6 Ways to Help Athletes Grow Confidence in Themselves

Athletics play a critical role in developing a young person’s body and brain. There are many lifelong advantages to building healthy lifestyle habits in adolescence, both from a physical and mental perspective. One of the most significant ways that a young athlete can benefit from participating in organized sports is the opportunity it offers for increasing their confidence.

Teenagers face many challenge as they adapt to young adulthood; heightened academic expectations, peer pressure, and a variety of other stressors. Feeling confident in their own self-worth and capabilities can be fleeting. It’s critical for coaches and parents to understand this. They need to carefully consider hot to use time with athletes to help build up their confidence, both on and off of the field.

I’ve worked with many high school-aged athletes and am certain that every kid is different. However, here are a few universal tips I’ve learned to help them get the most out of sports.

How to help an athlete build confidence

1. Identify each athlete’s strengths and weakness

It’s important to get an athlete’s perspective on what they see as their strengths and weaknesses. Once that is understood, you can use observations and testing to develop your own opinion. Weigh the results of what you see to help them amplify their strengths, and turn their weaknesses into areas of confidence in their game.

2. Set goals & establish accountability

Commitment to goals should be something athletes establish for themselves, rather than being forced by a parent or coach.

As a coach, you can help identify realistic goals, and set a clear path to achieving them. From there, it is up to the athlete to see their goals to fruition and your job will turn to supporting them through it. Knowing that you are in their corner will help your athletes grow into confident young people.

3. Eliminate negative self-talk

I’ve worked with many athletes who obsessed over what they could not do well and beat themselves up for it. Replacing phrases like, “I can’t ___,” “I never ____,” and “I suck at ____” with things like “I will ____,” “I’ll try ____,” and “I can ____,” makes such a big difference.

It may sound corny, but it truly works. You can help move your athlete’s mindset off of what they struggle at and onto how they can go about improving on it.

4. Address their concerns

If an athlete is struggling or feeling self-conscious about a particular skill, give them a little extra attention and lather on the praise when they make progress. The desire to perform well in front of peers can overshadow their need for positive feedback from coach, but rest assured, they are listening to you!

5. Reflection

Ask your athletes to reflect on what they learned or what skills were focused on after each practice. I always ask 3-4 questions like, “Why did we do lunges? How will that help you run faster?” And, “Which muscle groups did we work, and what makes them important for sprinters?”
This reinforces the lessons and helps the athletes recognize their progress.

Reflecting on growth is one of the easiest ways to build confidence.

6. Leadership opportunities

Allow every athlete room to practice some leadership by leading stretches at the end of practice, or evaluating their peers’ performance and giving feedback.

Over my years of coaching high school track, I’ve had many athletes completely transform over the course of a season. Implementing a positive mental approaches to training was almost always the key. It is incredibly rewarding to watch an athlete’s confidence blossom once they begin focusing on their personal growth, rather than their weaknesses. As coaches, we play an important role in helping athletes realize the growth opportunities that sports offer.

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