How to Build Confidence Written By Keri Casas
Many of you may look at the title of this post and think, “Oh thank goodness, someone out there knows how to help my athlete gain confidence!” Well, it may not be that easy. There is no quick fix, or perfect words to immediately fix your female athlete’s insecurity or lack of aggressiveness. If it was that easy, every athlete with pure talent and the best potential would exceed the limits of their success. If it was that easy, we would all have All American’s on our teams. Although there is not a quick fix to gaining confidence, you can help build it.
Whether you are a parent pushing your daughter, or a coach attempting to showcase an athlete’s potential, the key is patience. Female athletes respond emotionally before they exude their physical talents. If this leaves some of you confused, it’s perfectly normal. A female’s first response to most situations is through emotion. “I didn’t strike out the worst batter, I feel frustrated,” “I didn’t take the shot to win the game, I feel upset”. Most coaches and parents don’t understand that emotion leads our physical state, which further invokes our mental game. When something negative happens in our game, when our potential is questioned, we back off. Unlike male athletes, our first reaction isn’t to prove people wrong, but rather to fall in line and simply “go through the motions”. Please don’t look at this as a negative aspect of the female athlete; it’s good to be emotional, however, it’s necessary to learn what emotions are appropriate in the game.
If you ask a female athlete about how negative performance makes them feel, you will hear them say, “I’m upset about my game; I was frustrated that I didn’t perform the task like I knew I could.” Frustration. I have coached hundreds of athletes and after bad games and the first thing I always ask is how they felt about their performance in a bad game; about 99% of the time, they say they were frustrated. I cannot stress this fact enough: Frustration is the worst emotion a female athlete can have about her game. Frustration digs an athlete in a hole where they can only focus on the negative and struggle to find the positive in their performance.
Let’s face it; you may be as frustrated as they are. You are their coach, parent, mentor, and feel for them more than they can understand. Frustration may be your first emotion too, but it is your job to bring them out of that emotion. It is your job to help them focus on the positive aspects of their game, regardless of their performance. There isn’t a game that your athlete plays that doesn’t have some form of positive feat. They may have gone 0-3, but they blocked a ball that saved a run from scoring. Your athlete won’t recognize that play, but you have to bring it up. You have to help your athlete remember the positive aspects of their game to keep the growth of their confidence.
Now when you tell your athlete to “stop being frustrated and play like you know how,” you will more than likely get a negative reaction, which in turn, can make them more frustrated. Now, you may think I am crazy for saying this, but your athlete needs to get mad. Your athlete needs to turn their frustration into anger which is a workable emotion for game time. This doesn’t mean I support athletes being mean people, but they need to play mad. When female athletes get mad, all other questioning emotions fly out the window and you have an aggressive, confident athlete that you may have never seen in prior situations. Anger helps an athlete to focus on the game without thinking about all the little things that normally bother them. It is also important to help your athlete remember that there is a difference in playing mad, and playing with arrogance. Playing mad implies that the athlete pushes herself to be better than her best, playing arrogant implies that an athlete is cocky without reason. As simple as it sounds to acknowledge the difference, female athletes struggle with the idea of “playing mad”. They worry about what others will think and what reputation they will build as an aggressive athlete. They need the reassurance and confidence from you that her performance is good, and that this kind of reputation is good. I have always told my athletes, “be a nice person off the field, but give them a reason to talk about you on the field.”
Now your second thought, “Well my daughter is a nice girl; I don’t think she knows how to play mad.” This is a good point, a lot of us our nice girls. A great way to promote confidence and push aggressiveness is to have your daughter compete against the athlete playing the same position. Most female athletes play the game their way, but don’t think about their opponent. The best way to maintain aggressiveness and the best game out of her is to make her compete no matter what. Say your athlete is a short stop, have her watch the opposing short stops warm-ups and game as they are playing. This will not only keep your athlete’s head in the game, but also promote competition to be better than their starter; if she hits a single, your athlete wants to hit a double; if she dives for a ball, your athlete will dive and make the play, etc.
Aside from making competition, have your athlete create goals for herself. Say she is a pitcher starting the game. What does she want to accomplish? Have her set goals, in example, where she only allows 2 hits per game, 1 walk per game, and strives for 6 strikeouts. Creating competition within herself will only better her skills and help her to challenge herself in playing to her full potential.
When you love the game, you love it for all the right reasons. When the game is your life, it is a tremendous feeling to play aggressive, with confidence, and make a name for yourself. I implore you to support your athlete in bringing out the best of her abilities, and by not playing nice, so to speak.
Key Facts for Building Confidence:
* Play mad, it’s the best emotion a female athlete can have when they are in the game.
* Focus on the positive attributes of your athletes game.
* Find competition within the game and make it personal.
* Make personal goals to achieve higher standards.
Keri Casas is the Director of Operations and Lead Instructor for All American Softball, Inc in Sacramento, CA. A former Division 1 student-athlete and graduate of Syracuse University, Keri is a coordinator for All American’s College Prep Program, helping athletes achieves collegiate softball scholarships. Keri is also the lead contributor and editor of CoachingaFemaleAthlete.com and co-author of the E-Book, “Bats, Gloves, and Glitter: 7 Must-Know Facts About Female Athletes”.
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