Confidence…oh, so often misunderstood!

19 01 2011

One of the most common topics that I get asked about from players, coaches, and parents has to do with confidence.  The questions I get vary as people attempt to understand this seemingly misunderstood concept. Below are three of the most common questions I get and my response to them in a attempt to bring greater clarity for those seeking to develop confidence, as well as, understand the role of confidence in understanding performance.

1. Is confidence a critical factor in how someone performs?
Although confidence plays a part in impacting how an athlete performs, what is more critical is how masterful an athlete has become concerning the foundational skills of the sport they play. What is true is that an athlete develops a great deal of confidence based on how effective they feel they have been at developing and mastering skills that allow them to compete with those they play against. If an athlete hasn’t invested the time, energy, and dedication to practicing the skills needed to experience success then confidence should not be a “right”.  Therefore, what is important to performance has more to do more with skill development than confidence.

2. When my son/daughter seems to lack confidence is the antidote encouragement?
The answer to this is maybe. I believe we have become a culture (especially with our kids) that believes the answer for every problem is encouragement. Certainly our kids need optimistic, positive people in their life, however, they also need “truth tellers” that are able to communicate truthful statements in optimistic and positive ways to help them build a healthy self perception built on better “truth”. Telling an athlete they played well when they didn’t does nothing to build their confidence, in fact, it confirms in the mind of many that adults just tell kids things to make them feel better. This actually erodes the possibility of confidence because of the credibility that is lost.

The last question is: What helps to grow self-confidence?
I want to start by saying that confidence can be compartmentalized into different life interests. For example, I can be confident in my ability to understand a persons emotional pain and have zero confidence in my ability to build shelves for my garage. My lack of confidence in building doesn’t compromise my overall confidence as a person it simply means I have not developed the skills associated with building shelves. With this example as a guide I believe the inner belief in oneself that we label as confidence is created, grown, and developed when we invest time, energy, interest, and genetic cooperation to develop what it takes to perform effectively in competitive situations. Because of this, I believe developing true confidence is, in reality, within all of our control. I hope the clarification around this often-used topic is helpful.

Shaun Goodsell
President and CEO, Mental Edge

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