Oct 30, 2012 8:30 AM
Self-confidence is the mentaltrigger mechanism that drives performance. Unfortunately for a young athleteself-confidence can be as fleeting as sand through their fingers, and afrustrating mystery for both parents and coaches.
It's a given that all athletes want to perform their best every time they step on the field. However, optimal performance is a result of both physical and mental skills mastery; one without the other will create a disconnect that will show up in key game situations when an athlete's success or failure will hinge on their "crunch time" performance.
Fortunately there is a blueprint to gaining peak self confidence, the ingredients of which are found in the complex set of variables that either serve to propel and empower confidence or sabotage and destroy confidence. The path this blueprint lays out is easy to understand, yet hard to master. Peak self-confidence comes with time and conscious effort by both player and parent. It requires being honest about the current state of the athlete's level of self-confidence and why it is where it is.
Here is the 11 point blueprint your athlete MUST follow in order to cultivate and maintain peak confidence that will, in turn, yield consistent peak performance on game day:
1. Acknowledge their current state of confidence, fear and anxiety. In other words for parent and athlete don't pretend the problem isn't there. With self-confidence issues your athlete can't just tough it out and work through it.
2. Recognize that fear is the base for most self-confidence issues for athletes. Fear of failure; fear of disappointing parents, teammates, coaches and self; fear of being embarrassed (particularly for girls); fear of the unknown.
3. The kids I train like this acronym: F.E.A.R. = False Evidence Appearing Real. Most young athlete engage in distorted thinking predicated on false evidence. Often they belief they cannot do something because their friend can't or simply because they haven't done it before. As a parent it is your job to challenge their beliefs about themselves and their game to get their thinking right. This alone will greatly diminish their fear.
4. Have a short memory. Like professionals your athlete needs to accept that mistakes and poor execution are part of the game; that these mistakes offer great opportunities to learn and get better in their sport. No athlete who ever played any game has been perfect 100% of the time. Having a short memory insures your athlete can get their focus back to the present moment, where peak performance lives.
5. Recognize that mastery of their sport is a journey not a destination. In other words your athlete won't just wake up one day and be a master of their sport; it takes time. Mastery is a process that looks like taking a step backwards some days. Patience is a requirement for building self-confidence.
6. Lighten the burden of expectations. Our kids today are under unprecedented pressure to excel in both school and on the athletic field. In addition to external expectations from parents, coaches and peers, your athlete may also have exceptionally high self-expectations for their performance. I see it every weekend. Setting the personal bar at a high level is admirable, but too high may be unrealistic and damaging to self-confidence when game results can rarely match expectations. In short, excessive expectations are a performance and confidence killer.
7. Visualize Success. In my Game Changer program I offer a detailed audio lesson on visualization or mental imagery. Your athlete can literally see their success in advance by utilizing these visualization techniques. By using all of their senses they can trick their subconscious mind into believing the performance they see in their head is real, so that on game day the mind and body perform anxiety free and with great precision. This mental "trick," used by elite athletes worldwide, can skyrocket self-confidence.
8. Have a positive mindset. With distorted thinking comes doubt. If your athlete's thoughts are negative they are limiting success. Negative, or "can't do" thinking will never grow confidence. Have your athlete develop positive trigger statements that can be used on game day as well as overall positive "can do" self talk during the course of the day. Re-boot the mental hard drive with a positive mindset.
9. Remember previous success. Often times a young athlete gets negative and engages in catastrophe thinking, when they expect the worst. By remembering a prior success they have had in their sport the chain of negative thinking that leads to a drop in confidence can be broken. Expecting success instead of failure is the goal and it starts with replacing the failure thinking with success thinking...including a belief that I can execute the task successfully because I have executed it successfully before.
10. Unconditional parental support. A fundamental foundation for any athlete's sustained self-confidence is their parents' unconditional support of them on and off the athletic field. Parents, while well meaning, can be the worst offenders to their own child's self-confidence. Being critical or judgmental of game performances is counter productive. All kids, by definition, want to please their parents and desperately want their acceptance. Understand that your athlete will never be perfect, so celebrate their effort more than their results and you will do wonders to build your athlete's level of confidence. Remember...it's only a game!
11. Build confidence by design. The goal of this 10 point blueprint is to change the way your athlete thinks; to start the process of building rock solid self-confidence one brick at a time. The starting place is always addressing the negative and fearful thoughts that bombard their head on game day, and particularly at the key moments of the game. Have a conversation with your athlete about all of these blueprint points as well as have them write down their own thoughts and feelings in their sports journal as a process of elevating their thoughts about themselves and their game.
Lack of self-confidence can be a very dangerous thing for your athlete. So many kids define themselves as individuals based on their athletic performance, particularly as adolescents. Low self-confidence can lead to low self-esteem and low self-image which can cascade into poor academic performance and poor social choices. Work with your athlete to build their self-confidence slowly but surely. The long term benefits will be well worth the time and effort.
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