Recently, I had a parent talk to me about their athlete. He was going to be a freshman and the parent said that he thinks he has the ability to make the team, he just doesn’t always show it. If a teammate or opposing player exudes more confidence, he will succumb to a backseat role to that player. He was asking me how to develop confidence in the kid. This got me thinking about confidence. Is it developed or are you born with it? Why are some people more confident than others?
I decided to create a list of what the biggest factors are that help lead to developing confidence. Understand, I’m no expert psychologist here. I’m just calling on my own athletic background and what I’ve seen with my athletes. Here’s what I came up with. I don’t know if one area is any more important than the other, but I think a good combination develops a confident athlete.
- How skilled are you in your sport? – If you ask me to go out and challenge four random, ordinary people in golf AND win, I don’t think I would feel too confident that would happen. Unless they were blindfolded and even then I couldn’t guarantee it. I stink at golf. Now, if you ask me to challenge them in a sprint, I would feel pretty confident I could win. I still train at a high level and sprinting is my area of expertise. The point is the better you are at a sport, the more comfortable you will be playing it. Thus, you might get to a level where you think you have a very good shot of doing well on any given night. The only way to improve that skill then is to practice. The more you practice, the better you will become. It is that simple.
- How prepared are you? – When I was in high school, I had to give a junior speech in front of the whole student body. Having never done that before, I was really nervous, but I prepared for that speech. I spoke on a topic I was familiar with, memorized the speech, and was able to nail it. Athletics is the same thing and ultimately preparing can also boil down to practice, but it goes beyond a skill set. You try to practice against all different types of scenarios, so that when they happen in a game, you know what to do and feel confident you will nail it. Whether it is an inbounds play in basketball with 5 seconds left, a two minute drill in football, or a penalty kick in soccer, you practice those plays so that they become second nature. When you are not caught off-guard, that helps build your confidence that you’ll be successful for that play.
- Have you had previous athletic success? – You see this all the time. If a team constantly is winning, they come out expecting to win. They know what it takes to win and they will get it done. You can see it in their eyes when they warm-up. I’ve seen athletes defeated just by watching the other team warm-up. When you win, that builds your confidence because you know you have the ability to win. It is inside you. Start applying the previous two principles and you will continue to reinforce this principle. It doesn’t even have to be winning. Maybe you made the team. Maybe you cracked the starting lineup. Those are successes. Remember the moment. Remember how you felt. Remember what you did to get there. Capture that and try to repeat and build on it.
- You CANNOT be afraid to fail. – This is tough, especially for younger athletes. You are going to fail. Maybe you miss an assignment. Maybe you strike out. Maybe you make a turnover. Whatever it is, you will fail. Do not be afraid to fail. I just recently got my picture with Coach Bobby Knight (I’m an IU grad so kind of cool. To see the pic, click here to go to my fanpage and please Like the page). If you were going to succeed in his system, you were going to have to work hard and you couldn’t be afraid to fail. He was notorious for pulling an athlete out of a game for a mistake made. You couldn’t be worried about that. You have to learn from it and seize the opportunity next time it is presented to you. There is a cliché, but it is true. You have to learn from your mistakes. The more you learn, the less you repeat those mistakes, and the more confident you will become.
- You have to TRUST your athletic abilities. – Even if you are good at all the above principles, if you don’t trust your athletic skills, you’re done. You have to look at another team and think you can get this done. Gahanna Lincoln played defending state champ, Northland in the regional basketball finals several years ago. Northland had state player of the year Jared Sullinger and Michigan bound Trey Burke. Gahanna had no real size, but they were quick, knew their roles, and had some ballers. No one gave Gahanna a shot, but they won by like 30. If you don’t trust your abilities, then why should anyone else trust them.
I definitely think confidence is a skill that can be acquired over time. I’ve worked with so many athletes who have come to us for speed development. Not the quickest people by any means. We get them faster, not Olympic speed faster, but faster than what they were. Now all of the sudden they can get to the ball quicker or they can get up and down the court a little easier. They might not be lighting the world on fire, but their parents notice a difference. The parents can see the confidence growing in their kid because they can do more things than what they could before. And to those parents, that is something to really be proud of.
Feel free to write your comments in the comments box below. Do you like my principles? Dislike them? Think there some I’m missing? Let me know.