How to Know Your Strengths as an Athlete

What are your strengths as an athlete?

Have you thought much about that question? Have you really taken the time to examine your game and outline everything you do well?

It’s easy to look at weaknesses. That’s natural if you are the type of athlete who’s always wanting to improve. To improve, you need to know what you currently don’t do well.

But you don’t want to completely overlook your strengths. If you do, you lose out on valuable insight that can elevate your game.

In this article, I’ll explain the benefits of knowing your strengths as an athlete, along with a simple exercise you can use to figure out what those strengths are.

Why You Need to Know Your Strengths as an Athlete

There are three main reasons you want to outline your strengths as a player: it builds confidence, you can use them to your advantage, and they make it easier to see areas that need improvement.

How Knowing Your Strengths Increases Confidence

I was talking with an athlete yesterday about confidence. Specifically, how confidence is built.

And I likened confidence to a tower of Legos. 

As you play better, and your confidence grows, more Legos are added and the tower grows. 

The higher the tower gets, the stronger your confidence gets.

But it’s not enough to simply play well and have that build the tower. There is an element of reflection we need to take into consideration.

I have known many athletes (including myself) who have played well but not felt confident. 

In fact, confidence keeps dropping. This happens when there is an underlying feeling of not being good enough.

Feeling like you’re not good enough doesn’t do much for your confidence levels. It knocks Legos off your tower.

Our goal is to build the tower, not tear it down. Which is why knowing your strengths is so important.

When you know your strengths, you reflect on the good things about your game. You know there are aspects of your game you do well and knowing that adds Legos to the tower.

The more strengths you acknowledge, the higher the tower climbs, and the more your confidence grows.

The more confidence you play with, the better you will compete.

Knowing your strengths as an athlete leads to higher levels of confidence.

Playing to Your Strengths

Every athlete has certain parts of their game they’re better at than other parts of their game. Knowing what these strengths are gives you a competitive edge.

I worked with a soccer player who was struggling with 1v1’s. This had a lot to do with fears surrounding making mistakes and contact.

We worked through his fears and began getting him to play more physically.

But while we were doing so, we used a strength he already had within his game to make the 1v1’s easier and helped him succeed more in these situations.

That strength was his mind.

He is a very smart player. Yet, when he felt afraid, his mind would shut off and he wasn’t able to use it to his advantage. 

He was frozen with fear.

Knowing a strength of his was his mind, we began discussing ways he could play smart instead of feeling like he always had to play physically.

He began playing smarter, had more success, all while reducing the fear he had in relation to contact. 

Mainly because he took the pressure off himself initially by focusing on a strength of his game and using it to his advantage.

When you understand what you do well, you can focus on that when you compete and leverage it for success.

If you’re a baseball player and a strength you have as a hitter is speed, you may try bunting more to get some base hits. That draws the third baseman in, and opens up the six hole for more hits later on.

Playing to your strengths opens up opportunities for you.

If you’re a basketball player and size is a strength of yours, use it to get more offensive rebounds and easy baskets for your team.

It may seem straightforward, but if there are already strengths you possess within your game, you want to leverage them to give yourself a competitive advantage when you play.

Knowing Your Strengths Makes Improving Easier

By the very nature of strengths, they are aspects of your game you do well. Yes, they can and should be continually improved, but you already perform them at a high level.

So how could knowing what these strengths are actually make improving your weaknesses easier?

The first way is that knowing your strengths automatically highlights areas that aren’t so much a strength. These areas can be considered weaknesses, or at the very least parts of your game that need more attention.

In addition to that, though, knowing your strengths provides you with a layer of confidence that keeps you from getting too down on yourself or feeling as though you aren’t good enough when you do begin examining your weaknesses.

It’s so easy to nitpick and criticize yourself for the things you don’t do that well. But nitpicking does little to help you improve.

Yeah, it may pinpoint parts of your game you can work on. But working on them from a negative starting point won’t be as effective as working on them from a foundation of confidence and belief in yourself.

A foundation that needs to be built on your strengths

So not only does knowing your strengths automatically highlight areas that need to be worked on, but it gives you a shield against negative thinking and self-criticism that helps you actually improve instead of just feeling down on yourself and your game.

Exercise to Identify Your Strengths as an Athlete

It’s clear that knowing your strengths as a player is valuable. But how do you identify what these strengths are?

To be honest, it’s not always the easiest thing to do. Especially if you have the tendency to criticize yourself.

If you’re self-critical, seeing your own strengths doesn’t come naturally. But as we’ve gone over above, it’s a crucial part to elevating your game.

To help, there is a three part process you can follow…

Part 1: Identify Some Good Games You’ve Had Recently

Think back to some good games you’ve had recently. What stands out to you as to why they were so good? What did you do?

More specifically, what is similar between the games?

For this exercise to be effective, you want to think of at least five games, if not more. The larger the sample size, the better.

Because let’s say you had eight blocks in a game recently. Does that mean blocking is a strength of yours as a defender? Maybe…if the pattern carries throughout multiple games.

If you had eight blocks because the other team was smaller, then that doesn’t necessarily mean blocking is a strength.

You are looking for things you have done well consistently throughout your good games.

This is a great place to begin when it comes to identifying your strengths. When you notice patterns like these, they highlight the aspects of your game that lead to good performances.

These aspects are what we can classify as your strengths.

Part 2: Think About What Other People Have Complimented You On

I rarely recommend looking to other people for approval. That’s a dangerous habit to get into as an athlete.

When you look to others too much for approval, this leads to fear, anxiety, and perfectionism. None of which result in peak performance.

However, in this case, thinking about what compliments others have given you about your game can help narrow down your list of strengths.

It’s one thing to think that you do something well. It’s another matter altogether for someone else to equally consider that thing a strong part of your game.

When your list from part one begins to align with the compliments you’ve been given from others, that’s how you know you have landed on your true list of strengths.

Part 3: Test in Competition

One of the reasons you want to identify your strengths is to focus on them during competition to give yourself a competitive advantage.

Yes, it is about providing yourself with confidence, as we discussed earlier. But it’s also about knowing how you can go out there and give your best game possible.

The last part of this exercise is an ongoing process where you focus on your strengths during games, and make sure they are helping you play your best.

Of course there will be days where you don’t play as well as you’d like. But over time, does focusing on your strengths lead to more consistent games?

If so, you have a solid list of strengths. If not, then you either need to keep fine tuning your strengths in practice, or think of some other strengths within your game to focus on.

Final Thoughts

Every athlete has aspects of their game they do better than others. These are their strengths and weaknesses.

For yourself, knowing what your strengths are increases confidence and allows you to focus on these strengths during competition to give you an edge.

Peak performance comes from doing what you do well to the best of your abilities that day.

This comes from knowing what those strengths are.

Go through the three part process outlined above and get clear on what your true strengths are as a player.

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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