Winning the Confidence Battle

For most any athlete, even professional athletes, playing with confidence is essential for success to occur. But for young athletes inadequate self-confidence not only damages an athlete's performance but it can also seep into other parts of their lives as well.

Of all the subjects I cover on mental skills training I get the most interest and feedback on the area of self-confidence, and for good reason. For a teenager playing sports confidence is almost as important as oxygen (and texting!) to insure his/her success and happiness!

With youth sports being as competitive as they are today self-confidence is the elixir of champions. Without it the game can eat a young athlete alive. With it  a young athlete can achieve greatness far quicker than you can imagine. Here are 5 tips for winning the confidence battle:

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1. Believe It - if an athlete has conviction that he/she will succeed she/he is well on their way to massive success. Self-confidence is a result of "can do" thinking, which emanates from a powerful belief that a task or goal can be achieved. If, on the other hand, an athlete questions their ability to succeed their core belief is telling her/him that she/he "can't do" it. Limiting thinking always starts with distorted beliefs. Once the athlete truly believes it he/she can achieve it.

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2. Don't Expect Perfection - Let's face it, in any sport a young athlete is going to make errors and mental mistakes; it's simply an inevitable part of the game. As such your athlete cannot expect to be perfect. No one who ever played the game or will ever play the game has been or will be PERFECT. An athlete's ability to frame her/his failings as a learning opportunity on their path to game mastery will allow him/her to maintain strong self-confidence in the face of adversity.

3. Parental Support - this may seem a non-issue for you, but first consider the expectations you place on your athlete for his/her on the field performance. Excessive expectations can cause your athlete difficulty because she/he so wants to please her/his parents, and any perceived "failure" on the field can increase her/his stress and anxiety levels causing further declines in his/her performance. Even worse if she/he hears negative comments during or after the game from you about his/her performance it will serve to erode his/her self-confidence even more. Your athlete needs your 110% unconditional support to build and maintain the level of self-confidence it will take for her/him to succeed at a difficult game.

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4. Leaving the Comfort Zone - for your athlete to be his/her best and develop the rock solid self-confidence necessary to become a consistent peak performer he/she will need to abandon comfort zones and trust her/himself enough to grow in the sport. This is why so many players look great in practice but can't seem to perform at the same level come game time. Practice is typically low stress, while games are higher stress. Building self-confidence in game situations requires that your athlete trust her/himself enough to try new things, new mechanics, new approaches...and understand that in the short run she/he may experience a few bumps in the road until he/she is more comfortable with the new way of doing things. Every sport requires adjustments to achieve sustained success and unless your athlete is prepared to leave old ways of doing things he/she will never advance in the game and his/her self-confidence will sputter too.

5. Expect It - today most young athletes put an enormous amount of time into their game. Your athlete should consider that time an "investment" in her/his game. And like any investment he/she should expect to get a "return" on that investment. Expecting success on game day means believing he/she is worthy of success. So often players do not feel worthy of success. They feel they aren't fast enough, strong enough, athletic enough or simply good enough to succeed. They feel inadequate in relation to teammates or opponents. This inadequacy looks like lower self-image, lower self-esteem and, of course, lower self-confidence. Once your athlete begins to expect that his/her hard hard should and will yield positive results on the field she/he will begin to cultivate greater self-confidence.

Remember, winning the confidence game is a process that may take some time. For youngsters self-confidence can be a "here today, gone tomorrow" proposition. To be sure he/she is on the right path guard against feelings of frustration and anger when things don't go her/his way on the field of play. Have a serious conversation with your athlete to discover what his/her core beliefs are about him/herself and their sport. You might be surprised!

Review these five tips with her often. If your athlete can properly frame the game and him/herself in the game she/he should be okay. However, if he/she starts developing distorted thinking (the result of distorted beliefs about her/himself and the game) you will need to step in as this kind of thinking will absolutely limit his/her self-confidence and game performance.

As a self-confident athlete the sky is the limit. I wish your athlete success in winning the confidence battle!

Check out my new Sports Confidence Blueprint Program guaranteed to skyrocket your athlete's game/match day confidence and performance level with 9 specific causes of low sports confidence and 9 specific strategies to build "rock solid" sports confidence! 

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