Original Author: Jen Scorniaenchi, M.S.
Updated and Edited by: Jayson Eljawhary
I am often approached by athletes and parents wanting to know how they can “gain more confidence.” Unfortunately, confidence is not something you can buy in a store, get from reading a book, or even from someone else’s praise. Improving YOUR confidence takes work by YOU. The great thing about confidence is that it is a product of mastering many other mental skills – and that is where I always start with athletes – building confidence in sports.
The more we mentally practice our sport and build our coping skills, the more confident we become. Confidence lies not only in an athlete’s belief in their skill but also in their confidence (self-efficacy) and ability to cope when things don’t go as planned. It is through learning a combination of both coping skills and mental preparation that athletes tend to see their performance – and confidence – soar. Baseball is a game of adjustments in which you must prepare to experience the peaks and valleys.
Here are five things to remember:
Remember that confidence fluctuates.
Even major league baseball players experience peaks and valleys when it comes to confidence. It is important to recognize that when your confidence is low it is not forever- if you work at focusing on something more productive like improving a skill, your confidence will eventually restore itself. Remember – a hall of fame hitter in the big leagues still failed in roughly 7 of every 10 at-bats.
Focus on yourself, not on others.
Instead of thinking about how well your teammates or opponents are doing, think about your performance and how you can improve. Especially in the context of player development, progress is non-linear. Everyone has different body types, strengths, and weaknesses to work within their game, and no two people are the same in this regard. Being self-aware about what you do well and what you struggle with will keep you focused on yourself and only aid in maintaining your confidence in the long term.
Focus on day-to-day success
Don’t simply count the amazing double play, strike out, that huge home run, or even a win as your measure of success. This is setting you up for a confidence pitfall. Instead, focus on even the smallest successes or things you do well EVERY day you train or play. For example, going 0-4 doesn’t mean you had a completely bad day – if you worked the pitcher for at least 6 pitches in 3 of those 4 at-bats, and hit the ball hard every at-bat, there were still positive signs despite not achieving the outcome you wanted. This brings us to the next point…
Concentrate on the process, not the outcomes.
When you focus on your performance instead of the outcome of a game, you automatically become more confident because your focus is directed at something YOU can control. It is possible that you could play the best game of your life and still lose. Yes, you may still feel disappointed or upset that you lost but your confidence will remain intact because you focused on your performance and gave it your all.
Focus on what you’re doing right.
Even during your worst possible game, there is SOMETHING that you are doing right. That simple shift from dwelling on mistakes to finding something positive has a bigger impact on your mental and physiological state than you know!It is very easy to get discouraged over your lack of success on any given day, but you must keep your head up to avoid compounding your mistakes and frustration. I have seen multiple occasions in which an early error or poor first at-bat affects a player’s performance for the rest of the game, or a day if there is a doubleheader.