How to Gain Self-Confidence in Sports

self-confidence in sports

As an athlete, one of the most important aspects of your performance is your self-confidence in sports.

You can spend a lot of time training, eating well and practicing sports, but the need for confidence cannot be ignored.


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“Experience tells you what to do; confidence allows you to do it,” said Stan Smith.

He is an American tennis player who was once ranked No. 1 in the world and the winner of two Grand Slam singles titles.

How can you gain self-confidence in sports in order to realize your full potential?

Practice Like It’s the Real Thing

You should approach practice like it is the real competition. Whether you are preparing for a hockey game, a track meet or a marathon, it’s important to train the way you play.

This helps you to get in the habit of always being at the top of your performance.

Practice is also a good way to improve your skills in different aspects of your game or competition. 

This helps you to try new things and refine your approach.

By practicing like you will compete on the big day, you can be more confident and comfortable when the time arrives.  

Prepare for Big Moments

One of the ways to improve self-confidence in sports is to prepare for big moments.

You do this by giving it your all every time you step on the field or track or skate onto the ice. 

When you know you are putting your best effort into preparation, this mentally helps you be better prepared for those big moments. 

By being prepared, you increase your confidence level in yourself and in your process.

Mental Imagery

Sports psychologists have long preached the benefits of mental imagery.

This is when you visualize certain aspects of your game or competition and envision yourself in that moment. 

When you put yourself in a given situation in your mind, you are helping prepare yourself for it. You are also able to think through how your opposition will handle the situation.

This helps build your self-confidence in sports because you will be better mentally prepared for the challenges ahead.

Set Realistic Goals

Whether you are an amateur, college or professional athlete, you need to set realistic goals for yourself.

High-performing athletes are often naturally competitive people, striving to be the best. But this doesn’t mean you should be unrealistic with what you expect from yourself.

When you set short- and long-term goals for yourself, you are able to help measure progress.

But if those goals are too far out of reach, you risk not meeting them and hurting your confidence.

When your goals are attainable, you have a better chance of meeting them. Over time, you can set more ambitious goals but these smaller ones help you get there.

Over time, you build self-confidence that you will use to keep improving your performance.

Focus on the Positives

One way to have self-confidence in sports is to look at the positive aspects of your performance.

When you look at the positives of your game, you are able to approach things with a better attitude.

This will help you to have more effective training sessions and practices. It will also help you communicate better with your coaches, trainers, and teammates.

But to improve, it’s also important to have a realistic look at the not so great parts of your performance, too.

Even the top athletes in a sport are constantly looking for ways to improve.

But your attention to the weaker aspects of your game should be within reason.

Do not dwell on things you can’t change, missed shots or opportunities. 

For example, if you are a basketball player who takes the game-winning shot and misses, don’t let it overtake your thoughts.

Hall of Fame basketball player Michael Jordan is known for being a competitor and one of the best athletes in any sport.

One of his well-known quotes is a great piece of advice for any athlete.

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Building Self-Confidence in Sports

Being confident in yourself is an important aspect of your performance in sports. 

But this can also extend into life off of the field too.

The lessons you are learning in sports — self-discipline, confidence and hard work — to name a few, can be adapted to your personal life.

When you practice like it’s a real competition, you are training your mind and body to perform at a high level at all times. This makes game day or race day an easier time to do well because of your mental approach.

When you use mental imagery to visualize yourself in competition, this also helps your preparation. By seeing yourself succeeding in your mind, you are receiving the subconscious benefits before you ever step into action.

Preparing this way will help you feel less stress or anxiety leading up to big moments. By being calmer leading up to these times, you put less pressure on yourself and can perform better.

Focusing on the positive points in your performance will also help get you through the harder times over the course of a long season. For every athlete, there are the highs and lows that come with competition.

For example, Jordan was a high school sophomore when he tried out for the varsity basketball team and was sent to the junior varsity squad.

It was a turning point in his basketball career up until that point. But after getting over the disappointment of the news, he used it to drive himself to get better.

Six NBA titles and five Most Valuable Player trophies later, the rest is history!

Are you an athlete who has learned a lot about self-confidence in sports over your career?

What are some things you have done that have helped you be a more confident competitor?

Let’s get the discussion started below!

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