Exercise to Increase Confidence in Sports

Knowing where your confidence comes from is key to playing with confidence. And playing with confidence is the key to peak performance.

When you doubt yourself, you second guess and hesitate. You hold yourself back due to fear and worry.

But when you play with confidence, you compete freely. 

And that is a beautiful thing.

In this article, I’m going to walk you through an exercise you can use to identify where your confidence comes from, to give you a better chance of competing with confidence on a consistent basis.

But before I get into the exercise, it’s important to examine the difference between confidence that is in your control vs confidence that is not within your control.

Confidence…In or Out of Your Control?

Do you control your confidence?

That is a tricky question to answer. 

Because yes, you do control your confidence since it is your confidence. Just as I control my confidence and anyone else controls their own confidence.

Confidence is about belief. And belief is built through our own thoughts. Therefore, what we believe is in our own control.

Only, it’s not that simple.

In reality, while our confidence is within our control, it is not always controlled by us. Meaning, we allow outside influences to determine how confident we feel.

When people and things outside of yourself impact your confidence, all of a sudden your confidence has gone from something you can (and should) control, to something outside of your control.

Now you are at the mercy of other people and your environment for how confident you feel.

That is a dangerous place to be in as an athlete.

What Happens When You Don’t Control Your Confidence

When it comes to you not controlling your confidence, this happens because of where you look for your confidence and what you allow to influence the trust and belief you have in yourself.

For example, if you feel more confident when you play a bad team but doubt yourself when you play a good team, your confidence is based on who you play.

Since who you play is not yours to determine, your confidence is not within your control.

The same is true if your confidence goes up and down based on what your coach says.

If coach gives you positive feedback you feel great, but then when coach gives you negative feedback you spiral into self-doubt, once again, your confidence is not within your control.

It’s incredibly easy, and natural, for confidence to be out of your control. 

While each of us can control our confidence, just as we can control our thinking and any other emotion we experience or belief we have, the truth is, it’s easier to have the environment and other people influence your mind.

But just because it’s the easier and more natural option, does not mean it’s the best option for a healthy mindset and peak performance

In fact, it’s the worst.

When you place the power to determine how confident you feel in other people’s hands, this leads to fear, anxiety, and perfectionism, along with many other mental game challenges.

Let’s take relying too much on your coach for your confidence as an example.

If you know, deep down, that you need coach to give you positive feedback in order to boost your confidence, you will start to fear mistakes. Since mistakes will be a reason for coach to get mad at you, ultimately leading to a drop in confidence.

When you play with fear, you hold yourself back. Fear also leads to sports performance anxiety, where you worry and worry about what will happen.

Anxiety leads to tension. Tension that holds you back and causes you to underperform.

So in summary, when you do not control your confidence, your performance will go up and down. This is the foundation for inconsistent play.

But what happens when you do control your confidence?

How Controlling Your Confidence Increases Performance

When you control your confidence, this means you know how to build a feeling of trust and belief going into a game.

You don’t rely on other people to get yourself into the right mindset to compete. You know how to get into that mindset for yourself.

There are two main reasons controlling your confidence increases performance: it leads to consistent play and helps with moving on from mistakes.

The reason controlling your confidence leads to consistent play is that when you play with confidence, you play your best.

Think of your best games…would you use the words doubting, fearful, anxious, or timid to describe your mindset during those games?

I doubt it.

Playing with doubt, fear, anxiety, or playing timidly holds you back.

When you play your best, you play freely. You trust yourself and your skills. You simply allow yourself to perform.

That only comes once you believe in yourself.

If you know how to generate a state of confidence for yourself, all of a sudden you play more and more of your games in a confident state. This leads to more consistent good games.

Exercise to Identify Where Your Confidence Comes From

The goal is to have your confidence be in your control. To accomplish that goal, there is a process you need to go through.

A process that helps you determine what currently gives you confidence, and then narrows that down to the main aspects that are in your control.

Then, for the final step, you will create what’s known as a confidence recipe.

Step #1: Outlining What Currently Gives You Confidence

I know up to this point I’ve talked a lot about how you don’t want to rely on other people for your confidence and how you need your confidence to be within your control…I want you to forget all that for this step.

Not because it was a lie, but because you don’t want to skew your answers to the question: what currently gives you confidence?

You need to answer that question honestly. If that means all of your answers, or the majority of them, are things that are out of your control, that’s fine.

We will take care of that in step two.

But for step one, be completely honest with yourself and list the main things that give you confidence.

Some examples include:

  • Positive self-talk
  • Playing a good team or a bad team
  • Positive feedback from coach
  • Having played good so far in the game
  • Being on a hot streak recently
  • Positive comments from teammates

Those are just a few examples, but there are tons of things that could give you confidence. Be as specific and honest as you can be when creating your list.

Once you’ve outlined what currently gives you confidence, it’s time to move onto step two.

Step #2: Narrowing to What’s in Your Control

Now we can talk about control.

When you look over your list from step two, how many of them are within your control?

And I mean really in your control.

Things you could absolutely and 100% make sure you do each and every game to build a state of confidence.

Are there one or two? 


Either way, that’s okay. The goal was to get an honest idea of where your confidence currently comes from. Now it is time to narrow your list, and or create a new list.

Rewrite the ones that are 100% in your control. 

The goal is to have three things that give you confidence that you can control.

If there aren’t any from your first list, think of three that are in your control that would give you confidence.

Now that you have a second list created, it’s time to put them into action.

Step #3: Creating Your Confidence Recipe

A recipe is a list of ingredients that get put together to give you an end result. That’s exactly what we’re doing with this exercise. 

We are identifying what ingredients go into you being confident.

Unlike a food recipe, this recipe will not involve ingredients to mix into a bowl, but rather actions you can take before games to generate a state of confidence.

What you do is take your list from step two and think of an action that will make sure you accomplish or do each of the things you wrote down.

For example, if you said positive self-talk gives you confidence, the action would be to read over a self-talk list before games.

If you said remembering times you played well gives you confidence, then you can either visualize yourself having played well or simply think about good games you’ve had recently.

The goal is to come up with a list of actions you can take before every game to build a state of confidence.

By using your confidence recipe, you give yourself a better chance of beginning games in a confident state. 

And when you play with confidence, you play your best.

Final Thoughts

Confidence is key to success in sports. Without it, you open yourself up to doubt, fear, and anxiety.

When you play with confidence, you play freely and perform at your peak. Which is why you need to be sure your confidence is 100% within your control.

You don’t want to rely on other people or the environment for your confidence. That leads to fragile confidence.

Sturdy confidence is built on a foundation of controllable actions. Things you do before every game to instill a state of confidence.

To identify what those actions are, also known as your confidence recipe, go through the three step process outlined above.

And remember to put your recipe into action. That’s where consistent confidence will be found. 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 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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The Mentally Tough Kid course will teach your young athlete tools & techniques to increase self-confidence, improve focus, manage mistakes, increase motivation, and build mental toughness.

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