What do all competitive athletes have in common? They all would like to improve how they play their sport. How do athletes improve? They either change the mechanical way they approach their movement of the sport, they implement a new way of thinking about their sport, or a combination of both.
For the sport psychology consultant, the mental game can both influence the physiological aspects of the movement and shape new images in the athletic mind that could improve accuracy, speed, etc. However, the end result of any of these changes must include an increase in confidence.
Confidence is the one thing that all competitive athletes want to improve upon because it is the “thing” that enables an athlete to improve. Confidence can be compared to a circle, in that it generally comes from successful repetition. Confidence comes from being able to successfully repeat a movement if the movement produces similar results. Therefore, past successful performances are the #1 influencer in confidence.
Let’s take a look at seven ways to increase athletic confidence.
#1: The Power of Past Success
Past successes create confidence. However, it is better to have success in actual competition rather than practice since competition is where athletes are judged as being successful or failures. Many good athletes practice beautifully and many great athletes do not practice very well. The best scenario is to keep practice in perspective, acknowledging it cannot simulate actual competition, but to take it seriously knowing any chance of actual success will start on the practice field.
#2: Feedback from the Right Source
Meaningful feedback can boost an athlete’s confidence, but with one caveat: It needs to come from a person the athlete respects or admires. If a fan says to an athlete from the stands, “Great job,” the athlete may not believe what the fan states because that person has no credibility with the athlete. But if the position coach says the same thing, it can mean everything as far as confidence to the athlete. Why? The coach has built credibility with the athlete and his/her verbal support means something.
Verbal feedback can also become a confidence booster from a stranger if that person also has a lot of credibility within the sport. For example, if Jack Nicklaus commented that a particular player has a beautiful swing, it could mean a lot to that player since Nicklaus has a lot of credibility in the game of golf, even though he may not know that player.
#3: Positive Comparison
“If she can do it, so can I,” states the hopeful Olympian. This is an example of how Modeling through vicarious experiences can increase confidence. When an athlete sees another comparative person successfully execute a sport, it can give that athlete confidence that they can do the sport as well. There are a lot of “if’s” between modeling and execution, but it can at least give an athlete hope that they can also perform as well as the other person.
Conor Mcgregor publicly stated that he could “see” himself becoming an MMA Champion before he actually became the champ. What did he mean? He could visualize himself defeating all competitors, see himself raising the belt, and see himself as champion. He visualized success before it happened. He imagined success prior to the actual success and believed it was going to happen.
But here’s an interesting thing about belief; the subconscious mind doesn’t know if it is true or false. If you believe something is going to happen or has happened, the subconscious mind believes it as fact. This is one way to program success and trigger positive beliefs. If you see yourself already successful, the mind reflects the confidence through actions and can give the athlete a greater chance of actually fulfilling the imagined experience.
#5: Good Emotional Connections
Did you ever have a feeling that you were going to succeed at a thing beforehand because of a particular circumstance? Let’s say you have a good feeling about a particular club in your hand, or particular place you are going to play. You have a positive emotional attachment to this event or circumstance that gives you a boost in confidence, which in turns increases your chance of success. You “FEEL” good about something, and that feeling can give you confidence.
#6: Controlling Negative Emotions
Feelings can also act against an athlete if they feel negative about a circumstance. These negative feelings can turn into anxious moments which then can turn into failures. Physical states of arousal, like racing heartbeats or shallow breathing, can trigger emotional panic — which can in turn lead to diminished results. The athlete interprets these physiological states as possible signs of things to come and, if negative, can result in performance failures.
#7: Confidence in Something Higher than Yourself
Finally, a subject that can give an athlete a sense of confidence is the way in which they perceive the role sport plays in their lives. For the religious athlete that believes in God (or a god), they may put sport as 5th or 6th in their priority list behind their commitment to their faith, their family, health, community, and service commitments.
Their sport is way down on their priority list and never becomes a “do or die” scenario. Even though they respect their talent and work hard to keep it in shape, their sport can never become a thing that causes great anxiety. They have confidence that a higher power is looking out for them and they can take solace in knowing they are going to be protected no matter what happens in competition. Faith is another word for confidence, and the religious athlete has faith beyond themselves, which can be a very powerful source of confidence.
Looking for a Boost in Athletic Confidence? Contact Dr. Richard Trammel Today!
If you are ready to get out of your own head, build confidence, and enhance your athletic performance, then you need the help of a professional sports psychology consultant. Contact us today for more details or to book an appointment.