Four Keys for Developing Confident Players

Imagine you’re a bird resting on a tree branch. It’s a nice day and you’re relaxing while taking in nature’s beauty. Life is good.

Now imagine you’re sitting on the branch during a windy day. We as humans would probably be nervous the branch would break, but the bird isn’t. Why? It’s all about confidence. The bird has confidence in its ability to fly, and it has confidence that if the branch it’s on breaks, it will surely find another tree branch to rest on.

If you ask most coaches what the most important attribute they look for in a player, self-confidence is at the top of the list. Without self-confidence the player will struggle to do well. Heck, any one of us become a liability without self-confidence.

Coaches want self-confident players because they believe anything is possible. They trust the work they’ve put in and a good result will come from their good efforts. However, there are so many coaches who struggle to develop confident players. In today’s coaching psychology, it’s critical coaches go out of their way to build the esteem and confidence of their players.

A team full of insecure and unconfident players will absolutely struggle to reach their potential and win games. Don’t let this happen to your players and your program.

Any coaches can develop confident players with the help of the four following steps:

  1. Provide repetition. Think back to when you first learned to ride a bike. You were nervous and scared about falling and getting hurt. But once you got the hang of it, you never looked back and had confidence in your ability. The best thing a coach can do is teach the fundamentals. Players will never have the confidence to take the necessary risks to win big if they haven’t mastered the fundamentals. Whether it’s in sports or not, the same is true, repetition of skill fosters self-confidence.
  2. Promote self-talk. The biggest opponent our athletes will ever face is the one looking back at them in the mirror. As adults we have a bad habit of talking down to ourselves. If we truly want to give our athletes the tools to a successful life, we must teach them the value of self-talk. The best way to do this is to praise them loudly and often. If they hear it from us, they will begin to think it’s true. We also need to teach them the value of affirmations. There are enough people out there who will tell them they can’t do something, they don’t need to be another negative voice in their head. Coaches, write your athletes a handwritten note telling them how much you value them. Then, have them write themselves a congratulatory note on something they’re proud of.
  3. Help them lift others. One of the best ways to develop confidence is to build it in others. We lose nothing by helping others. What we put out will come back to us. As coaches, we develop more confidence in our ability when an athlete thanks us for what we’ve taught them or done for them. So why wouldn’t the same be true for our athletes. Coaches, challenge your athletes to praise their teammates. Congratulate each other for doing well. One of my favorite activities is doing Lead ‘Em Up’s “Me, We, You” activity. In it, players stand up in front of the team and share something about why they are proud of themselves, why they are proud of the team, and then point out a teammate and tell them why they’re proud of them. It’s amazing to see the reactions when a player is celebrated by a teammate. Lifting others will go a long way to increasing a player’s confidence.
  4. Have them put blinders on. No one will believe in you unless you do. And in the word’s of Metallica’s James Hetfield, “Nothing else matters.” Our athletes are growing up in a culture and society addicted to how many likes a picture gets. They lack self-confidence because they’re too worried about how others will perceive them. It’s our job as coaches to teach them to put blinders on to anyone who doesn’t support them or their dreams. Those people don’t matter. We need to help our athletes realize it’s okay to eliminate from the lives the people who don’t believe in them or inspire them. Coaches, help your athletes by fighting this battle with your kids every day. Encourage, encourage, encourage, and encourage them. Be their biggest fan and teach them to stay true to themselves.

Teams collapse every season due to players lacking confidence in themselves and they’re teammates. Don’t let this happen to you. Take the steps necessary to build confident players within your program today.