Sources of Sports Confidence

One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.
Arthur Ashe, Professional Tennis (1969-1980)

Confidence is essential to success in sports. Without confidence, athletes find themselves unable to rise to the challenges of competition. Some people think you are either confident or you’re not, you have it or you don’t, as if it’s an in-born trait. But you can actually become a more confident athlete. There are sources of confidence that we all tap into. One of the keys to building confidence is to become aware of which sources you draw from.

There are many sources of confidence which athletes may use to build belief in themselves. You may gain your confidence from one or two or all of these. The source that I consider to be the cornerstone or key to competitive confidence comes from working at your sport. Effective and productive practice sessions in which you are increasing physical skills will inevitably increase the confidence you have in your ability to perform those skills and will also give you confidence that you can continue to improve. Performing well in practice can transfer to performing confidently in the game. In addition to increased skills gained from practice, you may get a confidence boost from immediate past performance. When you get a great hit in baseball, the next time you are at bat you feel more confident. When you win your first event in a track meet, you feel energized and optimistic about the next race. Your past success and positive experiences in your sport can continue to build confidence.

Another source of confidence comes from what other people say or do. Your confidence level may be fed by the positive comments your coach, parents, or other competitors relay to you about your abilities. In addition, you can draw confidence from the success of others. This happens when you see others do something and then think you can do it too. An example of this is after Roger Bannister became the first person to break the 4-minute mile, it was broken many times, and now all top milers break this mark routinely. The ability of one person to break this “insurmountable” limit, gave others the confidence that it could be done and that they could also do it.

Some athletes find their confidence increased through verbal persuasion, things like pep-talks and talking positively to themselves about their abilities. Supportive people in our lives can also help us to become more confident. If others believe in us, this can make it easier for us to believe in ourselves. Knowing that you are getting good coaching, using proper equipment, and are watching your diet can make you feel prepared and ready. Feeling prepared physically and mentally can be a confidence booster. Finally, successful athletes often use mental training to increase mental toughness, and use imagery/visualization of success to solidify and keep hold of confidence.

Tapping into your sources of confidence and using those that are strong influences on your beliefs, can help you become a tough opponent to beat. Know what sources best bolster your confidence so that you can use them if something gets in the way of your confidence. For more information on things that can hinder athletic confidence, see my article on Confidence Killers. Use your confidence sources to be proactive with your confidence. Don’t wait for a positive event to happen in order for you to feel or be confident, instead draw on your sources of confidence to enter into performance with high confidence.

Confidence is the most important single factor in this game, and no matter how great your natural talent, there is only one way to obtain and sustain it: work.
Jack Nicklaus, Professional Golfer


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