Preparation for Confidence in Sports
If there was a recipe to building confidence as an athlete, would you follow it?
I'd imagine you would! Mainly because you know how important it is to be a confident player. And also because, you know how difficult it can be at times to feel confident.
I was talking to a golfer I work with the other day, and we were going over this very same idea. Recently he hadn't been feeling too confident and comfortable during matches. Standing over shots he was second guessing his decisions and doubting himself.
As we were talking and working through ways for him to feel more confident, it became clear that there were two key aspects to him performing with confidence: feeling comfortable with his swing and sticking to his pre shot and post shot routines.
Applying this to yourself and for all sports, we can say that to feel confident as an athlete you need a good balance between physical preparation and mental preparation.
And so, in this article I'm going to outline why preparation is so important to confidence, and a strategy you can use to make sure you are as physically and mentally prepared as you can be for games.
Why Preparation Leads to Confidence
I like to break confidence down into two words: belief and trust. You must believe you have the skills necessary to succeed. But on top of that, you need to trust in your ability to execute those skills during competition.
This is also known as confidence in understanding and confidence in execution.
Now, how do you think you build confidence in understanding (belief in your skills)? Because that’s really where you need to start. You're going to have very little chance of developing confidence in execution if there isn't the belief that you have the skills needed to succeed.
Well, to build belief, you need practice. This is where we first see preparation come into play. You must be sure you are training physically to develop the belief in yourself and your skills.
In addition to physical training to improve your skills, which leads to this belief, there are also mental training tools you can use to reinforce the skills you are building.
I'll talk more about what these skills are later on when we go over the strategy you can use.
So, the combination of physical training and mental training is what leads to the development of belief, also known as confidence in understanding.
But what about confidence in execution? That trust you need in yourself to go out there and apply all the skills you've worked so hard to develop.
One key component of this form of confidence will be recent good performances. However, we aren't going to focus on that, since I want you to be able to control your confidence. And the outcome of a performance is not fully within your control.
You do not want to solely rely on recent good performances to increase this trust. Of course it will help...you just don't want to rely on it.
Another way to increase the trust you have going into a game has to do with the word, comfortable. The more comfortable you feel with your swing, shot, throw, etc. the more you will trust in your ability to perform well that day.
To help yourself feel comfortable, once again, you can use a combination of physical and mental preparation.
The more physically prepared you are, the more comfortable your mechanics will feel. And the more mentally prepared you are, the greater your chances are of being in a comfortable mindset (also known as your peak performance mindset).
Using Preparation to Increase Sports Confidence
To get yourself to the point where you have strong belief in your skills and are trusting in your execution during games, you need to focus on preparing as well as you can.
So, what I'm going to do is break down a strategy you can use to ensure you are as physically and mentally prepared as you can be going into games.
Being Physically Prepared
You might think just showing up to practice and doing what coach says, is all you need to do to be physically prepared to play. Yeah, that's part of it, but to truly be as prepared as you can be, much more attention needs to go into it.
There's a specific process you can follow that helps give you the kind of attention and focus you need.
It involves working on certain skills during practice and then figuring out the most important drills for you to do to make sure you have a good feel in terms of your mechanics.
Working on Skills During Practice
In terms of working on your skills, you want to first identify your current strengths and weaknesses within your game.
Your strengths will help you feel the most comfortable. But working on your weaknesses will gradually increase your confidence because you know you're gaining additional skills that will help you execute during games.
Once you've listed out your strengths and weaknesses, your job is to focus on both. You want to continually build upon your strengths while simultaneously improving your weaknesses.
This takes a certain level of focus on your part, both during team practices and when training on your own.
To help maintain the level of focus you need, you can set practice objectives. These will be the specific things you are working on that day.
For example, I worked with a running back who wanted to improve his cuts. He set himself the practice objective of focusing on staying low and having strong cuts. This attention led him to improve with this skill, translating into increased confidence during games.
For yourself, outline your strengths and weaknesses, and then set practice objectives to ensure you are as focused as you need to be each day.
Working to Get Comfortable
The second part of being physically prepared involves working to get comfortable during games. This has to do with feel. Because you know that when your mechanics feel good, you have more trust in yourself.
Now, this is where we're going to see routines begin to come into play.
What you need to do first is think about the specific drills that are the most important for you to do on a regular basis. Think foundational drills.
An example is from when I played baseball. With hitting, I always stuck with top hand and bottom hand drills off the tee, along with deep tee work. These drills helped me feel connected and comfortable with my swing.
Once you have your drills decided, you want to create a training routine. Make sure you are performing those drills on a daily basis. This will not only work to fine tune your mechanics, but it will also help you feel more comfortable leading into competition.
Being Mentally Prepared
In addition to being physically prepared for games, you want to make sure you are mentally prepared. The combination of both of these aspects of your game is what leads to you performing with high levels of self-confidence.
Very much like with physical preparation, mental preparation is going to involve two parts.
The first part is ongoing mental training to ensure you are strengthening mental skills. The second part is a pregame routine to get you in the right mindset to compete.
Ongoing Mental Training
Whether it's building confidence in and of itself, or any other mental skill, such as focus, managing pressure, or reducing nerves, mental training will help with you being more prepared to compete.
With mental training, you want to be deliberate with what you're doing. This means you need to have a clear idea as to what mental skills you want to work on.
Do you struggle with focus, have a difficult time calming your nerves before and during games, or have a poor time managing mistakes?
Getting clear as to what specific mental skills you want to work on is the first step to implementing mental training.
To help you decide this, here is an article that goes into further detail on the main mental skills you can work on as an athlete.
Once you have your mental skills decided, you want to then choose specific mental training tools to use.
Just like you use drills to improve your physical skills, you can use tools and techniques to improve mental skills.
Okay, so by now you know what mental skills you will work on and the tools you'll use to do so. What's next?
Well, you want to create a daily mental training routine to ensure you are applying the tools consistently.
By doing so, you can feel confident that you will be as prepared as you can be come game time.
Using a Pregame Routine
If you are sticking to your daily mental training routine, your mind will become stronger and stronger.
Little by little you will be increasing mental toughness. This by itself will help you be more mentally prepared for games, and as a result, increase your confidence in execution.
But to make sure you are even more mentally prepared, you can use something known as a pregame mental routine. This pregame routine will be used to get yourself into the best mindset to compete.
When you're in a good mindset, naturally you will feel more comfortable and confident. Especially since confidence will likely be a part of the mindset you work to get into.
When creating your own pregame routine, think about what you do the night before the game and then what you do the day of the game (game day).
You can use much of the same tools that you're using in your daily mental training routine. But you'll also want to add in a few more.
A great thing to add to your pregame routine for the night before phase is researching your opponent. The more you know about your opponent, the better your game plan will be.
Think of this like getting yourself into the zone. You don't want to leave being in a good mindset up to chance. You want to make it happen (or at the very least, give yourself the best chance of making it happen) by implementing a pregame mental routine.
It is the combination of being physically and mentally prepared that gives you the confidence you need to compete. Remember, confidence is all about belief and trust.
You must believe in your skills, but also have high levels of trust in yourself to go out there and execute those skills well today.
Focusing on being as physically and mentally prepared as you can be will get you into a comfortable state going into competition, instilling a strong trust in yourself to go out there and compete your best.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
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