Sports Psychology-Self Confidence

Every week, I get calls from athletes, parents and coaches who are concerned about confidence in sports. Self-confidence is one of the keys an athlete needs to have to succeed when the pressure is on.

In addition, confidence has a dynamic and synergistic relationship with relaxation and focus. These three elements feed off one another. When an athlete is feeling relaxed, confidence and focused, he or she is more likely to “enter the zone.”

Believing in oneself is useful and important for athletes and for non-athletes. Confidence is useful when you go to an interview or when you go into the testing room to take the SATs. Kids growing up need confidence. Chief Executive Officers need it when they address stockholders. And President Obama needs it when he addresses the American public or the United Nations.

Over the years, I have studied and developed many strategies and techniques for helping people to believe in themselves. When people feel positively about themselves, they tend to grow and they are better able to have rich and fulfilling lives on and off the athletic field.

When I counsel an athlete, I am always looking for sincere and genuine ways to build him or her up and help him or her to believe in themselves.

Interestingly, sometimes athletes who are too confident need to develop a more grounded and realistic mental approach to their sport. An athlete who is grandiose can have trouble reaching his or her potential.

So what are some of the factors that contribute to the development of self-confidence and self-esteem?

Dr. Albert Bandura of Stanford University identified four components or life experiences that contribute to building one’s self-confidence.

Mastery Experience: Having a history of doing well at some event, some skill or some task can help to grow your confidence in yourself. So, it is useful to remind yourself of times when you felt you mastered a task or a skill.

Vicarious Learning: Seeing someone else who you can relate to do well at something or succeed at something can help you to believe that you, too, can succeed. A child seeing his friend hit a baseball can start to believe that he can put his bat on the ball with some power too.

Modeling Someone Who Inspires You: When you see someone who you admire do something well, you can imitate his or her actions. Watching a singer perform a song brilliantly can inspire a young artist to do the same thing. This “modeling” can help to grow your self-confidence.

Social Persuasion-Receiving: Encouraging words from a parent, coach, or someone you trust can help you to feel like you can successfully do something. This, too, can strengthen self-confidence.

I also find it quite useful to have athletes to recall some of their successful experiences on a regular basis. I encourage them to “stack” some positive accomplishments and meditate on them prior to a big game and prior to going to sleep.

I teach most of the athletes I work with how to use a combination of meditation, visualization, guided imagery, and self-hypnosis to build confidence.

Athletes and I also spend a lot of times exploring the kind of self-talk, routines, and experiences that erode confidence and build confidence. Top competitors need to know what psychological elements tend to hurt their confidence and what factors can damage their belief in themselves. Once they understand these processes, they can better prepare for competition.

So, if you want to build self-confidence in yourself, in someone you care about, or your child, consider facilitating one or all of the kinds experiences described in this article.




Jay P. Granat, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist in River Edge, N.J. and he is the founder of Dr. Granat has coached top athletes in every sport from around the world. He has appeared in many major media outlets and developed many programs to enhance sports performance.

He can be reached at 888-580-ZONE or at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it





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