“Confidence is contagious” – Vince Lombardi.
This article is written in the context of football. If football is not your sport then simply substitute footballer for cricketer or athlete, the concepts are the same and transferrable. I am a BASES Accredited Sport Scientist in sport psychology and I am based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire and my company is Pinnacle Performance (www.pinnacleperformance.co.uk). I work extensively on belief and confidence with my athletes. If you have a strong self-belief then you can build everything from there. This reminds me of the story I was told at primary school where one man built his house on sand and another built his on strong stone. The house built on stone survived the storm the other house was washed away. This is exactly the same with self-belief.
Your beliefs are based on your personality, experiences and relationships you have had throughout your life. These have shaped you and beliefs. Beliefs are deep rooted in your inner core and so are difficult to change but can be changed with hard work. Beliefs are fed by reference points. Think about your kitchen table with the belief the table top and your reference points the table legs. A footballer needs an awareness of the reference points that have so much influence over them and look to develop positive reference points and remove negative and self-inhibiting ones (You can check more on this on my blog on my website).
Reference points are something which we can control so we, as footballers should focus on this. Reference points that are out of our control or ones that we can only influence (e.g winning!) should be avoided for belief and confidence. One way to develop belief is to work on your confidence. Confidence is linked to your beliefs by your positive references points and for a football player is subjective and can increase and decrease quickly but importantly you control it. You can be confident in one situation but not others; this is contagious so it must be managed. This management can be improved by gaining more experience in a football environment and then using positive reference points that are gained from these experiences.
There are two types of confidence; Training Confidence and Match Confidence. The first is being confident in training. Training is a safe and comfortable environment where there is less pressure and more freedom to play. Match confidence is confidence to get the job done in a competitive environment. There is uncertainty in matches due to the influences that are out of the control of the footballers so there is more pressure and it is less comfortable (we are creatures that like comfort). A footballer can be confident in one but not the other and needs to get experience in both. However confidence from one can be taken from one and used in the other if you have limited experience. For example a youth footballer could use their training confidence and use it in their competitive first team debut. The confidence that a player has can be managed and improved and is influenced by belief.
There are several strategies to improve confidence. The first and the most important is to get experience and learn from the experiences; look to extend your comfort zone – “Get Comfortable being uncomfortable“. When gaining experience work on the following strategies:
1. Act confident. If you act like you are confident then you become confident. Your body can’t tell the difference if your brain tells it a white lie and makes something up and as you decide the instructions that the brain gives then you can tell your body to act confident even you may not be! Concentrate on giving out confident body language on the football pitch.
2. Watch and observe role models. Watch the players who you to perceive to be confident players and take on some of their mannerisms and what they do.
So remember – “Man becomes what he believes himself to be” – Mahatma Ghandi.
So act like you are confident and you will become a more confident football player.
3. Use a Confidence bank. The analogy of a ‘confidence bank’ is where you can see what you are doing to improve your confidence. This is like a normal bank account you want to put more in than you take out. To do this there are some things that can be done. Being aware of your own strengths and your areas to improve is good place to start (awareness again!). Assign more ‘confidence money’ to your strengths than your weaknesses so every time you do something well you can make a deposit into the confidence bank. By doing this you will always put more in than you take out and so your confidence will improve.
4. Don’t fear failure. In pressured situations don’t fear failure. Embrace these feelings as a signal from your body that it is in a state of readiness and demand to make key decisions when ‘the game is on the line’ because you KNOW you are ready, prepared and have enough in the confidence bank. You have complete confidence in your ability to be successfully and you also know it’s better to attempt it because you have assigned a higher value in ‘confidence money’ than is lost from being unsuccessful. This will develop confidence as a football player. Become optimistic about your strengths and preparations. This will allow you to be confident and not to fear failure.
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficult.” – Winston Churchill.