10 Strategies To Build Unstoppable Confidence In Youth Athletes – Part 1

By Craig Sigl

Over the years, probably the 2nd most common issue parents bring their kids to me for is “lack of confidence” or “inconsistent confidence.” There are many specific, actionable steps parents and coaches can take to help their kids in this area that I will share with you in this and coming articles:

Strategy #1 Teach and Enforce that any form of “I Can’t” are not acceptable

This was one of the most powerful teachings my mother taught me as a kid and I have personally lived it and taught it ever since. The true story I tell often is that one day, when I was about 9, I was in the back seat with my brother while my mother was driving us to a game. Our mom was telling us about what she wanted to see from us while watching in the stands, something along the lines of hustle. In that conversation, my brother blurts out: “But I can’t” and my mom actually pulled the car over to the curb, turned around, looked us in the eyes and said, I don’t ever want to hear those 2 words “I Can’t” from you boys ever again. You can do anything you put your mind to. From that point on, she enforced it like it was the law in our family and I think my brother one time actually had to write 100 sentences “I will not say I can’t ever again.” When you emblazon a belief like this on a kids mind, through emphasis and consistency, it tends to stick with us as it did for me. I don’t need to tell you how having an “I Can” attitude builds confidence do I?

Strategy #2 Remind them of their past successes

Confidence is a state that results from a thought that I CAN. Our past successes are the most convincing thoughts that support the I CANs. If you’ve done something before, you can do it again, right? Us humans are pretty much wired to do default thinking about what went wrong in the past and what could go wrong in the future. It’s a survival mechanism. This is even more pronounced for kids. Unfortunately, unless we train our mind otherwise, that’s a big confidence killer. I have spoken with countless kids who can remember very well their biggest chokes but can’t remember their successes. As a parent, you can help fill that gap by finding appropriate times to reminisce about things they have done well in the past.

Note: the power of it will be in the specifics of what you bring up. For example, my son is a golfer. We could be sitting around watching a TV show and during a commercial, I’ll just start talking about that time in the District tournament where he was 1 over par after 9 holes and how he finished out. Like this: Hey, I was just thinking about that time you played districts, remember? I’ll never forget your steely face as you walked up the 14th fairway and your ball was under a tree and you didn’t flinch for a second, kept total composure and focus, and with all that pressure, calmly holed out. That was just so awesome”

….and then we have a connective bonding experience in addition to boosting his confidence today from something that happened 3 years ago. To make this stick as a lifelong belief, make sure and emphasize what you want to see more of, like: “Composure” or “Calm under pressure.” Repeat this key word in other areas of life and they will keep it forever which acts like the cornerstone of their “Confidence Building.”

Strategy #3 Have your kid teach you something about their sport

Every day your kid goes to practice, he/she learns something. Often, they are unaware of what they have learned and it would be highly beneficial for them to gain that awareness so that they can reinforce it. Now, you may have tried this directly by asking something like: “How was practice? Did you learn anything?” And you will probably get one word answers like: Fine. Nope. Nothing. That rarely works. But what does work, and it’s a very under-the-radar confidence builder, is to ask more specific questions that are designed to get the kid to teach you something about the sport.
So, to get specific, you might ask things like: “I’m curious, what kind of drills did you do today? How do you think that helps you improve? What does your coach say about that? Did you do any conditioning/physical work today? What kind? I’m really curious about what muscles that builds up for you, what do you think?

The trick here is to be genuinely curious with your questions and to ask questions that you think your kid can answer to “enlighten” and “inform” you. If you want to take it to the next level, have your kid show you how it’s done in the yard! Huge confidence builder in 2 ways, they are reinforcing their learning and feeling good about teaching you something that you don’t know.

Craig has personally worked with thousands of professional and amateur athletes on the mental side of their game. He is an author and creator of 7 mental toughness programs sold in 28 countries and writes to over 30,000 athletes in his emails. Learn more about Craig and contact him at www.mentaltoughnesstrainer.com

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One Response

  1. […] In this article about confidence building, we are going to go a little more “Mental Toughness” on you and a little less actionable strategy than Part 1 […]

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