It’s pretty simple: The more confident you are in your abilities, the better your chances for sports (and life) success. The question, then, is just how do you build self-confidence?
Psychologist Dr. Al Bandura first introduced the theory of self-efficacy, suggesting that our chances for success are thought to vary with the strength of our belief in our abilities. In other words, the more confident we are, the better our chances for success.
While it is true that some people are more naturally confident than others, we all experience ongoing ups and downs when it comes to how we experience confidence. For example, a baseball player in the midst of a 10-game hitting streak will likely experience greater levels of confidence during the streak, but later in the season when he is in an 0-20 slump his confidence will almost certainly take a hit. The point is that confidence is not a static construct, but instead fluid, ongoing, and always-changing.
Athletes who set and achieve goals almost always experience spikes in self-confidence, adding yet another reason why goal setting is so vitally important to sport success. Interestingly, there is another often overlooked contributor to self-confidence — simply being prepared.
Preparing for success
Athletes who take the time to prepare their routines, training programs, position assignments, diet and rest schedules, and other related aspects to competition increase their self-confidence, and chances for success as a result. Preparation refines focus and motivation, as well as mitigates many would-be surprises from the competition as well (meaning the process of preparing usually uncovers potential problems ahead of time).
Think of it this way — an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to preparing for success. The reality is that it takes very little time to plan out daily schedules and update goal progress, yet only a small percentage of athletes discipline themselves enough to do this regularly. When I work with athletes looking to improve mental toughness and athletic success, I often remind them that while we don’t control how tall we grow or how high we jump, we do have 100% control over our work ethic, which includes taking a few minutes each day to refine our preparation.
Tips to get started
- Embrace the importance of preparation and refrain from looking at it as “busy work.”
- Set specific, measurable, controllable goals and trek your progress by keeping a daily journal.
- Prepare for your future success by paying attention to all the variables that impact success, even the perceived little pieces like getting enough rest and eating a balanced diet.
- If you are great at preparation, remind yourself of this as it can be a big help when competing against others who might be more physically gifted or talented.
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