- Top athletes always seem so cool and collected – nothing fazes them. Okay, sometimes they lose it a little. Back in the day, John McEnroe could get pretty angry about a close line call on the court, but the most respected athletes keep their anger under control.
The calmness comes from an iron self-confidence that insulates them from any sports event's ups and downs and allows them to perform to their best ability. With some athletes, this self-belief borders on arrogance, but that is only because they are not afraid to acknowledge that their skills and training are honed to the utmost. None of them are perfect, no one is, but with talent and hard work, they can keep any imperfections to a minimum. For many, a little arrogance is preferable to a little doubt. If you doubt yourself, it can rise up and make you choke when you need to be at your best.
Without self-confidence, you’re going to make silly mistakes. You brain is going to be trying to take in a thousand different stimuli, unable to focus on any one thing. So, how does an athlete nurture their own self-confidence so they can be their best every time they step up to perform?
Let’s look at six ways you can build your self-confidence.
6 Tips to Help Athletes Build Self-Confidence
1. Put in the Work So You Don’t Doubt Your Readiness
Self-confidence has to be built on firm foundations. If it isn’t, it will crumble away at the first obstacle. Those foundations come from putting in the hours on the training ground and gym. Looking outside the US for a moment, Sachin Tendulkar was one of the finest cricket batsmen there has ever been. He had supreme talent but knew that wasn’t enough. He would practice on the morning a match started, could bat all day, and then have some more practice. He never stopped.
Self-confidence means putting in the hard yards, honing those skills, and getting your body in as good a shape as possible. Knowing you have done your utmost to be as good as possible will allow you to relax and give you the best chance to excel. Those hours in the gym and in training will be well rewarded. Don’t exhaust yourself mentally or physically, but ensure you know you have done your utmost to be as good as you can be. This will prevent those persistent doubts and excuses that can slip in when you feel you haven’t done enough to be deserving of the win.
2. Work on Your Mental Weaknesses
Being positive mentally is often the hardest piece of the puzzle – doubts creep in all too easily. But mental fortitude is a skill like any other, and you do have to practice to get better at it. If you can start forming the positive mental habits now, as you train and practice, they will be much more natural when it comes to competition. We all have stressors outside of our sport, so practice making your training time somewhere where you leave those thoughts behind. This will make it much easier to do so when it comes time to show what you’re made of.
3. Cut Negative Self-Talk Off Immediately
As someone who strives to be a top performer, you’ve likely talked down to yourself when something isn’t going as well as you’ve hoped. While we often feel as though this is the right thing to do – we need to do better, and we didn’t – talking to yourself in a way you never would to another person leads only to broken self-confidence. You have to be your own biggest cheerleader. If you can find the balance between encouraging yourself to succeed no matter what, and being a disciplined sportsperson, you’ll be far ahead of your competition.
4. Don’t Focus on What You Can’t Change
All sports and particularly team sports, can be affected by things beyond your control. The weather makes a big difference; the umpire or referee’s style will affect how a game flows, how well your teammates play, and the class of the opposing team are beyond your control. All you can control is your own performance, and so you need to tune out anything that you don’t need to use to improve your performance.
For example, if it’s a windy day and you’re about to head out to play a football game, you may need to take that into account when you throw. If it’s not, however, and it’s simply going to make it more difficult to hear what’s going on, then do your best to tune out anything else and just focus on what you need to do. Don’t let those distracting things like not wearing the right shoes, someone not yet being here to watch you, or being in a different area to where you lose track of the goal. Choose to focus on what you can control, rather than looking for excuses for why today may go wrong.
5. Imagine What it Will Feel Like to Succeed
The world’s best athletes incorporate this technique into their practice to improve self-confidence – you should, too. Take note when watching your favorite players during crucial moments in competitions. When you see them taking a moment to pause, breathe and close their eyes – they’re likely focusing on executing the skill flawlessly.
If you can imagine what it will feel like when you succeed, you’ll start to believe that it’s already yours. Your brain can’t often tell the difference between what’s real and perceived – that’s why smiling can make you feel happier. So, when you imagine how it will feel when you succeed, your subconscious mind will start to believe success is already yours.
6. Don’t Take Failure Too Hard
So you have to learn to make failure a positive. Use losing as inspiration for doing better next time. Let yourself wallow for an hour or a day if you have to – but put an end to it and pick yourself up again. You only truly fail when you quit.
Self-confidence is not innate for everyone. For some people, it can be difficult to achieve, but with work, we can all improve a feeling of self-assuredness. It may take effort, but self-confidence is as important as speed, endurance and working on your skills. Of course, this self-confidence often spreads to other areas of your life too, helping you become a more confident, happy person in every aspect of your life.