Sunday, December 25

Winning the Confidence Game

For most any athlete, even professional athletes, playing with confidence is essential for success to occur. But for young athletes inadequate self-confidence not only damages an athlete's performance but it can also seep into other parts of their lives as well.

Of all the subjects I cover on mental skills training I get the most interest and feedback on the area of self-confidence, and for good reason. For a teenage girl playing softball confidence is almost as important as oxygen (and texting!) to insure her success and happiness!

In a game as challenging as fastpitch softball self-confidence is the elixir of champions. Without it the game can eat a young athlete alive. With it  a young athlete can achieve greatness far quicker than you can imagine. Here are 5 tips for winning the confidence game:

1. Believe It - if your athlete has conviction that she will succeed she is well on her way to massive success. Self-confidence is a result of "can do" thinking, which emanates from a powerful belief that a task or goal can be achieved. If, on the other hand, your athlete questions her ability to succeed her core belief is telling her that she "can't do" it. Limiting thinking always starts with distorted beliefs. Once she truly believes it can can achieve it.

2. Don't Expect Perfection - Let's face it, in softball your athlete is going to make errors, mental mistakes and have poor at bats; it's simply an inevitable part of the game. As such your athlete cannot expect to be perfect. No one who ever played the game or will ever play the game has been or will be PERFECT. Your athlete's ability to frame her failings as a learning opportunity on her path to game mastery will allow her to maintain her self-confidence in the face of adversity.
high school softball hitter
Give Her the Gift that Will Change Her Game Forever!

3. Parental Support - this may seem a non-issue for you, but first consider the expectations you place on your athlete for her on the field performance. Excessive expectations can cause her difficulty because she so wants to please her parents, and any perceived "failure" on the field can increase her stress and anxiety levels causing further declines in her performance. Even worse if she hears negative comments during or after the game from you about her performance it will serve to erode her self-confidence even more. She needs your 110% unconditional support to build and maintain the level of self-confidence it will take for her to succeed at a difficult game.


4. Leave Her Comfort Zone - for your athlete to be her best and develop the rock solid self-confidence necessary to become a consistent peak performer she will need to abandon her comfort zones and trust herself enough to grow in the sport. This is why so many players look great in practice, particularly batting practice, but can't seem to perform at the same level once they cross the white lines. Practice is typically low stress, while games are higher stress. Building self-confidence in game situations requires that your athlete trust herself enough to try new things, new mechanics, new approaches...and understand that in the short run she may experience a few bumps in the road until she is more comfortable with the new way of doing things. Softball is a game of adjustments and unless your athlete is prepared to leave old ways of doing things she will never advance in the game and her self-confidence will sputter too.

5. Expect It - today most young softball players put an enormous amount of time into the game. Your athlete should consider that time an "investment" in her game. And like any investment she should expect to get a "return" on her investment. Expecting success on game day means believing she is worthy of success. So often players do not feel worthy of success. They feel they aren't fast enough, strong enough, athletic enough or simply good enough to succeed. They feel inadequate in relation to teammates or opponents. This inadequacy looks like lower self-image, lower self-esteem and, of course, lower self-confidence. Once your athlete begins to expect that her hard hard should and will yield positive results on the field she will begin to cultivate greater self-confidence.

Remember, winning the confidence game is a process that may take some time. For youngsters self-confidence can be a "here today, gone tomorrow" proposition. To be sure she is on the right path guard against feelings of frustration and anger when things don't go her way on the diamond. Have a serious conversation with your athlete to discover what her core beliefs are about herself and softball. You might be surprised!

Review these five tips with her often. If she can properly frame the game and herself in the game she should be okay. However, if she starts developing distorted thinking (the result of distorted beliefs about herself and the game) you will need to step in as this kind of thinking will absolutely limit her self-confidence and game performance.

As a self-confident athlete the sky is the limit for her. I wish your athlete success in winning the confidence game!


 Watch John Kelly explain how to skyrocket your athlete's game day performance HERE.

Follow John Kelly's daily "Sports Mental Minute" on Facebook.

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