Start Thinking Confidently
Every athlete, team and coach want it and when they have it they all want to keep it. So what is ‘it’? It’s confidence and both coaches and athletes alike all recognize that confidence is a key psychological factor that differentiates between successful and unsuccessful performance. So there is no surprise to the value that is placed on having confidence in the sporting arena.Athletes often report that they don’t feel confident which implies that confidence is actually not in one’s control. What we know about confidence is that it is dynamic, unstable and susceptible to change based on a range of factors. Typically, the fluctuation of confidence can be in response to common demands and/or situations in sport such as poor performance, inconsistent training, injury, negative feedback from others (e.g., coaches, parents, teammates), performance slumps, selections, and social media just to name a few.
Have you ever noticed how your own confidence ebbs and flows based on one or a combination of these different factors?
It is understandable then that athletes feel like they have no control over their confidence and they seem more ready to accept that the peaks and troughs they experience during a competition or season are inevitable. However, what we also know is that confidence is not actually an emotion but rather a belief. Specifically, confidence in sport has been defined as “the belief or degree of certainty individuals possess about their ability to be successful” (Vealey, 1986). Based on this definition, athletes can take ownership over the confidence, indicating more control.
As a sport psychologist I often see athletes feel less confident in their ability to perform and execute a well-trained skill close to an important competition. Consequently, with this dip in confidence, an increase in nerves becomes evident. Thoughts such as “what if I don’t do well?”, “I haven’t been doing well in training this past week”, and “I haven’t been getting the times in training” are common confidence busters. Confidence in sport is the result of particular thinking habits. These thinking habits help athletes both retain and benefit from the experiences whereby they have been successful and let go or change the memories and feelings from the less successful experiences. Therefore, it is important that athletes understand how the mind works, how it affects their feelings and actions and ultimately how it can be disciplined in both practice and competition. Therefore confidence doesn’t have to be left to chance.
To help create confident thinking habits, it is important to explore the sources of sport-confidence and work to create and build upon these experiences. I recommend recording the following:
- Your strengths in your sport
- The best aspects of your training from the past 1-2 months
- The different positive feedback from others (coaches, parents, competitors etc.) you have received
- The details of you previously top 5 good performances
Based on these sources of confidence, write 1-2 positive thought statements you can use to build and maintain your confidence.
For more information on how to build and maintain your confidence, contact Allira Rogers from Fine Tuning Consultancy (www.finetuningconsultancy.com.au).