What Drives Success in Sports?

As parents and coaches we all want success for our kids and those we coach. Of course some days are better than others, aren't they? It is easy to marvel at and celebrate a player's or team's success after the fact but what is behind the success? In other words...what drives success on game day? 

Last weekend my 14u fastpitch softball team captured our tournament bracket to come home with medals and trophy. Like all successful tournaments Sunday's are long and generally stressful with many close games. Our Sunday was no different as we came from behind to win three straight games, including a 2-1 thriller in the final.

As happens so often a team gets on a roll and their level of play elevates. Look at most any tournament bracket and the deeper into the bracket you go the closer the games get. All of this would seem contrary to common sense as players battle fatigue with each additional game they play, often in less than ideal weather conditions.


The Confidence Cycle in Youth Sports

For most younger athletes their game day success, particularly during the most pivotal moments of the game, all comes down to their belief in their ability to succeed or fail. In other words do they have adequate self-confidence on the field or court or not?

My research on the subject of self-confidence for younger athletes (along with my own experiences as a game coach, mental performance expert and former collegiate athlete) has convinced me that self-confidence is not an accident. In fact I have concluded that self-confidence for any athlete is the product of a clearly defined "cause and effect" cycle that is quite predictable. Moreover this confidence cycle is a clear predictor of game day performance as well.

high school football game
For your athlete to achieve and maintain a high level of self-confidence, and thus a high level of game day performance they will need to be mindful of their own "confidence cycle."

So what is the "confidence cycle" that ultimately propels or sabotages game day performance?


How Emotions Can Destroy Game Day Performance

Let's face the facts...all the private lessons you can afford, and all the ground balls, batting cages swings, free throws or dribbling in the world won't matter a lick if your athlete folds under the pressures of the game.

I have seen countless players look fantastic in practice only to come unraveled during pivotal moments on game day. Why is that? There are certainly a number of contributing factors, all found between the ears. However, in today's post, I want to focus on how your athlete's emotional state can and will destroy their game day performance.

girls softball player losing her poiseIf you are a parent or a coach we all grapple with the weekly emotions of our teenage sons/daughters/players, don't we? Teenagers in general can be a handful, but add the stress, pressure and expectations of game day into the mix and these young athletes can quickly become their own worst enemies in a heartbeat!

The diagram below illustrates the impact your athlete's emotional state has on their performance. Your athlete has the choice of how he or she reacts to a "game event" by their "thoughts." Their thoughts (positive or negative) will trigger an emotional reaction. This emotional reaction will have a direct impact on the quality of their overall game day performance.