The Confidence Conundrum


“Sports confidence… I need it, I want it but I have no idea how to get it.”

Thousands of books are written on the topic of confidence. Tens of thousands of blog posts explore the subject of confidence. There are relatively unlimited resources for athletes to increase their confidence levels.

So why are there so many athletes who continue to lack confidence? Is it that all the resources miss the point? Or do athletes have difficulty applying confidence concepts into practice?

Perhaps, there is something else at play that is a sticking point for athletes to improve their confidence?

Athletes who have low levels of confidence believe they do not possess the ability to develop the skills necessary to succeed or accomplish their goals. Therein lay the problem. Many athletes who lack confidence, also, lack confidence in their ability to develop confidence.

For these types of athletes, a better understanding of confidence and myths is necessary.

There are a few misconceptions regarding confidence:

  • Misconception #1: Confidence is genetic. Either you are born with confidence or you are born without confidence.

  • Misconception #2: Confidence is reserved for elite athletes.

  • Misconception #3: Confidence levels are fixed. There is nothing an athlete can do to increase confidence levels.

All three of these misconceptions feed into the belief “I don’t have the ability to build confidence.”

Athletes with this fixed mindset miss the boat. Confidence is not a personality trait. Confidence is more like a skill.

The question then is “What is a skill?”

A skill is a certain level of proficiency developed after a given amount of time, energy and focus. By dissecting this definition, you will notice that skills range along a continuum. With more practice, your level of proficiency increases. Likewise, when you stop working on those skills, your level of proficiency decreases.

Let’s use basketball as an example…

Generally, shooting percentage or shooting proficiency increases as a player spends more time practicing and honing his jump shot. If that player is out for a year due to injury, his shooting percentage or proficiency usually decreases. The more this player engages in focused effort and training a skill, the better he can maintain a high level of proficiency. As you see, not only is the development of a skill important, so is the maintenance of that skill.

Now, let’s apply these principles of the physical skill of shooting to the mental skill of confidence.

There are effective, proven strategies that build confidence. Employing these strategies can increase your level of confidence. The problem that athletes run into with confidence is that after they experience some level of success in the performance, they abandon ship. Basically, some athletes stop working on the maintenance of confidence resulted in a performance dip. This confidence trap is very prevalent among athletes and holds them back from their potential.

The next step is learning viable confidence-building options.

What strategies are effective in building and maintaining confidence?

The following are five effective confidence strategies:

Strength Finder – Instead of identifying with your weaknesses, create a list of your strengths. Seeing yourself in a positive light increases confidence.

End Zone Celebrations – After a touchdown in football, players engage in elaborate celebrations. Find a way to celebrate your successes in a manner that has personal significance.

Imagery – Relive your successful performances in your mind. View these accomplishments as if they were a highlight reel and feel the positive emotion associated with those memories of success.

Progress Tracker – Stay focused on progress. Sometimes, you can get swallowed up by how far away you are from your goal. Just like a FitBit tracker, understand that every step brings you one step closer to your goal.

Small Day-to-Day Goals – Identify one small goal you want to accomplish each day. Little accomplishments go a long way in feeling successful and confident.

High Alert – Change how you talk to yourself. My Dad would always say to me “Watch you language young man!” or “Don’t use that tone with me.” These phrases were reminders to be respectful. You should speak to yourself in a respectful tone. Don’t berate yourself but encourage yourself. Being more positive is like depositing huge sums in your confidence bank account.

Waiting for confidence to come to you is like waiting to win the lottery without buying a ticket.

To sum up this article about confidence, think of what WWE Superstar John Cena would say, “You want some, come get some!”