3 Ways to Improve Athletic Confidence
What do you think about when you think of this word? You might think about beauty and perfection (models) or external rewards (winning). You might think about how to get (more of) it and how it never stops being an issue. And where does it come from?
Confidence is the belief or feelings that something is true. Confidence, in general, comes from your own perspectives, meaning, how you view the world, and in self-confidence, how you view yourself. This means that no one else really knows your own confidence.
It’s thinking about why we aren’t more ___, or how we can improve our beliefs about ___, or “if only I was more ___, I’ll be confident.” It’s shaming ourselves for not living up to an out-of-reach ideal, and it’s also wearing that outfit because you feel good in it. It’s applying to a job you feel qualified for, and it’s also being hard on yourself when you don’t get it. It's losing confidence when you strike out, and gaining it when you hit a home run.
But, let's think about that. Most of us attach our belief and our experiences to our confidence. But is that always the best thing for us? Should we feel good about ourselves only when we achieve success?
In short, no.
I was talking to a parent and her daughter wasn't playing much in competition. When she was put in, she was cold and when her team started losing, she was the only player to be taken out of the game. Her mom was saying, "She needs to play more and win these games to get more confidence).
Sports, in particular, weigh heavily on a person's self confidence in order to be successful. Not the other way around. Coaches and parents (all the time!) say, "If only she were more confident." Like it could be so easy.
Instead, here are three ways you can think about confidence differently, and how to grow your own.
1. Focus on the things you can control.
When I talk to athletes, many of them base their athletic confidence on winning and success. “Did I play? Did I win? Did I receive an award? Was I acknowledged by my coach?”
This, to many athletes, is the basis for their self-confidence.
Confidence isn’t something the world gives you, and it isn’t black-and-white. It isn’t something that just happens to us. It's not something that happens one time and then sticks forever. Self-confidence doesn’t rely on things you can’t control - and I think that is the key.
But when you base your own confidence on winning or losing a team sport, you are allowing something you can’t totally control to also control your confidence.
Things like ref calls, parent reactions, your opponent having an amazing day, your teammate making uncharacteristic errors, you not playing until the last five points… none of these should (or can!) get in the way of the control you can have on your own confidence perspective.
This measure of success based on uncontrollable events leads to increased stress and frustration, as well as decreased performance. That’s a lot to weigh on a person!
I challenge you, for your self-confidence’s sake, to choose to base your confidence on things you can control, like:
Did I try my hardest? Was I listening to the coach and implementing his or her suggestions? Did I cheer for my teammates? Was I on time for practices? Did I communicate with my teammates?
2. Set goals based on tasks vs. the outcome.
How many times have you heard someone’s goal as: “Win the championship,” or “Go undefeated”?
So, what happens when you might fail?
a) Your confidence, oh my! It’s going down because you didn’t reach your goal.
b) How do you know what did or didn’t work? You just… “didn’t go undefeated.”
When you set your goals based on the outcome, again, you have the control to make adjustments and measure your own success and confidence. Having giant goals is overwhelming and difficult to know what will work and what might not in the future.
Failures are awesome learning opportunities, if we allow it.
In volleyball, a hitter might say, “Keep my elbow high,” versus, “Get 20 kills.” That way, when you get a kill, you can evaluate your goal: “I kept my elbow high, and look at the success that proved that.”
Or, in baseball, “Swing through the middle of the ball,” versus, “Score 2 runs.” Specific. Small. One step at a time.
Like everything else in sports, mental training, including confidence, takes practice. It takes a conscious effort to be mentally stronger, more resilient, more fit in your mind.
And the mental side of the game takes just as much, if not more, practice than the physical aspect. While you’re learning new skills, trying to master old ones, and doing the million other tasks you have in your life, you’re also trying not to feel so down about not achieving everything all at once and you’re also learning how to be “okay” with maybe failing every now and again. You're trying to become more confident in your ever-changing world.
Think of your mind as a muscle (well, isn’t it?). It needs to be strengthened with time and effort - like your biceps or quadriceps, your mind also needs to be trained.
To be more confident, you need to practice confidence. Practice the process, practice valuing and succeeding at what you can control. It won't be easy at first, but growth in any aspect isn't simple.
Focus on what you can control.
Focus on the task, not the outcome.
Practice your confidence.
Try these three things for one week. Then two. Then watch how your mindset and perspective on self-confidence and success begins to evolve.
Let me know what you think. Drop me a line how you can see this fitting into your daily routine.