I recently spent two days working with 80 high school basketball players who were participating in the MidAmerica Baskeball Academy camp at Benedictine College. This camp gives these young men the opportunity to showcase their basketball skills in front of numerous college coaches as they continue their quest to attempt to obtain a college scholarship. The athletes are separated into eight teams, with four teams playing and four teams spending time in the classroom. While in the classroom, they have the opportunity to hear a number of speakers discuss topics like nutrition, NCAA rules, motivation and life skills. I spend close to ten hours with each group over the two day period talking about a variety of topics from team building to concentration training and relaxation/visualization development.
One of the exercises I have the teams participate in has them make a list of the issues they face as high school athletes who want to make it to the next level. Each of the eight teams makes a list of the issues they have to deal with on a daily basis. After they share the list with the group, we discuss the topics and attempt to find ways to assist them at dealing with these issues. Although they listed a wide variety of topics, the one common issue that each group listed was building self confidence. Throughout our discussions, the athletes all mentioned how their confidence was perhaps the most important attribute they needed to maintain in order to achieve their goals of advancing to play in college. Almost all of them mentioned that there were times when their confidence was negatively effected by coaches, parents, teammates as well as opponents and referees. Many of these young men stated that often they were more concerned with what others said or thought about them, than what they needed to do to be more focused about themselves.
Self confidence, which I feel essentially means how you believe in yourself, is one of the easiest things an athlete can lose, and can be one of the hardest things an athlete can build. I equate to climbing a mountain of mud, one slip and down to the bottom you go and you have to start all over again. For years, this has been one of the most important topics I have worked on with athletes at all levels of competition. I have found that the best way to build it, is to develop and establish a strong foundation. This can be done by setting realistic, short term, easily attainable goals. By accomplishing these goals, one step at a time, I think it gives the athlete the opportunity to taste success, yet not jump to far ahead of himself. For example, if you are teaching a tennis player how to hit a serve, break the serve down into three parts; footwork, the toss and the serve itself. Too often, athletes get confused by being told too many things at once by a coach, and consequently get overloaded too quickly. If you work on the short term goals, one step at a time, you will give the athlete the opportunity to feel good about himself, too see his success and to give themself the opportunity to try a little harder, or more difficult task the next time.
I have found the other main component related to building self confidence has to do with who influences you. Many of these basketball players shared how easily distracted they became before, during and after games by others. Consequently, they were at times, so easily effected by others opinions, that they would lose their focus and eventually, their self confidence. I asked these athletes to draw four concentric circles. In the center circle, I asked them to list the most important people in their life. In the second circle, people who they cared about outside of their inner circle. In the third circle, people they had to deal with, who were not that important to them and in the fourth circle, list the people they had to deal with that they did not like. I have found this exercise can make you aware of who has an influence on you positively and negatively. By realizing this, you can then make a decision about who you want to effect your self confidence.