5 Strategies for Youth Athletes to Build Confidence


It is normal for young athletes to struggle with confidence and have times when it is low. They will also experience the opposite where confidence is high, and everything seems to be straightforward. With some effort and the right knowledge and support you can take control of your confidence. This doesn’t mean that you will be full of confidence 100% of the time, but it does mean you will have the strategies in place when you start to fill it dip.

What is confidence?

Confidence can be described in a variety of terms that are all linked and are often used interchangeably:

Self-confidence influences how you behave, think and emotionally respond to different situations. Levels of confidence influence young athlete’s motivation and the choices you make, the effort you expend, the determination shown in the face of challenges, and the spirit demonstrated in recovering from failure.

What happens when confidence is low?

A lack of confidence can lead to feelings of worry, uncertainty, fear, doubt and anxiety. If you are experiencing one or all of these, then you are unlikely to consistently perform well. These feelings are likely to have an impact mentally and physically which can be detrimental to aspects of performance like decision making and coordination. These performance issues may then prevent you from being the best you can be.

How do we develop confidence in sport?

Self-confidence is how firmly athletes believe in their ability to execute a physical skill or perform a task.

Confidence is derived from a baseline assessment of past performances, training, and preparation. As competency or skill mastery grows, your perceived competence focuses on the skills you believe you possess.

The importance of confidence for young athletes

If athletes have high self-confidence, it’s very hard to get anxious or tense, or worry about results because you already know that you will perform well. With high confidence, you don’t fret about the competition.

With confidence, you are relaxed and focused on the correct performance cues.

Doubt is the number one killer to a confident mindset. Pessimistic, perfectionistic and over-motivated athletes tend to hold on tight to doubts, which if unchecked can ruin a mindset and derail performance. Some athletes start doubting before they even start the competition or make an error. Most athletes struggle with doubt after making a mistake or performing poorly in competition.

So how do you improve self-confidence? Below are five tips to help youth elite athletes perform to their best in competition:

Practice Makes Perfect

Confidence is based on evidence and experience, which comes from practice. Practice is the time for you to work on skills. If an athlete is constantly sharpening their skills and abilities, they are constantly reinforcing faith in your capabilities and therefore your confidence.

Start Off Easy & Develop the Fundamentals

A simple way to improve confidence is to start with something easy. Get the feeling of success, repeat that feeling and reap the rewards that come from that feeling. Identify a number of skills or actions that can have a positive impact on performance that aren’t overly complicated and master them. Often in sports, the best athletes are the ones that do the basics well. It can take 10 000 hours to truly master a skill.

Break It Down

Anything you do well becomes enjoyable. For complex or harder skills to avoid the feeling of failure break that skill or action down into simpler or smaller tasks which are easier to master, link some of those skills together to start piecing the complex action together and slowly build up until the complex task is manageable. This constant feeling of success or achievement can cause self-confidence to sky rocket.

Focus On Doing Your Best

In sport, the objective is to win. But the desire to win shouldn’t take away from an athlete’s most important goal: doing your best. The best team or player doesn’t always win, it’s the team that plays the best that wins. Sometimes its bad luck, or sometimes the opponent is just better than you. If you know during practice that you put your best effort into learning and mastering the fundamentals, and focusing on doing your best instead of being the best, the wins will come as long as you play hard.

Don’t Fear Failure

Lastly, and perhaps more important, do not be afraid of failure, embrace it. Confidence in youth athletes comes down to a battle between faith and fear. Fear of failure can really destroy an athlete’s confidence even to a point where you don’t want to participate so you don’t make any mistakes. Understanding fear is the best skill you can have as a youth athlete. Fear of failure holds you back from being the best you can be.

Get in touch through social media and let us know how you go with these tips! What works best for your confidence? Check out our website for more posts like this. If things ever get too much and you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

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