Confidence is one of the most influential mental skills when it comes to performance excellence. It relates to how strongly you believe in yourself and your ability to achieve your goals. Confidence can often be a roller coaster of emotions. One day you walk off the field feeling great about mastering a specific skill, and the next you walk off feeling frustrated and full of self-doubt because you couldn’t get it right.
Just like physical performance, confidence is a skill that can be developed through focus, effort, and repetition.
So, how do you keep your confidence consistent when your performance doesn’t go as planned, you lose a game, or you are having difficulty mastering a skill?
Identify your sources of confidence. A source of confidence is like a well you can draw from to enhance your confidence when you need it. Your sources are the tangibles you can rely on to lift your confidence when it is low.
How do you identify them for yourself? Here are 5 ways to tap into your sources and use them to improve your confidence.
Confidence can stem from how prepared you are for performance. You spend several hours a week and many weeks throughout the season or year preparing for competition. What you accomplish during a practice and how you strategize as a team are all aspects of preparation that give you confidence to perform your best. Before a competition, remind yourself of all your hard work preparing to compete.
Another way to feel prepared is to establish a routine that starts the night before a competition. Consider how much sleep you need in order to play at your optimal level. Plan what you will eat for dinner, breakfast, and a snack a couple hours before competition. Plan what you want to think about and focus on, too. Be purposeful in your thoughts and only think about performing at your peak. This is a good time to think about skills that you have mastered, your strengths, and your best past performances.
What skill have you recently been working on that you have dedicated time and effort to master? When you are challenged to accomplish a particular skill set, you are more likely to have a greater sense of confidence when you achieve that skill. Recognize an instance in which you has mastered a particular skill, for example, perfecting your shot or your footwork to beat a defender, and then reflect on your performance. Use that feeling of accomplishment, of mastering a skill, as a source of confidence.
One of the most common and easiest ways to lift confidence is to rely on your strengths. Think about the best part of your game. Is it your speed? Your technical skills? Your ability to recover and move on from a mistake? When something isn’t going the way you want it to, focus on your strengths that you can always rely on.
To increase your confidence before you play, make a list of at least five of your strengths (including physical, mental and emotional strengths) and review them before you compete. Let your muscle memory take over and perform from within.
4. Past Successes
Similar to mastery and relying on your strengths, envisioning past successes can have a huge effect on increasing your confidence. For example, when you imagine one of your best performances, you may have felt physically strong, created impactful plays, and helped your team win. Think about how it makes you feel to recall that memory. You probably feel excited and accomplished and generally in a positive mindset. These feelings are transferable and you can go into an upcoming performance with this mindset.
Before a game or competition, develop your own mental workout and think about past successes and experiences from a competition in which you have been the most confident.
5. Social Support
Everyone likes to hear that they played well, had a great race, or showed a great amount of hustle to accomplish the team goals. Whether that praise comes from a coach, parent, or teammate, having a solid support system is crucial to helping you build and sustain confidence.
What is the best compliment someone has given you about your performance? Who did it come from? These affirmations are simple thoughts that you can use to remind you of your strengths and positive, competitive experiences to guide you through enhancing your confidence before competition.
When your confidence is high, you typically experience effective emotions during performance, which facilitates your focus, encourages you to set challenging goals, and increases your effort. Overall, you perform better.
Rely on your own strengths, your best performances, and your support system as your sources to lift your confidence. Most importantly, be prepared for the moments when you may feel self-doubt by having a plan to tap into your sources to keep your confidence at the optimal level for your performance.