Foto by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Let’s pretend that you are watching a competition, with two athletes of similar abilities, competing against each other… Who do you think has more chances to win?

It is likely that the winner is the one with the most mental control on that situation; and one of the main aspects to control our minds is to have self-confidence.

Self-confidence is often linked to success, and the good news is that it can be improved. In order to believe in ourselves, whether in sport or in any other field, it is not sufficient to have successful experiences, but to have healthy thinking habits.

Athelets that believe in themselves display the following characteristics:

  • Have less self-doubt regarding their abilities, techniques, and their team
  • Worry less
  • Can concentrate easily
  • Have a positive internal dialogue
  • Visualise success
  • Believe they can achieve their goals
  • Focus on doing things properly instead of worrying about what could go wrong
  • Pay attention to the positive aspects
  • Do not give up 

Our thoughts guide our emotions and affect our behaviour. Thinking optimistically lead us to have the positive emotions that are needed to achieve our goals and also allow us to perform better. Instead, thinking negatively (e.g., about mistakes we could make), lead us to have negative emotions and perform worst. 

In the 1950’s nobody thought that a mile could be ran in less than four minutes. However, the British Sir Roger Bannister believed that it could be done and also that he could be able to do it. Eventually, he was able to beat that record and his achievement led to change other athelete’s minds which in turn were able to run a mile in less than four minutes too!

This story demonstrates that our way of thinking affect our emotions and our behaviour and this reflects on the performance. For instance, if we think that we are going to play well on a team and we are going to pass the ball properly = > these thoughts would lead us to feel more relaxed => our muscles would be more relaxed too => and our capacity to concentrate would be more efficient. 

On the other hand, if we think that we are going to make a mistake => these thoughts can lead us to feel tense => and our posture and muscles could tense too. During times of pressure, the coordination, and our focus of attention could be affected too.

A way to develop self-confidence is to work on optimism. Optimism is the hope that whatever the best outcome could happen will happen. It is also about spotting opportunities across all challenges and obstacles. With an optimistic vision, people atribute success to themselves, on the contrary, with a pessimistic view, they will attribute success to chance or any other external factor. Another effective way to develop self-confidence is paying attention to realistic and achievable goals. It is preferable to set goals related to the technique instead of setting goals that just state ‘winning’.

However, believing in oneself cannot be confused with being arrogant. You can be self-confident and humble at the same time. Also, we all have blind spots, so being confident should not deter us to recognise those aspects that we need to improve. 

To reflect:

  • Do you have confidence on your ability during training and competition?
  • Do you expect success? 
  • Do you set up challenging and achievable goals?