Building self-confidence in athletes

by frank-stuart

Confidence is a key trait of any successful team, and it’s the coach’s responsibility to instil self-confidence in their athletes. Confidence is a word used constantly in the world of sport. An underperforming athlete is often said to be down on confidence, while a team on a winning streak is often described as riding high on confidence.

Athletes who are full of self-confidence are likely to perform close to their full potential, while athletes low on self-confidence are prone to performing far below their best. Confidence can’t be measured in quantifiable terms, but a good coach will be able to detect confidence levels in their athletes.

What is self-confidence?

Self-confidence is the belief that a person can perform at their best consistently. In the face of adversity and pain, staring down the barrel of defeat, they still believe they can win. The more important question is: How does an athlete develop self-confidence?

Boosting self-confidence

Maximising self-confidence is one of the most important functions of a sports coach. Some athletes are naturally filled with self-belief, so instilling self-confidence in them is easy. Consider the remarkable consistency and poise of Roger Federer. His self-belief is so extraordinary that he decided he no longer needed a coach. Other athletes don’t possess that natural self-assurance, and their performances are likely to fluctuate as a result. It’s increasing the self-confidence in these athletes that is the real challenge.

Creating a culture of high performance

It’s quite common to see teams that have had a miserable season follow it up the next year with a highly successful one. The playing list hasn’t changed much, so what has caused this turnaround? It might be a combination of a number of factors – a new game plan, greater fitness, more discipline. But invariably, players have much more confidence in their ability to defeat the opposition. And winning breeds winning.

This is the cornerstone of building self-confidence. Athletes require evidence that they can succeed, and it’s largely up to the coach to create an environment that produces that evidence.

Setting high standards

A coach needs to set high standards and create an environment that assists athletes in achieving these standards. These standards need to be conveyed clearly, and training sessions need to be structured to give athletes the best possible change of performing to the required level. It’s vital to measure performance, both at training and in competition. The goal is to track the athlete’s progress, and if a coach can show athletes that they are improving, they are instilling in them a confidence that they have what it takes.

Creating leaders

A key element to improving self-confidence is empowering athletes to become leaders. While most teams have captains and official leaders, all athletes can benefit from developing leadership qualities. This means entrusting athletes with more responsibility, valuing their input, and encouraging feedback. Using feedback mechanisms can help coaches gauge how athletes are performing against their expected performance.

Coaching is a highly challenging but highly rewarding career. For more information about sports coaching courses, visit the ACPE website.

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