Those who would like
to have something
they’ve never had,
will have to do something
they have yet to do.
Doing the best in the moment puts you in the best position for the next moment - Oprah Winfrey
"What you can do to grow self-confidence”
Some days you just feel great about yourself and boy does it ever show in your performance! When you have confidence in yourself you feel like you can do just about anything, that the sky’s the limit. During these wonderful moments you don’t fear any opponent and perform loosely and aggressively. It’s like the fear of losing is completely non-existent when you’re confident. You defy the “experts” and even pull off an upset against that much tougher opponent. The funny thing is that when you feel good about yourself, in your mind this victory wasn’t an upset! It’s simply something you expected! If only you had access to that level of confidence all the time! If only….
Then there are those days when you feel completely overwhelmed, like a minnow swimming among sharks! You doubt yourself, question your abilities and seem too easily psyched out. Your play doesn’t have its normal zip or energy. You’re a half a step behind everyone else and you’re timing is off. You’re easily intimidated and you just don’t feel as strong or powerful. You’re quick to be distracted by worries of mistakes and failing. In short, your self-confidence is nowhere to be found. When you feel this badly about yourself you begin to question why you’re even still playing the sport.
There’s no question that self-confidence plays a key role in how well you perform. When you have enough of it, you’ll walk on water, performance-wise. You’ll play to your physical potential. However, when your confidence level is running on empty, you’ll perform like you’re ten feet under that wet stuff. Everything is way off and your level of play is just a shadow of your capabilities!
If only having self-confidence was as simple as telling yourself, “BE CONFIDENT!” Unfortunately getting to feel good about yourself is much easier said then done. Most people have a battle going on inside themselves. One part of them says, “be confident!” only to hear from a second part that says, “Fat chance, loser! Both you and I know the real story here!”
So what can you do to start building a solid foundation of self-confidence as an athlete? Plenty!!!!! Regularly practice the following “self-confidence rules” and your level of confidence will steadily rise:
1. PAY YOUR PHYSICAL DUES – There is no substitute for hard work. Self-confidence comes out of a solid base of physical training. If you’ve done your homework and trained well you have a right to feel confident. If you’ve regularly slacked off, trying to feel confident is a joke and it’s on you! Do everything possible in your power, and then do a little more! Confidence comes from knowing you’ve trained longer and harder than your competitors.
2. REMIND YOURSELF OF #1 – Before you perform it’s useful for you to remind yourself of everything that you’ve done to prepare. Sometimes under pressure you get too nervous to think clearly. You forget how well you trained. Get into the habit of regularly reminding yourself that you’ve paid your physical dues, that you’ve done everything possible to be ready.
3. DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF WITH OTHERS - FOCUS ON YOU – One of the biggest confidence drains I know is to compare yourself with opponents, with their size, skill level, training habits, record, etc. Save yourself the aggravation! Comparison is a LOSING game! You’ll always find athletes who actually are or who you think are better than you. This is not a useful pre-performance ritual. Focus on YOU. Stay inside yourself. Play your OWN game. It really doesn’t matter if someone is bigger, stronger or faster than you. The bottom line is that in any given game/match/race the best athlete or team doesn’t usually come out on top! It’s the athlete or team that has more confidence and can keep their head on straight for that competition!
4. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL – Another confidence drain is to focus on “uncontrollables” or things about the performance that are directly out of your control. Focusing on “UC’s” as I call them will make you uptight, kill your confidence and sabotage your play. “Uncontrollables” are your opponent, the officiating, the weather, field conditions, the past, the outcome, other people’s expectations, etc. Keep your focus locked onto what you can control (how you react to all the “uc’s” and should you find your concentration drifting from this, quickly return it!
5. DWELL ON THE POSITIVE – Get in the habit of looking for the upside of things. Being negative will not only kill your own confidence, but it will also sap the confidence of those around you. If the weather is foul, dwell on how this will bother your opponents more than you. If an opponent is bigger, faster or stronger, think about how they have much more to lose than you since you’re not expected to win. If a competitor starts to suddenly cheat or talk trash, think about why they are doing it, because they don’t feel that their skill level by itself is enough to beat you. Be positive! You’ll feel better about yourself and perform at a higher level.
6. CATCH YOURSELF DOING THINGS RIGHT – Start today to keep a “victory log” or a recording of the little things you did that day which were small victories. If you pushed yourself beyond a training limit, then record that. If you ran a little further, jumped a little higher, trained a little harder, record those. By getting in the habit of “hunting for your little daily victories” and writing them down, you will gradually build your self-confidence. Keep your victory log handy and review it daily, especially when you’re down.
7. BE A GOOD COACH TO YOURSELF – Get in the habit of being a forgiving, positive coach to yourself. When you make mistakes, learn from them and let them go. Don’t dwell on your mistakes and failures. Forgive yourself for them and then move on. Dwelling on mistakes and beating yourself up will only fill you with self-doubts. It will not make you a better athlete. Good coaches are forgiving and positive. Practice being one to yourself.
Go Beyond Excuses
By John F. Murray, PhD
There is a certain fire in the eyes of a player once he or she stops making excuses and starts taking full responsibility for their destiny. I’ll often tell a circuit pro player to not only “not make excuses” but to go beyond the excuse and pretend there are no excuses at all, even when some really legitimate ones might be apparent! This kind of attitude promotes toughening.
We all need to strive for that rare determined resolve that leaves no room for unnecessary fears, worries or hesitation. Players who take their performances to new dimensions of efficiency and excitement understand that the “excuse” has no place in the heart and mind of the warrior. Rather than unveiling a fancy new strategy, let’s just roll up our sleeves and remove the excuses and justifications which might make us feel better in the short-term, but offer no hope for long-term growth.
How often do your opponents leave the field offering multiple explanations for their loss? How does it feel if you just played your best game in months? Maybe you too have a habit of justifying your losses. The all too familiar script includes hot weather, tight cleats, injuries, lack of practice, poor fitness, opponents pulling shirts, bad calls by the ref, or just plain bad luck. Players at all levels in soccer engage in this blame game, but true champions reject this option and seek even greater responsibility for their actions and outcomes.
When mentally strong players lose, they accept defeat graciously the way Marcos Baghdatis did after his grueling 5 set loss to Andre Agassi at the Tennis US Open. Marcos could have justifiably complained about his severe muscle cramps in the 5th set, but you saw none of it. He was more determined than ever, hopping around like a wounded animal, but pumping his fist to his chest, and smiling throughout the final moments of the match! What a rare and amazing display of sportsmanship and inner resolve. He also fully credited Andre for the win without complaining.
Excuses and justifications abound after a loss. Players try to deflect social disapproval and the negative feelings surrounding poor outcomes by creating excuses. Excuses help reduce uneasiness and shift blame for a negative outcome to extenuating circumstances. This would be fine if it were adaptive, and it enhanced performance, but it clearly does not.
Excuses reduce apparent responsibility for negative outcomes, leaving the athlete with less perceived control over future events. With extenuating circumstances in control rather than the player, he or she often sets lower goals and reduces effort. With responsibility reduced, practices become less meaningful and confidence is harder to acquire. Sort of like being demoted from a higher to lower position at work, the player, or employee, might think “I have less responsibility now so I’m not going to try as hard.” We only hurt ourselves by taking on less responsibility for the good things we are seeking.
A close cousin to the excuse is the justification. In this case, players may downplay the negative meaning of a poor performance and even suggest that there are hidden benefits to performing poorly. For example, a good soccer player may assume that "it can’t get any worse than it is," and totally neglect to correct obvious flaws in performance that led to the loss. A player may also justify a loss or dismal showing to the fact that the other team had a “higher ranking or reputation.” A much more productive outlook is for the player to responsibly correct mistakes and realize how irrelevant ranking is.
There are few perfect weather days and many reasons indeed to explain performance and outcome. By taking full responsibility for your actions and the results of your actions, you set yourself up for success. Performance is yours to flash brilliantly or botch horribly. Rather than looking to save face after a loss, redirect your energies to finding a better solution next time. Here are some tips to help you eliminate the ifs, ands and buts from your vocabulary:
1. Allow your opponent to offer all the excuses and justifications possible, but do not say much. They remain in mediocrity, and we all know the saying about arguing with a fool! Bite your own lip following a tough loss, even if you know you can perform 100 times better. By concealing your areas of weakness, you are positioning yourself for a much better effort next time and assuming greater responsibility for performance. An honorable loss without excuses can often be better than a win in the long haul.
2. Always credit your opponent when you lose. They may bask in the temporary glory of their victory, but you will return with a renewed vigor to turn the tables. Offering excuses will just fuel your opponent’s motivation for the rematch. Keep your opponents clueless about your intense desire to reverse this tough loss.
3. Never offer too many explanations for match outcome. Your emotions are often high and you might say things you would not in a more rational state. It’s wise to cool down, reflect on what happened, and quietly prepare an improved strategy for the next time.
By being fully responsible for your actions and outcomes, and eliminating excuses and justifications, you are taking the narrow path from which true improvement and growth emerges. You are hereby promoted to a higher mental standing. Take full advantage of it in your next game!