10 Strategies To Build Unstoppable Confidence In Youth Athletes – Part 2

By Craig Sigl

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

We are going there because the biggest holdback to building long lasting consistent confidence is because too many of us are looking for magic bullets to solve our problems.

We hope and dream for a pill or potion that will help us build confidence or kick our bad habits or lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks, or stop our overactive anxiety and worry or get to sleep, etc., right?

Well, this mentality actually PREVENTS solid confidence from forming and so we must destroy it to get maximum confidence-building results. So here’s the next 4 strategies in this series that are really concepts to open the gateway to real confidence that lasts:

Strategy #4 You don’t NEED any confidence to accomplish great things.

Yep, you read that right… not even a shred of it is necessary for brilliant performances in any sport or field.

The first step in building confidence is in letting go of the NEED for it! You see, athlete’s (especially young athletes) hold themselves back from their best performances when they show up to competition and don’t FEEL confident. They then, incorrectly, judge themselves lacking and therefore start thinking about performing and trying to control their movements, which just doesn’t work.

In other words, it’s the thought that you NEED confidence when you don’t have it that creates tension, tightness and nervousness that actually hurts your ability to perform!

If you think you NEED to feel confident in order to perform, and you aren’t feeling it, well then, that’s a big problem, right?

And the truth is, Athletes, and people in all endeavors for that matter, do amazing things every day with ZERO confidence!

Let’s take this to it’s logical extreme and see if my theory holds up…

We were all babies once, right? And we wanted to walk because we saw adults around us walking, right? We end up walking because we possess 2 character traits, even as a baby:

Drive/Desire. We want to walk, just like we want to achieve/win in our sport.
They aren’t afraid to fall down and get back up again.

Those 2 things are all you need to achieve anything.

Babies have ZERO confidence about walking when we decide to walk. Babies don’t even have the ability to comprehend Confidence…and yet, they teach themselves to walk. If we needed confidence to achieve things, then very little would get in our world!

Confidence is icing on the cake. Traits 1 and 2 above are the cake!

Strategy #5 Teach your child that acquiring confidence is a skill that you learn and practice just like any other physical skill such as swinging a baseball bat.

Everyone understands that learning how to swing a baseball bat properly or shoot a basketball accurately, or play the piano takes instruction and practice, right?

But, for some reason, we think that confidence is some kind of random thing that happens to us (or not) or only occurs AFTER we have some kind of success. Can you see how if you believe this (which most of us do) then you’re not going to do much toward creating it other than hope and pray it shows up at game time. Good luck with that!

The reason we believe this is because we don’t see the instant results from our confidence building work like we do with physical skills work. In addition, even young kids can comprehend the cause and effect of doing a drill for tennis serve and how that can improve how they will serve in competition.
But they struggle to make the connection between what you tell them about confidence building and how it will pay off in the game. There’s a huge disconnect there. If you can bridge that gap, then you might actually get them to DO this work.

How do I bridge the gap?

Basically, 3 steps. 1. Ask them about the last time they played their best and how they felt while doing it. Stick to the feelings. 2. Ask them about the last time they played poorly and draw out those feelings. 3. Ask them if they play better when they FEEL like they did in step 1 or 2.

Finish with…”So, if we could get you to FEEL like #1 BEFORE competition, are you more likely to perform better?
The answer should be yes. And then you hit them with “Confidence is the feeling.” Want to get confident again whenever you want so you can play better?

Boom, we’ve just connected Confidence feelings to playing better and now you can proceed with the rest of my strategies.

Strategy #6 Switch from fixing what’s wrong to repeating what’s right.

In sports, it is commonly taught by coaches that the way to improve is to identify your weaknesses and work to fix them. This is a useful teaching concept, especially for highly confident people but if that’s all you’re teaching them, then guess what? You are teaching them to FOCUS on where they are not good which makes it really tough to build confidence.

Why? Because confidence, in essence, comes from the belief that you can accomplish something. Can you see how focusing on what you do wrong destroys that belief?

This goes for adults too but kids take this to the extreme and is a big part of performance anxiety.

Now, I’m not saying be pollyannaish and only praise the good stuff and ignore the mistakes. What I’m saying is, when a kid is taught something and he/she performs it well, STOP and focus on what you did WELL. Have your kid pause and send a message to himself after the successful execution of the skill to sink it in that he CAN do it and DID do it right.
Send him home that day (or to bed) thinking that message and repeating in his mind his/her successful execution of the skill over and over and over in his/her mind.

If they do this, they will literally be laying down a special chemical (Myelin) on their bodily neural network that fired off to execute the skill properly, thus helping the nervous system to REPEAT the electrical impulses!

In short, do something right and think about what you did right a lot and you will be more likely to repeat what you did right. It’s simple biology and sometimes we call it “muscle memory” but the great thing about the mental game is that you don’t have to actually do it in reality to release the Myelin and create the “muscle memory.”

Stand by for Part 3 of this series where we will get back to more things you can actually do and drill on to build long lasting consistent confidence!

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