The Secrets to Building Confidence in Student-Athletes

Confidence, when combined with the right resources and knowledge, can be a key to success. It’s crucial in all aspects of our lives and is cultivated from a young age. As we grow older, our confidence helps us tackle life challenges even when the odds are stacked up against us.

Confidence is essential for athletes. It makes them believe in their skill set, develop interpersonal skills, and take on the stage with a spirit to compete and win. The level of confidence also impacts their thoughts, performance, and attitude towards the sport, helping them navigate through failure and persevere their way towards their personal success.

Mentors and coaches must cultivate confidence in young athletes. It helps them grow up to be more sure of themselves and their actions. The surety factor is crucial for athletes, as most in-game decisions are taken in a matter of seconds — being unsure and under-confident of one’s decision hampers their decision-making.

The neurology of confidence

human brain graphic showing synapsesYou’d look at a confident person and admire them for how they face daily challenges and tackle tasks in their lives. The same goes for athletes — confident athletes appear to be more composed while performing or playing. The reason could be in the genes, as most of our personality traits are devised by our genetic makeup. Yes, people can be naturally born confident, but it doesn’t mean that they cannot learn confidence.

Researchers have found that confidence is a core cognitive process that enables individuals and organisms to optimize their learning and resource allocation, which serves as a basis for metacognitive reasoning. Neuroscientists have also learned that we can train our brains to be more confident with practice. Several factors go into it, with positive thinking and brain training being two crucial aspects. Positive thinking helps stimulate the brain area linked with motivation, reward, and pleasure — this is why we feel good when confident.

Gaining confidence for young athletes needs rigorous training, but it works. With movement, our brain adjusts to new thought patterns as brain synapses can be strengthened and modified to store the newly acquired confidence. The fact that confidence can be learned and practiced is a hack that young athletes could pursue.

 

How to Build the Lost Confidence in Student-Athletes

Legendary athlete Muhammad Ali felt that it wasn’t bragging when one says that they were confident. That’s the innate nature of confidence — it’s generated from within, and this is something coaches could look at if they want to build confidence in young athletes.

Young athletes can find themselves struggling with confidence. The reasons vary and could primarily be based on their training and social environment. Nurturing confidence and a fighting spirit in young athletes must be a priority for coaches.

But there’s a way around it. Canadian-American psychologist Albert Bandura’s self-efficacy model explains that confidence can be derived from performance accomplishments, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and physiological arousal. And this is what coaches and mentors do to generate confidence in young athletes. Praising the efforts of young athletes ensures that they feel good about their practice, creative opportunities for them pave their way to performance, healthy communication, and keeping reasonable expectations ensure that they do not feel exerted.

The impact of mental health cannot be underestimated. Failure is a part of an athletic journey, so young athletes must be counseled through the grief of loss and be asked to focus on the positives while channeling away negative thoughts.

athlete training with running parachute

Fostering a healthy training environment and ensuring young athletes that losses are not the end of their career, and even legendary athletes have had enough losses during their course of training, can help ensure that they regain their lost confidence and are back to working on improving their skill sets. Supporting them when they do not perform well will ensure that they do not feel bad about losing and perform better when they are on the stage the next time. Besides, it is all right if they fail again. Athletes compete and become the best versions of themselves; winning and losing are only derivatives.

The secret recipe of perseverance and coaching

Perseverance can go a long way in the quest to find success, especially for young athletes who have to go through rigorous training to perfect every move with consistency and precision. While talent can be found in plenty, it’s the character that paves the way to success — the attributes of respect, maturity, accountability, and a determination to persevere and practice, even in the face of failure, knowing that every move made brings them closer to their personal goal.

Definition: “Character is the person you are when no one is looking.”

Self-awareness is critical in this regard for young athletes, and it comes with finding the proper guidance. Coaches and mentors can help cultivate self-awareness, bringing mindfulness and nurturing confidence, with a surety of being more aware and acquainted with their actions.

“The person that has confidence in themselves gains the confidence from others”

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