"Confidence is contagious” - Vince Lombardi.

Confidence for a football player is subjective and can increase and decrease quickly. You can be confident in one situation but not others, this is contagious so it must be managed.  This management can be improved by gaining more experience in a football environment and then using positive reference points that are gained from these experiences.  There are two types of confidence; Training Confidence and Match Confidence.  The first is being confident in training.  Training is a safe and comfortable environment where there is less pressure and more freedom to play. Match confidence is confidence to get the job done in a competitive environment.  There is uncertainty in matches due to the influences that are out of the control of the footballers so there is more pressure and it is less comfortable (we are creatures that like comfort). A footballer can be confident in one but not the other and needs to get experience in both.  However confidence from one can be taken from one and used in the other if you have limited experience.  For example a youth footballer could use their training confidence and use it in their competitive first team debut.  The confidence that a player has can be managed and improved and is influenced by belief. 

Beliefs are fed by reference points.  A footballer needs an awareness of the reference points that have so much influence and look to develop positive reference points and remove negative and self inhibiting ones (see my previous blogs on this).  Confidence is therefore something which we can control so we, as footballers should focus on this.  Reference points that are out of our control or ones that we can only influence (e.g winning!) should be avoided for both belief and confidence. 

There several strategies to improve confidence.  The first and the most important is to get experience and learn from the experiences; look to extend your comfort zone - "Get Comfortable being uncomfortable".  When gaining experience work on the following strategies:

1.  Act confident.  If you act like you are confident then you become confident.  Your body can’t tell the difference if your brain tells it a white lie and makes something up and as you decide the instructions that the brain gives then you can tell your body to act confident even you may not be! Concentrate on giving out confident body language on the football pitch.

2.  Watch and observe role models. Watch the players who you to perceive to be confident players and take on some of their mannerisms and what they do.    

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

So act like you are confident and you will become a more confident football player.

3.  Use a Confidence bank.  The analogy of a ‘confidence bank’ is where you can see what you are doing to improve your confidence.  This is like a normal bank account you want to put more in than you take out.  To do this there are some things that can be done.  Being aware of your own strengths and your areas to improve is good place to start (awareness again!).  Assign more ‘confidence money’ to your strengths than your weaknesses so every time you do something well you can make a deposit into the confidence bank.  By doing this you will always put more in than you take out and so your confidence will improve. 

4. Another strategy to develop confidence is imagery.  Visualising yourself playing football and being successful executing skills on a regular basis (see imagery blog) will give you more opportunity to develop confidence in them.  Remember the body can’t distinguish from what is real and what you are think or imaging so your body thinks it has done tasks previously and so goes about and completes it with confidence even it has never experienced anything like it before!  Make sure you are being successful with your images and control the image to get what you want (e.g. hitting the target and scoring when visualising shooting).  Every time you are successful in your image you can make a payment into the confidence bank as success breeds confidence.

5. Everyone talks to themselves but to develop confidence you must structure this talk in a way that protects positivity and success will increase confidence.  This self-talk will reinforce positive aspects whilst reducing and removing the negative voices that sometimes creep into the mind.  Use self-talk to reinforce your strengths and your preparation.  Every time you do this you are depositing into the confidence bank.

6. Don’t fear failure.   In pressured situations don’t fear failure. Embrace these feelings as a signal from your body that it is in a state of readiness and demand to make key decisions when ‘the game is on the line’ because you KNOW you are ready, prepared and have enough in the confidence bank.  You have complete confidence in your ability to be successfully and you also know its better to attempt it because you have assigned a higher value in 'confidence money’ than is lost from being unsuccessful.   This will develop confidence as a football player.  Become optimistic about your strengths and preparations.  This will allow you to be confident and not to fear failure.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficult.” – Winston Churchill.