Community//

How Coaches Can Help the Athlete Who Has Low Confidence

Here’s a blueprint for helping the athlete who works hard but doesn’t have the confidence that should come along with it. When we think of championship-caliber athletes, one of the characteristics that typically comes to mind is self-confidence. It’s the intensity in their eyes, the positive body language, and the steady calm as they prepare […]

How Coaches Can Help Athletes with Low Self-Confidence
Sophomore SB Raymond Maples rushed for a career-best 141 yards and a touchdown and junior QB Trent Steelman accounted for three scores as Army rolled to a 45-6 victory over Tulane on Saturday afternoon in front of a Homecoming crowd of 31,235 at Michie Stadium. Maples carried 15 times on the way to his career-high, Steelman completed all three of his passes for 70 yards and rushed for 54 yards and the Black Knights forced four fumbles and improved to 2-3. Army rushed for 353 yards and picked up 423 yards of total offense and the Black Knights limited Tulane to 199 yards of total offense to win its second home game of the season. Photo by Tommy Gilligan/West Point Public Affairs.

Here’s a blueprint for helping the athlete who works hard but doesn’t have the confidence that should come along with it.

When we think of championship-caliber athletes, one of the characteristics that typically comes to mind is self-confidence. It’s the intensity in their eyes, the positive body language, and the steady calm as they prepare to unleash a monster performance.

Epic levels of self-confidence is more than just thinking you are going to play or perform well.

When athletes are confident, they are more likely to perceive the nerves and anxiety of competition in a positive manner. They view the butterflies as something that helps their performance, not hinders. They are able to frame the anxiety and stress as a challenge, and not as a threat.

Of course, there is a difference between optimal self-confidence (the kind that comes from a realistic view of the preparation done to date) and the false or inflated self-confidence that comes from deluding ourselves into thinking we are better than we are.

How to build optimal levels of confidence

Although athletes and coaches tend to wait for a big result to feel confident—the gold medal, winning the championship game—there are things that can be done consistently in training and in the culture to develop self-confidence.

It’s important to think of self-confidence as a skill. And here are some ways that coaches and athletes can develop true, legitimate self-confidence.

Develop awareness of what contributes to confidence, and what doesn’t. Have swimmers write out a list of things they control that creates confidence, and a list of things that doesn’t give them confidence that they don’t control.

Have a culture that rewards a process-based mindset. Use individual and group training goals to achieve this. Set meaningful and realistic goals, and have daily and short-term targets to chase after.

Recognize moments of excellence. Don’t let opportunities to build genuine confidence go unnoticed. Have athletes use a logbook, recognize moments where they crush it, and build a list of times where they have excelled. Confidence comes from experience, and those confidence-building experiences should be recognized and remembered.

Confident athletes are prepared athletes. Are you preparing your athletes to physically and mentally perform on race day? Or simply to be able to perform at next week’s workout? Make competition something fun and not to be feared by making it commonplace. The threat of competition is a threat to confidence.

Emphasize self-talk to power things they have control over. Self-talk is often an instigator of positive or negative performance spirals. Self-talk should be decided upon, reinforced (have them write out desired self-talk on their water bottle, for instance), and individualized.

Use visualization to prepare for moments of pressure. Otherwise confident athletes often experience a big crash in confidence in the hours before competition. Visualization can help acclimatize athletes for the threat and pressure of competition.

Be consistent! Confidence is a skill and needs to be sharpened regularly and consistently over time. Don’t fall for the misguided notion that confidence can only happen after a big breakthrough or victory—it’s steadily accumulated over time with repetition and consistency.

Image credit: Creative Commons/ Flickr

    The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...

    Community//

    Here’s What a Confident Athlete Looks Like

    by Olivier Poirier-Leroy
    Tinpixels/Getty Images
    Science//

    Want to Be More Self-Confident? Stop Undermining Yourself in These 7 Ways

    by Scott Mautz
    Community//

    Looking for New Employees? Hire A Former Student Athlete

    by Jennifer Durrant

    Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

    Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

    Thrive Global
    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

    - MARCUS AURELIUS

    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.