Most people accept that confidence is more or less the feeling of being capable. No matter what you are doing, confidence is the ability to believe in yourself. There is a lot that goes into confidence, but it can easily be broken down into beliefs, feelings, and skills.
These three things are easily worked on, although you might not always know precisely what to do. You will know when you are feeling confident, though, because you will have much less anxiety, fear, and doubt when you are getting ready to go out on the field. Professional players got where they are in large part by believing in themselves.
No matter how much you may train and prepare yourself for the big game, if you don’t have the confidence to actually use the skills you aren’t going to perform at your best and will be surprised how difficult it can be, regardless of how well you’ve been performing while you were practicing.
Your own beliefs are some of the most powerful things that your mind possesses, even if you don’t know what they are conscious. You might have limiting beliefs that you have never even been aware of, or thought about as limiting. The chain reaction of what you can or can’t do is what gives you confidence, or a lack of it. This single thing can make or break your success as an athlete and is a large focus of sports psychology.
Every single day, there are thousands of thoughts floating around in your head. The “thought loop” happens all on its own for the most part, without any input from you or I. If you have a negative pattern related to your abilities, you are going to lack confidence, but if you have a positive one you will be building confidence and actually growing your confidence on a daily basis.
What sports psychology does is teach you how to make the most of it and eliminate negative patterns, while building up the positive ones. There are a number of ways that this is accomplished.
The goal is to isolate which thoughts and beliefs you have been stopping you from achieving your goals. Believe it or not, it isn’t as hard as it might seem and you’ll find that you can easily do this once you sit down and put your mind to the task.
The Stages Of Confidence
For almost every athlete, there is a very specific set of stages that they go through in terms of their own confidence. You’ve probably seen this happen in a different area of your life before, but the five stages are:
1. “I can’t do this”: When you feel like you don’t know what you are doing, or
are just starting work on improving a skill, you’ll often feel like it is impossible. There is no way you can possibly accomplish this and what is the point anyway? You’ll have intense anxiety surrounding your ability to practice as well as perform when the day comes.
2. “Maybe I can do this”: At this stage, you’ll start to see that there is some
possibility. You aren’t sure about it at all, but you think that if you work hard there is a chance you’ll be able to succeed. You’ll still feel anxious, but it will be dramatically reduced in some cases.
3. “I hope that I can accomplish this”: It is 50/50 as far as you are concerned.
You are starting to build some level of confidence, and are willing to at least give it a shot, but you aren’t sure. When you reach this point, there is a tipping point that you are soon approaching and you’ll have confidence once you start to build reference experiences for it.
4. “I think I can”: This is actually a huge step up from the previous step, but it
is also one of the most important. You might still not be sure, but you have a belief that you can do it if you try hard enough. Unfortunately, a lot of athletes never make it beyond this step. No matter how much they prepare, they always think that it must just be dumb luck that they made it, or they think that they are just nothing special, someone, that has the skills, but is still missing something.
5. “I know I can”: This is where an unbelievably few athletes rise to. When you
KNOW that you can do something, you simply do it. You don’t even have to give it a second thought.
You not only know success is possible, but you expect it since you know that you have everything you need to accomplish your goals. Even when faced with adversity, you know that you are prepared and don’t experience the anxiety that accompanied the previous levels of confidence building.
Using Self Talk If you are a person that has suffered from negative thoughts, the good news is that you do have the opportunity to turn that negativity into positivity. With the right beliefs, you will be able to form new thought patterns that will take you to new heights.
Positive self talk is a way of choosing the kinds of thoughts that you have and the kinds of things that you will be focusing on. When you start talking about yourself in a new way, your performance will reflect the kinds of changes that you have made.
Using A Journal
A sports journal is one of the best ways to look at the kinds of thoughts that you have and start to replace them with positive ones. Your mind only has the ability to focus on one thing at a time, so when you start forcing it to think about yourself in a positive way you’ll see incredible results. Write down the way that you feel about your performance.
Include all of the positive and the negative things that dominate your mind whenever you think about playing a game. This will make it much easier to assess the kinds of thoughts that you typically have.
The positive ones are what you will be starting to focus on, though. Write down any positive belief that you have about yourself and your ability to perform. Don’t worry if you don’t have too many, though, because we are going to add more to that as you go. The positive ones will, however, serve as a starting point.
Now write down powerful and short statements that you can use to pump yourself up and start inserting into your thought patterns on a daily basis. Think about things like: “I’m the best.” “I can win.” “No one can beat me.” “I am the fastest.” These kinds of thoughts are what you should be thinking about at several
points throughout the day. In particular, you should make a point to read your list out loud to yourself: When you wake up. Before you practice. Any time you experience a set-back at practice. Before a game. Throughout the game whenever you start having doubts about your performance.
After games. At night before you go to bed. This is a powerful way to train your brain to only think these whenever you are going to need these kinds of beliefs. The more you do it, the stronger the statements will become and the more you will start to believe them and have them dominate your mind on a regular basis, without having to actually tell yourself to focus on them.
Now that you know how to build the right kind of confidence, it is important to look at other parts of your performance. There are many places that you can improve, but next, we are going to take a look at your ability to focus and get into the “flow” while you are playing.