Athletes covet nothing more than self-confidence, and that goes for both professionals and weekend warriors. So, consider the following sport psychology tips for developing your own self-confidence.
- Pair yourself with success. Self-confidence comes from repeatedly seeing your “self” succeed. That is, confidence follows from success, rather than success following from confidence.
So, begin by eliminating failure experiences that occur when you spread yourself too thin playing multiple sports, play up with better players too much, or continue playing when in a slump.
Then, practice, practice, practice the specific skills necessary to deal with particular situations that challenge you in your sport. Develop safe, go-to techniques that you can fall back on when doubt seeps in. And enter appropriate levels of competition that give you a fair chance of winning and pairing your “self” with success.
- Simulation. Simulate in practice the very game situations where you lack confidence. For example, if foul shots are your nemesis, force yourself to make 10 in a row before leaving practice. I guarantee you will feel the same kind of pressure you do in a game when you get down to the last couple of shots in your drill.
When you can make those last shots, you will have built confidence for the real game situation.
- Modeling. Pick pros who have your same physical stature and a game like yours. Watch them field grounders, look back runners, and turn double plays. Get an image of their technique and try to imitate it.
Most of all, realize that this player, built just like you, can do it, so you should be able to learn to perform this skill, too.
- Pep talk. No matter what level of confidence you reach, there will still be times when you doubt yourself. Then it’s time for a personal pep talk.
While you used to label these situations as your lacking confidence, now call them cues for reaching back for a little extra. You’re excited, primed, pumped – in your element. Remind yourself that, thankfully, this isn’t happening to someone else who hasn’t practiced and become as confident and capable as you.
- Preparation. The ultimate security blanket is preparation. If you have done everything you can to prepare, you have every right to feel confident.
You can say to yourself with absolute truth that “an opponent might be better than me, but he can’t be any better prepared.” So, let’s see whose preparation wins out on this given day.
- No amount of confidence can overcome incompetence. Most importantly, practice and prepare properly, develop true competence, and confidence will flow naturally.
British novelist E. M. Forster once said, “The people I respect the most behave as if they were immortal.” He would have liked Italian Winter Olympic ski champion Alberto Tomba, who, when asked what he says to himself after one of his great downhill runs, responded, “I say, ‘Congratulations, Alberto.'”
Short, simple and supremely confident.
Dr. Tom Dorsel, a resident on Hilton Head Island, is a clinical-sport psychologist and author of “GOLF: The Mental Game.” Dorsel.com