How to Stay Confident Despite Obstacles

Why Stable Confidence is So Important

Confidence is important for athletes… But confidence in the face of adversity is hallmark of champions.

When having success, high confidence is much easier but, when obstacles appear, keeping your confidence high becomes more difficult.

For example, the baseball pitcher who was awarded the MVP for two consecutive years but gives up game-winner home runs in back-to-back games, then loses the confidence to challenge hitters in future games.

…Or the soccer player who loses her confidence after being sidelined by some nagging injuries. After sitting out a couple of games, she becomes so fearful of making mistakes that she plays tentatively when she does get playing time.

…Or the golfer whose putting has been a strength all season long but plays in two tournaments where the easy putts just won’t fall. He loses so much confidence in his putting that he begins to think about missing putts.

You can probably think of some personal adverse experiences when your confidence dropped and your game was thrown off… How frustrating was the experience? How difficult was it to get your confidence back and find your form?

So what is the solution when obstacles throw off your confidence? How can you maintain confidence during slumps, lose playing time, or are hampered by injuries?

The answer is three-fold:

  • First, in order to remain confident despite setbacks, you need to temper your expectations. Don’t try to perform perfectly, just try to perform efficiently.
  • Second, proactively fuel your confidence instead of allowing results to dictate your level of confidence.
  • Lastly, stay focused on your strengths and performing in the moment.

This is the formula that Ireland gymnast Rhys McClenaghan has utilized to maintain a high level of confidence after his serious injury.

McClenaghan won the pommel horse event at the European Championships then suffered a labral tear in his shoulder. McClenaghan had surgery to repair the torn labrum and the prolonged rehab has set him back as he prepares for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Despite his injury, McClenaghan has maintained confidence. McClenaghan is managing expectations effectively and is relying on his past athletic successes to proactively maintain a high level of confidence.

McCLENAGHAN : “If [other gymnasts] beat me that’s fair enough but I’m stating the facts that there’s a strong possibility I can go out and take a gold medal… I’m not saying I’m definitely going to win because I don’t know but I do believe I can. I know I can.”

Another key to McClenaghan’s confidence is that he believes he can win and he doesn’t obsess about winning. Rather, McClenaghan stays focused on the task at hand… his performance.

McCLENAGHAN: “When I go to a competition and think ‘I can win this’, I see the thought but I don’t let it overwhelm me. I’ve got a routine to do to the best of my ability. I don’t care if someone jumps up on the pommel and dances in front of me – I will not let my concentration fly.”

Confidence doesn’t just happen by chance. It is extremely vital to proactively feed your confidence to minimize distractions and fuel peak performance.

Stable Confidence Beats Fragile Confidence:

Instead of focusing on your competitors, the competitive environment, or the challenges you face, focus on what you can control… You can control your preparation, belief in your training, and what you think about.

Stable confidence comes from years of practice and competition, not immediate results or difficult circumstances. Stable confidence means you’re the same athlete with the same skills as yesterday–no matter what obstacles you face.

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The Confident Athlete

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