The C Word

Confidence!  If you were to poll a pool of athletes across a variety of sports about how they feel during both good and bad performances, there is little doubt the word confidence would come up over and over.  When performance is good, confidence is high.  When performance is bad, confidence is low.  The answer is simple then.  Let's be confident all the time.  Then performance will always be good.  Things, unfortunately, are not that simple.  While there is no exact magic formula, there are a few things I think you can do to become as consistently confident as possible.

Harvey Dorfman summed it up great when he said, "Confidence doesn't "come to you"; an athlete must take it."  I love this quote for a couple of reasons.  First, it implies that the ultimate responsibility for confidence lies within the individual.  As coaches, we can't simply pass out confidence like we do uniforms for the year. While I do think coaches can help foster an environment conducive to the building and sustaining of confidence in players (a topic for a later blog), athletes ultimately determine confidence.  Second, I love the visual created by Dorfman saying "take it."  For me, I visualize a greyhound race where the hounds are chasing after the fake rabbit.  In sports, athletes are the greyhounds, and confidence is the rabbit out in front.  Confidence is a few feet in front of the athlete.  The athlete just has to run a little bit faster, reach out, and take it.  Now, what can athletes do to take the confidence they're reaching for?

The first step to confidence, for me, is preparation.  As an athlete, there is no replacement for that feeling you get when you know you've done everything you can to be ready for competition.  It's awesome and provides a feeling of control.  As cliche as it may be, there is no substitute for working hard.  There is no substitute for taking extra ground balls, extra jump shots, or working on your form as a sprinter.  There is also no substitute for preparing mentally.  Prepare, and you will earn your confidence.

The second step lies in understanding what you can control (again, another blog entry).  As athletes, and people in general, we are so susceptible to worrying about things outside of our power.  We worry about how people feel about us.  We worry about winning and losing.  We worry about umpires, referees, and judges.  Understanding what you control, and taking control will help make confidence a regular occurrence.  Try making a list of what you can control about your performance or whatever you're attempting to build confidence in.  Then work to focus your efforts on controlling those things.  This is a simple process that helps create tangible ways to improve.

A third step and one that is closely related to both one and two is to work to generate that feeling of confidence you have during your best performance.  What are you thinking?  What is your body language like?  How is your breathing?  If you're thinking, "See the baseball and smash it," you can control having that thought again.  If you walk with purpose and rhythm, you can control that walk.  Ken Ravizza and Tom Hanson talk a lot about "faking it until you make it."  Carry yourself with confidence long enough, and you will believe in it.  If this is something that is difficult for you to remember, try the mental recall visualization we discussed in the last blog entry.  That may help you be in the moment and remember how you feel during your best performances.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list to the steps to building confidence.  Like anything else, feeling confident is unique to each individual.  Understand that it is unrealistic to expect to feel confident all the time in everything you do.  Part of what makes sports and life so great is the battle to bounce back from adversity.  If you are able to have something to lean on and go back to during those times when your confidence is low, however, you are hopefully able to maximize the feeling of confidence.

Side Note: Want to see what confidence looks like as a hitter?  Here is a link to one of my favorite at-bats I have ever witnessed.  It is Miguel Cabrera facing Mariano Rivera in a pressure-packed situation.  There are many things about the at-bat that I love, but try observing what Miguel Cabrera does that make him ooze confidence.  I'd love to hear from you about what you see!

Side Note: The same principles above apply to having confidence in any situation in life.  You could take video of top performers in any field, and many of the same qualities would be present.  Of course, this is much easier to talk about than to apply.  There are absolutely situations I am more confident in as a person than others.  What I do know, however, is that I can work to improve.  For me, that is what life is all about.  Understand that there is always room to improve and grow.

Remember to get in touch with me please!  I'm loving the feedback I have gotten and feel like I am using it to create better content for the reader.  Please let me know how I can help. @Coach_Ehrlich or ehrlichb1@gmail.com

Comments

  1. Love it! I was talking about the ultimate weapon (confidence) with one of my players last night. Great blog!

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    1. Thanks for the feedback Goose! I'm glad you found it relevant. Please let me know if I can do anything for you.

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  2. Love the blog. Side note (nothing about content)...if you're referencing a previous entry, provide a link to it. Just my 2 cents. Love what you write though.

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    1. Thanks Rusty! I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. That is a great suggestion, and today's entry is updated with a link to the visualization blog thanks to you!

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