It may sound like a strange question, but when it comes to coaching, this is something I think about often…
…helping athletes “be more confident.”
On its own, telling an athlete to be more confident is not going to magically flick a switch which will make them immediately feel competent enough to perform skills they previously struggled with.
As a form of feedback, “be more confident” is useless! Outlined below, I’ll give some coaching advice to remedy this.
Tackling a Lack of Self-Belief
By definition, confidence (or self-confidence in this case) is ‘belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities.’ Ask an athlete to perform a skill they lack self-belief in, and their chances of performing it with ‘confidence’ are limited.
Could confidence be something someone could fake? Could it be something they can simply ‘switch on’ when asked?
Feedback to your athletes would need to be more appropriately communicated. For instance, “be more aggressive.” Aggression is something an athlete can consciously adjust, be it performing harder, faster or just with more conviction. You could say that aggression can be interpreted as a by-product of confidence.
Coaching That Develops and Nurtures
Confidence is something that develops over time, and when coupled with careful nurturing on your part, comes through a gradual progression of skill development and a positive training environment.
Of course, there are other factors that can influence levels of confidence in an athlete when performing a particular skill. These include environment, equipment, mood, warm-up techniques, your expectations and attitude as a coach, and your relationship with the student.
Your job as a coach is to build an environment that helps breed and nurture confidence, raising an athletes’ self-esteem and psychological stability.
Building Confident Kids
I asked professional stuntman, Richard Dwyer, for his view of ‘building confident kids,’ – a motto he employs in his company, Flair Gymnastics:
“Being a confident person is your God-given right and without confidence, you will certainly NOT be performing, achieving or living, loving or being your best in life.”
There are many opinions and definitions of what confidence is, so to keep things simple and for clarity of the word ‘confidence’ in this coaching advice article, when I use the word confidence I mean;
‘Complete and total belief in yourself and in your own powers and abilities’
“Confidence truly is a state of mind”, Richard goes on to say – “When someone is in a position of authority, as a child you take their words as ‘gospel,’ believing them to be speaking the complete truth. These words can powerfully flatten that inner confidence that you were born with, so we end up having our minds poorly programmed.
Sports where goal setting and reinforcement of positive behaviours are rewarded and celebrated breeds a confident self. Correctly trained sports coaches who OWN their minds and love passing on their knowledge to others are trained to use confidence as a tool to help achieve goals and this becomes a positive feedback loop in the brain leading to more and more confidence and more and more goals being achieved as a result.”
It comes as no surprise then that as coaches, our role is crucial for the development of a student’s confidence. I asked Richard for his view on what it is that prevents people feeling confident when it comes to performance:
“The one and only ‘thing’ that stops us from choosing to feel confident is the same thing that stops us from doing anything in our lives – Fear.
In summary, fear is a thought about a future event that may or may not happen
It’s our mind working out the worst possible scenario of what the future looks like and then our minds meditating on (going over and over and over) that negative thought or event, that is actually unlikely to happen.”
So how do we grow, build and cement our confidence? What would be your coaching advice I asked Richard …
“I believe the answer to this is simple, but it takes consistent practice – by achieving goals. And to go for our goal we must first eliminate fear and see failure as feedback.
Here is my simple confidence formula; Confidence is a MASSIVE contributor to happiness because progress = happiness.
Confidence is a by-product of achieving goals so you MUST first be able to overcome fear if you are to gain true inner confidence.”
Richard’s advice is truly valuable, especially when you consider how he himself has confronted fear as a high-level athlete, professional stuntman and now a businessman.
Next time you give feedback to an athlete to ‘be more confident,’ think about how they can apply that feedback. More often than not, feedback needs to be more constructive and be part of a wider, smarter training plan, which will build confidence more organically.
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Coaching Advice Article by Nick Ruddock, Pay Subs Online’s resident Coaching Expert and Consultant.