Confidence Building Exercises for Athletes
One of the most important mental skills for athletes to develop is confidence. When you're confident, you perform freely. You allow yourself to take the skills you've worked hard for and translate them into games.
When you lack confidence, you tend to hold yourself back. You may find that you play timidly, and you second guess yourself during games.
All in all, when you lack confidence, you do not perform your best. But when you compete with confidence, that's where you find yourself performing up to your potential!
And there's a reason I said confidence is one of the most important mental skills for athletes to have. That's because confidence is a skill...one that must be built.
It may be frustrating right now if you feel like you don't have as much confidence as you'd like. You may even feel like there's no way for you to build confidence.
But the good news is, you can build confidence, and what it takes is applying specific mental training exercises to help you do so.
In this article, you will learn four confidence building exercises you can use as an athlete.
What it Takes to Build Confidence
Confidence requires experience. You need to have the experience of seeing yourself succeed in order to feel confident.
That's why you probably feel more confident going into a game if you've been playing well recently or you've been having really good practices. The image you currently have in your mind is of you playing well. That makes it easier to feel confident.
In contrast, if you've been playing badly recently or have had a bunch of bad practices, you probably won't be feeling too confident going into your next game.
This shows that confidence requires the experience of seeing yourself succeed. But it also shows us a deeper requirement for confidence...believing you can succeed and having an image in your mind of you performing well.
What's great about this is that we can leverage that idea to work on building your confidence, without you needing to have a string of good games in a row to do so.
In fact, when the only way you feel confident is because you've played well recently, this leads to very fragile confidence. Because one bad game or a week of off practices can set you back.
What you want to do is build true confidence and instill a strong belief within yourself that you are capable of success. If that belief is built, then your confidence will no longer be at the mercy of one or two bad games.
To get yourself to that point takes work. And to help with that work, there are specific mental training exercises you can use.
“Confidence requires experience. You need to have the experience of seeing yourself succeed in order to feel confident.”
Confidence Building Exercises for Athletes
The four exercises listed below will help you build confidence. However, they won't be of much help if you use them once. Each requires you to apply them consistently.
Think about this in a similar way to improving a physical skill. You wouldn't do a drill a couple of times and then expect to have the skill down perfectly, would you?
So you can't expect to use one of these exercises once or twice and expect it magically improve your confidence.
Each exercise will build confidence, but only if applied consistently.
Exercise #1: Self-Talk
The first confidence building exercise you can use as an athlete is self-talk. This works to get to the core of your self-belief. Because your self-belief is directly tied to the types of thoughts you have.
Let's say you struggle with confidence and find yourself doubting your skills a lot during games. In those moments, what kinds of thoughts are you having?
Well, if you're doubting yourself, you are having thoughts of self-doubt. To change that, and begin to feel more confident, you want to think more confident thoughts.
Self-talk as an exercise involves actively repeating certain phrases to yourself that will increase your confidence. The reason thinking confident thoughts helps increase confidence is because it works to reframe your natural thought patterns.
Over time, you will naturally begin to think more in a way aligned with the statements you've been repeating. And when you think more confidently, you will feel more confident.
To make your list of confidence building self-talk statements, you want to first make a list of all the negative thoughts and thoughts of self-doubt you have.
Then, take that list and create a confidence boosting alternative for each statement.
Now that you have your confidence building statements listed out, what you want to do is repeat them to yourself each day to begin building your self-confidence.
“Self-talk as an exercise involves actively repeating certain phrases to yourself that will increase your confidence.”
Exercise #2: Visualization
Going off the principle of seeing yourself succeed, we can use visualization to build your confidence without you actually needing to have a bunch of good games in a row to do so.
Yes, those good games will come, but we need to work on your confidence first. And we can use visualization to help.
Visualization involves imagining yourself performing in your mind.
The reason it helps build confidence is because your mind responds to the visualization in a similar way as it does to a real-life event. So, by imagining yourself perform your skills well over and over again, this will build the internal belief that you are capable of success.
There are two key aspects of visualization you want to pay attention to...
- Detail: you want to make sure you go into as much detail as you can and make your visualization as real as possible.
- Emotion: you also want to be sure you bring emotion into your visualization. Feel confident while you perform and then feel successful and happy about performing well once the visualization is finished.
When you are performing visualization to build confidence, I recommend doing it on a daily basis for about five minutes or so each day.
Something that can help to keep you consistent is creating a training place for your visualization. Where you outline what you will visualize in your practice, instead of just saying, oh I'm going to imagine myself performing well.
You want to get specific about the drills you will imagine and what parts of the game you will visualize. Approach this like you would any other part of your training.
Exercise #3: Setting Small Goals
The third confidence building exercise you can use as an athlete involves giving yourself the opportunity to succeed.
A way to build confidence is giving yourself targets or goals to strive for, and then achieving them. This works to build the belief in yourself that you are capable of succeeding and you have the skills you need to perform well.
But as an athlete, what should these goals look like?
One of the most dangerous things to do when you are working to build confidence is setting goals that are purely based on the outcome. Because the outcome is not fully within your control.
Instead, the targets you set should be in your control. That way, you are setting yourself up for success.
Some examples can be setting a target to perform with confidence during a part of practice. Or you could set a goal to do a certain number of drills a day.
The targets you set are going to be specific to you, but what you just want to make sure of is that they are in your control, so you are setting yourself up for success and not basing them on the outcome of your performance.
Exercise #4: Self-Evaluation
The fourth confidence building exercise involves how you evaluate yourself after a practice or game.
If you are an athlete who struggles with self-doubt, you probably focus on all the things you did wrong after a practice or game. This does nothing but tear your confidence down even further.
Instead, you want to give yourself time each day to focus on what you did well. That doesn't mean you won't still look at what you did wrong (because I know you use it to improve), you are just going to do it in a different way.
After a practice or game, if your goal is to build confidence, you want to first identify the top 3-5 things you did well. I know this may be hard, but you’ve got to force yourself to do it. Even if it feels like you just had the worst game of your life.
What you're doing is giving yourself the opportunity each day to see yourself as successful. That works to build the experience of success you need to develop higher levels of confidence.
Next, you want to list out 3-5 things you can improve upon. Here is where you look at what you did wrong. But we are looking at the areas in a way to improve rather than tear yourself down.
Then you can use these areas to set goals and targets for yourself (like in the previous exercise).
“If you are an athlete who struggles with self-doubt, you probably focus on all the things you did wrong after a practice or game. This does nothing but tear your confidence down even further.”
Mental Coaching to Build Confidence as an Athlete
Choose one or two of the confidence building exercises listed above and begin putting them into practice. And remember, it takes consistent effort to increase your confidence as an athlete.
Now, if you're interested in a more in-depth approach to building your confidence, then you need one-on-one mental performance coaching.
With mental coaching, you and I will work together to identify the main things keeping you from being confident. Then we will work together to build your confidence through the use of these exercises and many others.
If you're interested in learning more about mental coaching and seeing how you can get started, please fill out the form below.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
Contact Success Starts Within Today
Please contact us to learn more about mental coaching and to see how it can improve your mental game and increase your performance. Complete the form below, call (252)-371-1602 or schedule an introductory coaching call here.
Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.eli's story
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