All athletes seek that "can't miss" feeling in order to compete at the highest level of their sport. Confidence is a critical ingredient in this process and, as confidence increases, performance increases as well. Understandably, we cannot go out and buy confidence at the store. This has to be something we develop over time.
Confidence can be sustained for season long periods, but can also ebb and flow game to game and within games. Pressure situations can cause confidence lags, affect momentum, and divert goals to the highest-level athletes. Rebound from adversity is key. Why? Because confident athletes believe in themselves. They believe in their ability to acquire the necessary skills and confidence, both mentally and physically, to reach their potential.
Below, you'll find a printable list of 5 ways to build confidence that athletes can use to practice establishing and maintain their confidence level in even the most pressure-filled situations. Our recommendation? Print out the list and give a copy to each player, plus tape it to the wall in your locker room so athletes can check it out whenever they need a quick reminder before or after practice.
1. Visualize success
Method: Recall a past performance when you played well, such as the time you scored a touchdown or sacked the quarterback. As you approach the line of scrimmage, replay that experience in your mind. This technique is motivating and works to create a consistent, confident mindset.
Homework: Keep a written log detailing your best performances and read them periodically. This will keep the details vivid and facilitate your ability to visualize the experiences.
2. Use positive self-talk
Method: Forget that you choked in the last game. Chastising yourself with "I should've...”, “I can't...", or "I'm such a #@!..." type statements only interferes with your performance. According to research, such negative thoughts can divert your attention from play for as long as nine minutes.
Homework: Write down positive self-statements in a log and read them daily. Such statements should be made in the present tense as in, "I am well prepared," "I expect to play well."
3. Use a system of goals and rewards
Method: Setting a goal and reward system is not only motivating, but it also creates more discipline in both training and play.
Homework: Write down your goals, both short and long term, and determine what rewards would be satisfying to you once the goals are met.
4. Act confident
Method: Poor posture or a tentative gait can not only cue your opponent to your weaknesses, but also cue your own body and mind to play in a less confident manner. It is often necessary to "fake it until you make it" until you achieve a level of confidence with which you are comfortable.
Homework: I often suggest that high school and college athletes practice their "confidence walk" and this is a concept we can all employ. Practice in front of a mirror standing tall, eyes focused straight ahead, walking at a steady, sure pace.
5. Be a role model
Method: Set an example for others with your positive attitude and sportsmanship. Be aware of the image you project and consider the impact it may have on others.
Homework: Read articles about athletes you admire. Compile a list of the positive traits, traits they share and aspire to achieve their level of sportsmanship and confidence.
Following these recommendations will put you on the track towards greater confidence and a heightened awareness of the athlete you are striving to become!