Gaining and Maintaining Self-Confidence in Sports

As a coach for the past 25+ years, the most common issue that I hear from athletes and parents of athletes, is a sudden loss or reduction in self-confidence. I have seen it over and over again and I have spent the past two decades helping athletes to get their self-confidence back. I can’t actually give another person self-confidence since that must come from one’s self. However, I can coach an athlete through the process.

Many times the self-reported issue is an inability to play to one’s potential in competition. As many athletes and coaches know, self-confidence is the cornerstone of success in sports. It enables athletes to rise above challenges, maintain focus and perform at their peak. The belief in one’s ability can make a huge difference between being a good athlete, and being a great one.

Through consistent practice, mental preparation and positive self-talk, athletes can nurture and strengthen their self-confidence and perform at their best. With that said, however, confidence can be a fragile thing and getting it back (once it’s been depleted) can be a complicated challenge.

As NBA great, Jerry West once said, “confidence is a lot of this game or any game. If you don’t think you can, you won’t.”

An athlete will not overcome obstacles or push their boundaries if they are not confident. If one is to enhance their performance, confidence is a critical factor. So what can be done if an athlete’s confidence is waning or lost?

First and foremost, one should not panic. Or overthink it. Lacking confidence can be a temporary condition. The key to maintaining confidence is to stay consistent in your training and stay dedicated and committed to your sport. These two things will be critical if you veer off your training path. If an athlete starts to feel like he or she cannot perform at the top of their game, they should step away, regroup, re-set and get back to the basics in their training.

Self-talk is very important in an athlete’s training. For example, instead of saying, “I can’t do this,” tell yourself, “I am capable and I can improve”. This may seem to be simple, but it is very effective. Small improvements each day will lead to long-term success.

Mistakes and set-backs are also a big part of sports. Instead of dwelling on them, view them as opportunities for growth. Analyze your failures, learn from them, and use them to build confidence in your abilities. If you are playing a team sport, talk about your mistakes and set-backs with your teammates. Ignoring and avoiding your mistakes will cause them to get bigger and will allow them to get in the way of your progress.

Establishing pre-game and pre-practice routines can help to maintain confidence. These routines provide comfort and consistency, which, in return, will help you feel more in control over your own destiny.

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques like deep-breathing can help to reduce anxiety, which in turn will help you to maintain your confidence when under pressure. Breathing is so important. It seems so simple, but it’s true. Simple and yet very effective.

Setting small goals will allow an athlete to rack up some small wins. Small wins will create a winning mindset. A winning mindset will propel an athlete forward. In addition, an athlete must visualize success. Visualization is a powerful tool used by many elite athletes. This mental rehearsal can boost your self-confidence and reduce performance anxiety as well.

Lastly, surround yourself with a supportive network of teammates and friends. Encouragement from others can reinforce your self-belief. These are all important things to gaining and maintaining self-confidence.

As the amazing Vince Lombardi once said, “Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.”

In sports, as in life, confidence truly is the key to achieving your personal greatness.

I believe in you. Believe in yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

linda smiling<br />

Written by Linda Martindale

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