Mental Skills for Building Confidence
Confidence is a funny thing: it’s purely mental, all in our heads, but whether we feel it or not seems outside our control. You can’t just decide to be confident, after all. And that can be frustrating—we all know how much self-confidence affects our game, how being unsure of ourselves makes us slower, shakier, less decisive, less motivated. The science backs that up: almost nothing affects athletic performance as much as trust in our own abilities.
What does that mean for us? How can athletes become more confident, and how can parents and coaches make that process easier?
The answer is partly about trust and support, partly about mindset and perspective, and there are concrete mental skills every athlete can rely on practice to help their self-confidence grow.
Those are the topics we cover in depth in our Deep Dive on athletic confidence, designed to be useful for everyday coaching and training and based on the best current science.
Top Mental Barriers: Self-Confidence
WHAT IT IS
Confidence isn’t cockiness or self-importance. It isn’t the same as social skills, either—it’s something separate, specific, and complex.
Most of all, self-confidence is the gut-level feeling that you have control over how well you play. There’s more to it than that, of course, but that sense of control—that your actions matter, that your effort and focus and skills make a difference—is the single most important piece of it.
Most researchers break confidence into three parts: believing in yourself, being optimistic about your performance, and expecting to succeed on individual actions like catches, serves, starts, shots, and so on.
To learn why they see it that way—and how to build those essential skills—check out the CMP Deep Dive.
Why it Matters for Athletic Performance
Self-confidence, possibly more than any other mental trait, is essential to consistently performing well. Feeling confident on the field, pitch, or court makes the sport fun, makes successes satisfying, and while it doesn’t remove the sting of failure, it does let you bounce right back. On game days, confidence means fewer nerves and more energy, as well as far greater resistance to distractions and self-doubt.
Not all great athletes are confident all the time. None of them were when they first started training. And it’s possible to have the best game of your life and walk away feeling beaten down. Confidence isn’t a miracle cure. It doesn’t guarantee success…but it does make success far, far more likely and transform every aspect of how we approach our game.
How to Improve
Confidence is built, not born. It comes from the right kinds of encouragement, helpful and consistent feedback, and a combination of successes enjoyed and failures overcome. Our Deep Dive on confidence offers a detailed breakdown of what student-athletes need to learn and what their parents and coaches can do to make that happen.
Get the Ultimate Guide to Building Exceptional Student-Athletes! This essential document is designed for parents, coaches, teachers, and trainers who want to help their athletes reach their full potential.