Mental toughness issue #5: Inconsistent confidence

blog Jan 30, 2013

It is a rare athlete that maintains their confidence after a bad game. Most athletes, at every level, feel great after a great game and bad after a bad game. Their confidence in themselves as a player, or even as a human being is completely contingent on the most recent results. This can obviously be a great thing when someone is playing well. But how do we help those players that are in a shooting slump, or just seem to be ‘off’? Often times, these bad games snowball and it becomes very difficult for the player to find themselves out of it.

The irony is that confidence is the one thing that can get that player back to their best performance and yet confidence becomes elusive.

So what can we do?

We can help them focus on self-belief (otherwise known as internally driven confidence). Self-belief is confidence that is not contingent on results. It involves ONLY the things the athlete can control, their effort, their focus, their attitude, their work ethic. Of course, we want the ball to go in the hoop, of course we want to win, but the only way to get those things is to focus on the game, not the results of the game.

This can be a revolutionary idea to someone who has been driven by winning their whole life. But wanting to win, working to win is still important. We just don’t want to put our confidence in the hands of things we can’t completely control.

Sometimes the most helpful thing and athlete can do is visualize ALL their good games over the years, over and over again until they internalize them deep in the mind, until they can practically ‘feel’ playing in those games. Then they say to themselves “I am a sum total of all the successes I’ve had in my life. And today, and every day, I. AM. ENOUGH.”

I know it sounds silly and simple. But the mind works in consistent and predictable ways- for better or worse. Sometimes, athletes have to get back to their baseline core confidence, regardless of their recent results.

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