In the never ending quest to help athletes reach their performance potential, the one essential component to the psychological development of the athlete is increased self-confidence. Here are 6 strategies to consider when trying to build athletic confidence.
1) Document accomplishments so athletes can't pretend they don't exist or they can't see the progress they are making. Don't allow self-critical athletes to lose sight of their accomplishments and, as a result, lose touch with their potential for success. Keep accurate charts on times, weights lifted, and other variable factors like hustle and intensity. Demonstrate to them how they play an important role on the team.
2) Show athletes how to find opportunity in adversity. When things go wrong, the human tendency is to despair. We can't change the adversity, so let's find the opportunity that adversity always creates. No matter how negative an outcome, it presents options that were not previously available.
3) Teach them the advantage of being a sieve over being a sponge. Water passes through a sieve completely. A sponge soaks up all the water it can hold, and when squeezed shoots up water in all directions. "Sieves" are people who become less rattled than "sponges" by adversity. A sieve is less defensive about criticism and can keep a cool head when problems arise. Certainly, we all have bursts of anger and show outward signs of frustration, but leaders must remain emotionally under control. Try to turn your athletes into "sponges" so adversity and criticism will not hinder performance.
4) Tell them exactly what you expect of them and find out their expectations. The athletes who you appreciate meet your expectations. The ones you don't appreciate either have attitude problems or fail to meet team objectives. Your expectations may be too high or inappropriate. A typical reason many athletes give for why they can't satisfy their coaches is that they don't know what is expected of them. Make sure your intentions are clear. Find out if they are clear by asking questions or maybe even have athletes take written test.
5) Criticize the performance, not the athletes personally. It has been said that a successful leader knows how to step on people's shoes without messing up their shine. You will have to criticize players during practice as part of teaching. Do you do it without spoiling their shine? The spirit of all criticism should be, "I hate what you did, but I love you." In other words, reject the deed, accept the doer.
6) Praise performance, not the athletes personally. Remember that it is more important to praise the deed than to praise the person. You want athletes to know what they did right so they can repeat it, and not merely seek your approval.