Athlete Self-Confidence Articles

How to Be a More Confident Athlete

Eli Straw
How to Be a More Confident Athlete

No matter what sport you play, you need confidence. Without confidence, it doesn’t matter how talented you are, your play on the field or court will never align with your true potential.

But what happens if you struggle with confidence? What then?

While confidence is needed, it’s not always the easiest thing to have. There are many factors that can lower your confidence as an athlete and keep you from having as much trust in your skills as you need.

And so, if you’re wondering how to be a more confident athlete, by the end of this article you will have learned a strategy that will show you how.

Building Athlete Confidence

When you’re confident, there is a certain amount of trust you have in yourself and your skills. But more than that, true confidence is a feeling. It’s a sense of knowing that you’re going to go out there and play well.

Have you ever felt that? Where, before the game even started you could tell it was going to be a good day?

That is the essence of confidence we are trying to capture. Because confidence in an athletic sense really needs to be looked at as an active process.

Too many athletes wait around, hoping to feel confident. This is something I see in many of the athletes I work with in mental coaching. One day that feeling was there, and so they spend many days moving forward hoping it shows up again.

Confidence should not be something that comes and goes with the wind. It needs to be something sturdy that you control.

Can you imagine…you determining your own confidence? You choosing, each day, to show up to the field knowing that you have the skills necessary to succeed! Sounds pretty freeing, doesn’t it?

Well, that’s exactly what can happen when you take your confidence into your own hands. And to take confidence into your own hands, you must work on proactively building and applying a feeling of confidence every day you perform.

“Confidence should not be something that comes and goes with the wind. It needs to be something sturdy that you control.”

A Strategy to Be a More Confident Athlete

Confidence is proactive. You must actively work on feeling confident. This takes understanding what it truly means for you to be confident, and it takes understanding what impacts your confidence the most.

In addition, it requires you to apply a specific sport psychology tool that will work on retraining your mind to build trust.

All of that can happen if you follow this strategy.

Step 1: Identity What it Truly Feels Like to Be Confident

For the first step, we are going beyond a definition. Definitions are full of words and what we’re after is a feeling. So cast away all thoughts about what it means to be confident and try something new.

What you want to do is make yourself two lists. The first list will include the worst three performances of your life. I know, these aren’t the most fun memories to revisit but bear with me.

Once you’ve listed them out, try to remember what your mindset was like. How were you feeling? What were you thinking about? What were you focused on? Write it down for each one.

Now, look over what you wrote and come up with a single statement that describes what you were feeling. That’s what it means for you not to be confident.

Okay, now it’s time for your second list. This one’s a bit more fun. Think about the best three performances of your life and write them down. Then, once again, outline what you were feeling and what your mindset was like.

Now create a single statement that describes what it means for you to be confident. For example, you may say, Confidence for me means feeling relaxed and enjoying myself.

That’s what you must focus on feeling in order to perform confidently.

The reason this is an important first step is because confidence as a feeling can vary from player to player. Yes, at the core, it’s about self-belief. But what does that feel like for you?

I’ve worked with athletes who play their best when feeling pissed off and angry, and others who play their best when having fun and feeling relaxed.

The point is, there is no right or wrong answer. The feeling of confidence is the feeling you have when you play your best because that’s the feeling that tells your mind, today is going to be a good day.

“The feeling of confidence is the feeling you have when you play your best because that’s the feeling that tells your mind, today is going to be a good day.”

Step 2: Identify What Factors Contribute to Your Confidence

Now that you have a clear definition of what it means for you to be confident and a specific mindset you want to get into, you need to figure out what leads to that feeling in the first place.

This can be done by coming up with another list (I know, I like making lists). You want to aim to write ten things that influence how confident you feel.

These can be anything from your pregame routine to how your coach is feeling. Don’t worry about feeling like it’s good that it impacts your confidence or not, just simply write it down.

Next, look over your list and circle the top three that are in your control. For example, if you said mental preparation influences your confidence, then that would be in your control.

However, if you said the feedback you get from your coach influences your confidence, that wouldn’t be in your control.

Now, this isn’t to feel bad about yourself, or anything. You’re identifying what is in your control for a specific reason; you want to focus on what you can control.

Your aim is to take the three items you circled and think about how you can focus on them and apply them going into a game.

That way, you are placing your attention on something you have control over that you know will positively impact your confidence.

Step 3: Change Your Thinking

If you think that you aren’t confident, you won’t be confident. If you think that you are confident, you will be confident. It’s that simple…yet extremely hard.

Thinking confidently is difficult if you’ve been playing badly recently. It’s tough if you look around and feel like your teammates are a lot more skilled than you are. Thinking confidently is also hard when your coach or parents don’t give you the encouragement you wish they would. But remember, we are here to focus on building your confidence. And that takes focusing solely on yourself.

To work on changing your thinking, you need to ask yourself a simple question: How do I need to think to feel more confident?

That question isn’t hard to answer. What’s hard is applying the answer on a consistent basis. Especially after you make a mistake or have a bad game. But remember, building confidence is an active process. So you have to keep at it.

Something that will help is a process known as cognitive restructuring. This involves modifying negative and unhelpful thoughts and coming up with new, more positive ones.

In terms of your confidence, this means becoming clear on what you currently say to yourself that lowers your confidence. Then, creating a list of confidence boosting statements that you then repeat each day.

The repetition of these new statements is where you will see confidence grow. What happens as you continue to repeat them is that they will become wired as new thought patterns.

That makes it much easier to remember them going into a game. And by thinking these new thoughts during a game, your confidence will be increased.

“To work on changing your thinking, you need to ask yourself a simple question: How do I need to think to feel more confident?”

Building Confidence With Mental Coaching

The strategy outlined above will help tremendously with becoming a more confident athlete. But there’s one additional strategy you can use to make the process even more powerful: mental coaching.

Through one-on-one mental performance coaching, you will be taken through an even more in-depth version of the exercises listed above. In addition, we will dive into what right now is negatively impacting your confidence.

Each week we will have an hour long coaching session where you will learn even more tools you can use to build your confidence as an athlete.

Click here to learn more about mental coaching to build confidence.

If you have any questions about building confidence in sports or mental coaching, there’s an email form at the bottom of this page you can fill out and I will be happy to get back to you.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

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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.

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Eli Straw

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.

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