Confidence is arguably the most essential ingredient to success.  Confidence is in ones ability and skills are paramount in order to survive and be successful in any performance domain.  Look at Kobe Byrant (LA Lakers basketball player) and Lebron James as two great examples.  Both players demand the ball when the game is on the line because they have complete confidence in their ability to make that shot and win the game.  Their team mates also have confidence in them that they can make the shot.  Sometimes, well most of the time they make it but when they don’t they know that they will make it next time.  Other examples from other performance domains include business entrepaneurs who have the confidence in themselves and their business that they become a success, and the explorer who has the confidence in their ability to reach their objective.

 

“Man becomes what he believes himself to be” – Mahatma Ghandi.

 

Confidence should be the difference between winning and losing even if all the other factors in the sporting environment remain constant (Sellars, 2002).

 

Confidence can be a difficult thing to develop as people consider it to be an innate quality but it can be improved.

 

I like to use the analogy of a ‘confidence bank’ whereby the athlete can see what they are doing is improving their confidence.  Like a normal bank account you want to put more in than you take out.  There are some things that can be done.  Being fully prepared is a good place to start.  This can be done by developing a pre-match routine and utilising goal setting techniques.

 

Pre-match routines focus attention and allow the athlete the chance to ensure everything is in place for successful competition.  Physical, psychological, technical and tactical aspects need to be built into the routine.  Also equipment checks need to be built in.  For example a swimmer must make sure they have their goggles!  Every detail needs to be noted down and time allocated, for example when to pack you kit bag = 48 hours before the date of competition.  A routine will allow the athlete to put into the confidence bank.

 

Also goal setting is another important concept that can allow athletes to put into their confidence bank.  By being successful confidence is increased (Sellars, 2002)  so the more goals that are achieved the more confidence can be put into the bank.  However, these goals must by challenging and follow the SMARTER principle whilst focusing on processes (The athlete can control these and so have full opportunity to achieve them.  Outcomes on the other hand, the athlete has little or no control over them).  Coaches have an important role to play as they must give feedback on the achievement of goals.

 

Another intervention that helps with the confidence bank is imagery.  Visualising important aspects of your sport on a regular bas is will give the athlete more opportunity to practice that aspect for example a basketball could go to the gym and physically shoot 500 jump shots and after practice go to a quiet place and visualise another 500 jump shots, that’s a 1000 jump shots instead of the 500 that they would have done without imagery.  By being successful with your images (a key aspect of imagery – your not going to image being unsuccessful at something).  You can make a payment to the confidence bank as success breeds confidence.

 

Athletes always talk to themselves and structuring this talk in a way that protects positivity and success will increase confidence.  Self-talk, as it is known, will reinforce positive aspects of the athlete whilst reducing and removing the negative voices that sometimes creep into athletes minds.  Self-talk can be task related or emotion related (Sellars, 2002) and examples include “My training has been good.  Lets put it into action.”

 

Another simple way to increase confidence is to focus on what the athlete is good at or can do well, to concentrate on your strengths, doing this you are putting into the bank and remaining positive.

 

A way to highlight strengths is to perform performance profiling.  This will highlight to the athlete what their strengths are.