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Here’s What a Confident Athlete Looks Like

It’s easy to pick out the confident athlete in the crowd. And I am not talking about the athlete who is boastful, or full of false or inflated confidence. They don’t need to be loud or boisterous to be quietly self-assured and confident. There is just something about them that exudes confidence. More specifically, this […]

It’s easy to pick out the confident athlete in the crowd. And I am not talking about the athlete who is boastful, or full of false or inflated confidence. They don’t need to be loud or boisterous to be quietly self-assured and confident.

There is just something about them that exudes confidence.

More specifically, this athlete tends to be:

Task focused.

The confident athlete has short term goals that are specific. They focus on doing the best on specific things instead of focusing on uncontrollable things, like the competition or how others perceive them.

“I like to make my short term goals something that makes me feel better and sets me up to better prepare for the long-term goals.” – Jessica Hardy (Olympic gold-medal winning swimmer)

Confidence requires time and consistency. It can feel like a remarkably fragile state—and it is. All it takes is a couple bad workouts or a disappointing race to have the confidence of an athlete crumble.

They use positive body language.

The body language they use is a by-product of what’s going on between their ears. They stand straight, shoulders back. What kind of body language gives athletes a sense of confidence? What kind of body language saps them of it?

Able to enjoy the moment.

One of the confidence hang-ups athletes subject themselves to is to refuse any kind of self-confidence until they have achieved some crazy goal. They hinge all their self-confidence on a personal best time, a gold medal, or a world record. Only then, they are convinced, are they worthy of feeling self-confidence.

In our results-obsessed culture, this outlook is common, and a dysfunctional way to approach the sport. Every day is an opportunity to build and sharpen self-confidence.

This means reflecting on daily victories, the small wins that seem inconsequential but pile up over time.

Ask your athletes to keep a training journal and write out one thing they did well that day. Use performance cues to keep them present. Keep a list of moments where they have totally crushed it.

Make sure that athletes are reminded often of the benefits of the sport that aren’t tied to them achieving a PB—training with their friends, chasing a goal as a team, teaching younger athletes, and so on.

The warm glow of self-confidence shouldn’t just show up on the scoreboard or be found at the top of the podium.

Stick to their process.

Self-confidence comes from competence and control. When an athlete feels like they are in control of their performance, they are more likely to feel confident. Just another benefit of having a process-based mindset.

Confident athletes focus on their own race strategy, performance cues, and keep themselves where they want to be emotionally during pressure-packed situations.

Develop a mental plan, a “mindset warm-up” that emphasizes the aspects of performance they control.

Use imagery and self-talk.

Both of these mental training skills are markers of high-performing athletes.

Imagery and visualization allow athletes to put in the reps of their ideal performance, manage adversity, and build confidence, while self-talk helps keep athletes from spiraling into negative thought patterns when things get tough.

Visualization and self-talk are proven performances boosters that when done with consistency can improve self-confidence.

Value preparation.

Self-confidence is rooted in how an athlete readies themselves. If an athlete has gone to all the workouts, hit their race pace targets, and done the little things right, they are going to feel ready to drop a superior performance.

In what is likely not a surprise, how ready and prepared an athlete is differentiates the elite athlete from the rest of the competition.

Recognize training and competition highlights.

Training accomplishments are a major source of confidence. No surprise there. If an athlete performs well at practice, they are going to generate the self-confidence to believe that it can be replicated in competition.

Image Credit: J.D. Lasica/Flickr

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