. One thing to keep in mind with preparation, is it matters for all aspects of your performance. You need to be prepared physically (conditioning, technical skills), tactically, mentally and emotionally. Just being physically prepared through practice does not make you fully prepared. You need to be able to walk into your competition knowing you did everything you could to prepare.
My job with clients is to really help them focus on the mental and emotional preparation. To make sure they are doing the necessary work prior to the competition to help them not just be physically prepared, but also have the other aspects covered to help create the full spectrum of being prepared that is needed.
Strategy #2 - Mental Skills and Confidence
When I work with clients I help them build a mental "toolbox" that they can pull from to help them during their competitions to stay confident and present. What each athlete needs is different, and goes back to the first strategy. Laying out and knowing what tools will help is apart of the mental preparation part of the equation. Mental tools for confidence building in competitions can include things like self talk, imagery, body posture or emotional arousal control to help combat any emotions that might deplete your confidence, and be able to generate emotions that will help you.
Self talk is one of your best tools during a competition to help with your confidence. I have seen it many times when an athlete had prepared as much as they possibly could, but then headed into a competition with a lot of negative self talk. The preparation they had got "flushed" and with it their confidence due to how they were talking to themselves. Learning to have neutral self talk, which is present moment action focused, can help, so to can learning to drop the story or narrative you are creating around a mistake you made, for example. If you start to use your self talk to elaborate on a mistake and decide how that mistake might figure into the rest of the game and your performance, your confidence will go down. Drop the story and come back to being present and what action step you can do in that moment.
"Do not let what you can not do interfere with what you can do." – John Wooden
Strategy #3 - Train in adverse conditions to help confidence
How often is the circumstances around your performance in competition ideal? Rarely. Yet how often do you train in ideal conditions? Most likely a lot. By training in ideal conditions, when competitions usually are not ideal, creates a gap in how prepared you are for the unideal conditions that could arise. I'm not saying never train in ideal conditions, but if you don't create adversity during training, you won't have the skills to deal with adversity during a competition.
Tiger Woods dad, Earl, used to jingle coins in his pocket or throw a random ball through Tiger's line of site, while lining up a putt in practice. He was helping Tiger train to deal with distractions that would be apart of playing on tour. To learn how to focus on the putt and the steps associated with it no matter what was happening around him. Find ways to create some adversity during your training, it will help make you feel more confident and have a high trust in yourself to deal with adversity when it arises during competition.
Tip #4 - Small Success Supports Confidence
Having success is important for helping to build confidence. However, while yes, success in terms of your competition is apart of the equation, it is through small victories that you build confidence on a consistent basis. Each day is an opportunity to have success, to "win" the day. To have done something to boost your confidence. The big success won't be there everyday, and so it is important to find the small ones and help you feel you are building confidence, as well as to help motivate you to continue to do the things that will build you confidence.
Small victories can come from doing all the actions or steps in what you need to be prepared on all levels. Overcoming small adversities or pushing your comfort zone can also help. Focusing on and seeing small improvement in key areas of your performance. This is why it is important to think about what you want to do each day through intentions and goals. What is going to make today a "win"? Even if something doesn't feel big, if it can moves the needle towards what you need to help you perform, it can help build your confidence. Too often it is easy to look for the big moments to build confidence and loose sight of the small things that can help on a daily basis. It is important to acknowledge the small "wins" to help you have the confidence needed for the bigger moments.
Focus on Developing Prime Confidence
If you want consistent confidence you need to focus on building prime confidence. Your performance and the results you get will ebb and flow. This is natural, don't let a bad performance hurt your confidence, take back control and find the ability to have confidence in all situations. If you want to build prime confidence contact us today to find out how we can help you build the steady and resilient confidence needed to truly succeed.
To your success,
Kate Allgood, Owner.
About: Kate Allgood is trained in the field of applied sport psychology. She holds two graduate degrees in psychology where she graduated with distinction. She has spent the past 12+ years working one on one with high school, college, Olympic, and professional athletes to help them with their mindset, mental performance and mental skills training. Kate has also been a consultant for professional teams, including the Anaheim Ducks primary minor league affiliate the San Diego Gulls, to help the team and players develop their mental game.