The Confident Athlete

Numerous publications, as well as research and studies currently in process indicate there is a strong relationship between an athletes self-confidence, belief in self, and their abilities to perform. Basically a confident player will outperform one of equal or more ability who is not as confident. How does this happen?

Essentially there are two general core belief systems when it comes to sport performance; 1) belief in self as a person, 2) belief in self as an athlete. What’s tricky about this is that all too often the two belief systems get intertwined. If an athlete believes they are not the best at their respective sport or skill, they are typically not all that happy with themselves. This unhappiness with their athletic performance can sometimes spill over into how they feel about themselves as human beings. This gets even more tricky because athletic ability is only one aspect of ones core belief system. We are, as humans, the sum of all of our individual attributes. Too much emphasis is often placed on one aspect of ones sum total of talents and this can send the self-belief system out of balance.

At its fundamental essence – young athletes want to simply have fun. They want to be good at what they do, but they do not want to be perfect. The “perfect syndrome” they develop is a learned system. High expectations are generally set – by external sources. Young athletes want so badly to achieve and receive approval – they will do anything possible to be the best. They do not want to fail or let anyone else down – least of all themselves. To achieve the expectations often set by others the athlete can develop a perfectionistic approach to their work ethic. Enjoyment starts to disappear when an activity that is supposed to be fun becomes work. We all know that perfection is quite difficult to achieve. Young athletes have no idea the hurdles they place in front of themselves when they try to achieve perfection. The #1 Killer of Confidence is Expectations.

Ok, so how does all of this affect Confidence. Confidence is task specific. The more repetitive success a young athlete can achieve – the more confidence they develop. The more confidence they develop the more they feel good about themselves. To complicate matters – if they struggle to achieve perfection – how likely will they achieve the “expectations” they have or someone else has set for them? Again, remember that happiness comes from within. Accomplishment and achievement helps us feel good because we are successful. If the expectation is set to high – the target is always moving – and therefore success is always moving. If the target is always moving and so the measurement of success is always moving – where is the fun in all of this?


1. Parents – Fun is #1: Be mindful of what you say to your child athletes before and after their performances. Encourage competitive play, but more importantly encourage them to have fun without expectations of any kind.

2. No Expectations. Encourage your little athletes to “strive to achieve”. Strive for success rather than avoiding failure. There is no “demand” connotation in the word “strive”. Striving is about playing your best and not about end results. Remember, no matter how they performed – a child without “expectations” will forget about their poor performances quickly and be off and running onto the next activity. Children hang onto their performances if we as adults teach them to hang onto the past. The #1 Killer of Confidence is Expectations. Confidence is not an expectation.

3. Say Positive Things about Performance: Teach athletes to say positive things about themselves. It is very easy for an athlete to talk negatively about their performances. After each and every performance find at least three positive things about their performance and be sure to tell them. Believing in their performance abilities at an early age helps to build strong self-esteem. Confident Athletes focus on success and the reasons to succeed not on end results.

4. Focus in the Moment: Teach the young athlete to enjoy each play and each moment of each play. There is always opportunity to improve on some aspect of the game or performance. Each play is only important for that moment in time. The next play is all that matters. Success and fun is not about the past play, the future play, end result or outcome of the game, match, or event. Performance achievement and the joy of participation comes from having fun in the moment.

If you would like to learn more about the fine elements of success and Confidence, simply Ask Coach John on the web site. I would be happy to provide more education or work with you or your athlete. The first step to solving any challenge is to first understand.

Ask yourself the following questions?

1. Do you believe in your ability as an athlete?
2. Do you see yourself as a winner?
3. Do you focus on the reasons to succeed?
4. How do you talk to yourself – in a positive or negative way about your performance?
5. Do you allow self reward for accomplisments?
6. Can you remember that last time to had a successful performance? What was it?
7. Can you imagine yourself being successful?

If you answer no to any one of these questions you may have an issue with Confidence and could benefit from mental game confidence coaching.

I look forward to hearing from you.



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