“When you have confidence, you can have a lot of fun. And when you have a lot of fun, you can do amazing things.”
- Joe Namath
Prior to Super Bowl III, New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath made one of the boldest statements in the history of sports when he guaranteed victory against the powerful and heavily-favored Baltimore Colts. Namath and the Jets made good on his claim, however, and defeated the Colts in what many consider to be one of the greatest upsets of all time. Broadway Joe (as Namath was called) certainly wasn’t short on believing in his ability to achieve his goals – and neither should you.
Former NBA great Michael Jordan once said that you have to expect things of yourself before you can do them. What MJ is really talking about is confidence, or your overall belief in your ability to be successful in your sport. Keep in mind that ultimately your performance will be determined by how you think, feel, and act during a competition. You need to realize that your confidence plays a very important role in how you think, feel, and act. More specifically, research in sport psychology suggests that confident athletes:
· think more productively,
· feel more positive emotions and less negative emotions,
· and act in ways that lead to greater achievement.
To get a better idea of how your confidence level might affect the way you think, feel, and act while you play, let’s look at William, a very confident pitcher for his high school baseball team.
During a game, William is more likely to think productive thoughts, such as saying to himself “I can get this batter out”, or imagining the ball going right to the catcher’s mitt, or staying focused on executing his proper technique. These thoughts are considered productive because they are helpful to William in producing the end result of a good performance.
In addition, William is likely to feel less nervous or worried about his performance because he believes he is in control. He may also feel more optimistic about his chances for success and look forward to the challenge of pitching against his opponent.
Lastly, William is likely to act with more intensity and direction in practice by working hard, putting in the required time in his drill work, showing up early and staying late for practice, etc. These behaviors are the likely result of William’s belief in his ability to deliver the desired results during competition.
If you are like most athletes, you gain confidence by mastering new skills or by defeating your opponents. In fact, being successful is the most powerful source of confidence from which athletes can draw. However, since you cannot guarantee your success all the time, you will need to rely upon other sources of confidence as well.
Here are some tips to boost your confidence for competition during times when you aren’t experiencing much success:
(1) Prepare yourself physically and mentally for competition to the best of your ability and choose to focus on your strengths as you get closer and closer to the start of your competition.
(2) Seek support and encouragement from your parents, friends, teammates, or coaches to feel better about yourself and more confident as a result.
(3) Observe the success of your teammates to plant the belief that you can succeed, too, if you are intense in your efforts as well.
(4) Lean heavily upon your coaches’ leadership and decision-making for some added confidence.
The mentally tough possess an unshakable belief in their ability to achieve their goals, think more productively, feel more positively, and exert more intense effort as a result of their unshakable belief, and base their confidence in sources other than, and in addition to, their successes. Are you mentally tough?