Finding the “secret sauce” to confidence as an athlete

Confidence is a decisive factor with athletes which can drive strong performances (high confidence) or cause an athlete to have missteps in their game productivity (low confidence). It is rare for an athlete to perform at their best when their confidence levels are low. So, how can an athlete put themselves into a perpetual mindset of high confidence? The short answer is not a single athlete operates at high-confidence levels 100% of the time, but the best of the best athletes put work into their games which allows them to operate at peak confidence levels more often than average athletes.

There is not a one-size-fits all answer to identifying the “secret sauce” of top performing athletes who consistently play at optimal confidence levels. The answer actually lies within several on-going areas of preparation where perpetually confident athletes engage themselves and the concerted steps they take which lead to a continual confident mindset. Each of these factors are different from athlete to athlete as they may have more experience in executing in these areas which drive higher confidence levels.

Athletes will gain more confidence in their sport through various strategies.

Highly confident athletes believe in themselves because they consistently work on skill development in their respective sports. Improving skills through consistent practice will boost confidence. The more competent an athlete feels with their skills, the more confident they become and the more they maintain their confidence.

In addition, the best athletes on this planet continuously (either consciously or subconsciously) practice positive self-talk. Encouraging inner self-talk helps the athlete believe in themself and the effort at hand, and it keeps the mind off failure. When athletes replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations, they focus on their strengths and accomplishments, AND they envision themselves successfully executing on both mundane and important tasks in their sport. Positive self-talk is also embedded with positive visualization of executing on an athletic effort. Combining positive visualization with optimistic self-talk is a direct conduit to improving confidence levels. Most high-profile professional athletes embed positive imagery exercises into daily routines by vividly imagining themselves performing well (especially envisioning themselves executing skills with success in high-pressure situations).

Michael Phelps is one of the most decorated Olympians of all time in the swimming pool. Michael has been quite open about his use of visualization exercises stating “I would visualize all aspects of my races in advance of our meets. From start to finish, including small stroke techniques and race strategy, I would envision myself executing successfully.”

Another famous athlete who openly speaks about her use of visualization exercises is Olympic skier (and gold medalist) Lindsey Vonn. Lindsey stated that she used visualization exercises to overcome injuries and improve her skiing technique. “I would mentally ski down courses in my mind and focus on perfect form and precision.”

Other steps which athletes should take to improve confidence in their respective sports include:

* Setting Achievable Goals: setting realistic, incremental goals provides a sense of accomplishment as they are achieved which increases ongoing confidence.

* Preparation: Thorough preparation, including physical conditioning and studying opponents tactics will boost confidence by reducing uncertainty.

* Confident athletes consistently seek support: Talking to coaches, teammates, or sports psychologists can provide valuable guidance and emotional support.

* Staying in the Present: Concentrating on the present moment, rather than worrying about past failures or future outcomes, will improve confidence.

* Learning from Failures: Athletes should view failures as opportunities for growth. Analyzing mistakes and learning from them will enhance confidence.

“Failure is part of life, but it’s how you bounce back from it that really matters” ~ Kevin De Bruyne – Belgian national soccer team captain. Kevin is a huge proponent of taking risks – risks which oftentimes lead to mini-failures. Kevin tells athletes that “failure is a part of life”, and that without taking risks on the soccer field you’re missing learning opportunities as an athlete. Kevin’s mindset reminds us that failure should not define the athlete rather it should define our ability to learn, adapt and grow from it which makes it a key element to building confidence as an athlete.

* Focusing on Effort, Not Outcome: Shifting the focus from winning or losing to giving it your best effort. Focusing on effort reduces performance pressure and boosts confidence levels.

* Celebrating Successes: Acknowledging and celebrating small achievements will reinforce athletic confidence.

Remember, building confidence is an ongoing process that varies for each athlete. It’s essential to stay patient and persistent in these efforts.