When a player’s self-confidence drops so will his sporting performances. What is more, a fall in a player’s self-confidence is frequently accompanied by increased stress and anxiety levels. An important coaching function is to help improve a player’s self-confidence in these situations. This is achieved through a combination of training and providing the player with the tools to better manage his own confidence levels. This article explores some of the common coaching interventions used to boost self-confidence to optimal levels.

Being represented

In this activity two teammates “represent” a third by putting forward a case as to why the coach should “sign” the player. Hearing positive feedback from teammates can help improve self-confidence. This offers an immediate confidence boost, though falls short of providing the player with any concrete tools to increase his or her self-confidence.

Attention training

The aim of this intervention is to give the player more control over his or her own thoughts; displacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts. This intervention starts outside of practice. The player is required to list his negative thoughts and next to those thoughts put positive keywords. Over time the positive should displace the negative. The principle behind this attention training is to give the player a tool to affirm his or her self-efficacy and, importantly, a measure of control over the negative thoughts which erode confidence. This technique should be reinforced during practice to build habits for competition.

Matchday preparation

One of the key elements of self-confidence is control; a lack of control can diminish self-confidence and increase anxiety. A flashpoint for players battling with anxiety is matchday. Players sense a loss of control because the opponent brings the “unknown” and is unpredictable. There are a number of measures used by coaches to address matchday anxiety. Prevalent ones include –

  • Reviewing footage of the opponent, if available. This introduces a sense of predictability and knowing. The player will feel more in control;
  • Technique mastering. Here a coach will get the player to focus on mastering technique so that the player can fearlessly, and without thinking about it, execute technical tasks and skills autonomously. This allows the player to focus on problem solving and other aspects of the game. This mastery or technical proficiency engenders confidence by reducing stress and anxiety;
  • Simulation exercises. The coach helps prepare players for in-game situations by deliberately introducing novel situations forcing the players to make decisions and take control of new situations in practice. This becomes a valuable tool when confronted with novel situations during a game. Players are less fearful of improvising and do not perceive the same loss of control during matches.

A good coach knows that self-confidence is an important ingredient for success in player development and should use the above and other interventions to assist players in growing their self-confidence.