Performing Confidently in Sports
Part of feeling confident as an athlete is “knowing you belong” in a specific team or competition.
- For a gymnast, “knowing you belong” may be competing at Nationals.
- For a tennis player, “knowing you belong” may be closing out a match against a higher ranked opponent.
- For a soccer player, “knowing you belong” may be breaking into the starting lineup for your team.
You have fought hard to get to a higher level in your sport… You put in many hours of training… You’ve worked hard to improve your technique…
You didn’t get to your current level by chance. You belong “here” because you did the work and have the skills to be “here.”
Does this story sound familiar?
Sheila is a 14 year-old tennis player who has been playing competitive tennis for four years.
Sheila has watched as some of the more gifted players she trains with win local tournaments and have gotten their names in the newspapers.
Tennis seemed to come easy for other girls at her level while Sheila had to work hard and take private lessons to improve her game in matches.
Sometimes Sheila would compare herself to her competitors and feel as if she would never be as good as them.
Sheila struggled with confidence but, nonetheless, continued to work hard and improve her skills.
In a recent Junior tournament, Sheila advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time in her career and won!
Sheila’s hard work was paying off as she played aggressively, won her semifinal match and was now in a position to take home her first title.
Sheila was set to face a player she trains with everyday.
A rush of negative thoughts flowed through Sheila’s mind, “I wouldn’t have won semis if that other girl didn’t double fault on the final set,” “I just got lucky,” and, “I will never be able to beat her, she crushes me in practice every day.”
Instead of taking credit for her successful matches, Sheila felt she didn’t belong despite doing all the work to get there.
Sheila lost her confidence, looked like a totally different player in finals and lost in straight sets.
As an athlete, you can talk yourself right out of confidence when you feel you don’t belong. It’s easy to look for reasons why you don’t stack up…
Or you can think about why you belong by focusing on the evidence or reasons why you belong where you are.
Here is an example of knowing you belong
Edwin Diaz is a pitcher for the Seattle Mariners who is entering his first big-league camp.
Last year at this time Diaz was preparing for his role as a starting pitcher in the minor leagues. After being called up mid-season last year and converting 18 saves out of 21 save opportunities, Diaz is penciled in as the Mariners closer for 2017.
At 22 years of age, Diaz is charged with the task of protecting the lead at the end of the game, a task that demands high confidence.
Mariner manager Scott Servais is not worried about putting the young Diaz in such a critical role.
SERVAIS: “Diaz is very confident. He knows he belongs.”
Robinson Cano concurs with Servais and attributes Diaz’s confidence to the work and preparation he has put in.
CANO: “[Servais] came up and wasn’t afraid to face anyone. When you have got a kid that age that has that confidence and that stuff, the hardest thing is to have confidence in yourself, but he has confidence and he works hard.”
If you can focus the reasons for why you “belong” in that competitive situation, then you will perform with confidence.
Effective Strategy for Performing Confidently
Build a strong case for why you belong.
Come up with a list of three or more reasons why you belong in a certain competitive situation (“I worked hard to get here,” or, “I put in the extra time to improve my technique,” or, “I am mentally strong”).
Be proactive with your confidence when you compete. Remind yourself these reasons before you compete.
Look for reasons you belong, rather than excuses to fail!
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(Listen to his success story)
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