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A Culture of Confidence

A lot of coaches talk about the importance of confidence for athletes, but few actually work on this skill during practice. It may seem like one of those intangible aspects of sports that you can’t control, but confidence is just one of many mental skills that coaches and athletes can tangibly improve. Dr. Patrick Cohn, sports psychologist and founder of Peak Performance Sports, outlines four ways for you to improve the mental skill of confidence.

Athletes who train and compete with confidence are much more likely to reach their goals and achieve success. Having trust in your own ability is essential to performing at a high level. Every athlete makes mistakes, but those that believe in their own ability to bounce back are much more likely to take on the challenge of working to get better. 

“Athletes with a high level of confidence can better handle pressure during critical moments of competition,” Dr. Cohn writes in an article on his website. “[They] perform with consistency for longer periods of time, are more motivated to achieve goals, don’t play with fear or anxiety, rise up to meet the rigors of training, and learn from mistakes rather than allowing mistakes to kill confidence.”

When athletes lack confidence, they are not as motivated to take the necessary risks or shoulder the responsibility necessary to perform at their best. Believing in your own ability to improve also plays a major role in training. Those that believe they can be great athletes are much more likely to put in the necessary work to get there. Then when it’s time for competition, a confident athlete will make quicker, more decisive decisions because they will not be second-guessing themselves. 

“If you don’t believe in your ability to perform well in competition, chances are you won’t go all out or even take the necessary risks to play your best in games,” Dr. Cohn writes. “Basically, a lack of confidence sabotages performance because it undermines your ability to perform freely–in the flow.”

Fortunately, confidence can grow. With the proper nourishment and daily attention, an athlete’s confidence can significantly improve, helping them achieve their goals both on and off the field.

Here are Dr. Cohn’s four strategies for improving your confidence:

1. Note your strengths and don’t be afraid to improve your weaknesses – When you talk and think about the things you do well, your confidence grows and your mood improves.

2. Set attainable goals for yourself – Set short-term goals that you can achieve. As you accomplish these smaller goals, you will feel better about your prospects of achieving more in the future.

3. Practice like it matters – More meaningful repetitions in practice will improve your physical skills and increase your belief that you can replicate these skills in competition.

4. Stop measuring your success based on the success of others – Comparing yourself to others is a sure-fire way to lower confidence. Keep the focus on yourself and look to improve your skills each day.

If you or any of your athletes are lacking in confidence, give these strategies a try. It may take time before you see improvements on the field, but having greater confidence can positively impact everything you do. 

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