The great baseball pitcher Tom Seaver once said, “My confidence isn’t in my talent, it’s in my preparation.” We practice, we tweak, we continually improve. But the aspect that grows the most is our confidence in what we are able to do given that preparation. How it affects the inner self is an interesting process to watch unfold.
There are two main places from which we draw confidence: Past performance and preparation. For many of you who have read my articles and blogs, this is not at all new I speak about confidence all the time. It is what fuels an athlete’s success. I strongly believe it’s the main reason athletes crumble when the pressure is on, or are heroes when the game is hanging in the balance.
I have seen so many athletes who tried to focus solely on the physical preparation in the off-season. The endless sprints and weights, the conditioning, the stairs, the climbs, all amount to nothing if the trust and confidence in it all is lacking. This preparation can be so critical to the success of an athlete. It can also be one’s demise.
We reap only what we sow. No more, no less. The seeds we drop today, whether haplessly spilling out of the palm of our hands, or carefully placed one by one in rows neat and tidy, will yield our future success and failures. What we do today will always impact our future. Always.
I spent some time a few summers ago working with a pro baseball player who was on his way to spring training. We often talked about confidence. What it meant to build it and how quickly it could be shattered. He never wanted to be famous or be put on a pedestal. That just wasn’t his way. He always told me how much he didn’t want to be “that guy.” The one everyone looked up to. He shunned that and just wanted to play the game he loved quietly, and with little “hoopla.” He was good. And I had to remind him that when he hit homeruns every game, there was going to be a little “hoopla…” whether he liked it or not.
He talked about holding back because of it. How he often was afraid to prepare too well so that he didn’t stand out. He was a pro, classy to the highest extent. He wanted his teammates to get the glory. Those who struggled to succeed… the ones who had to claw and scratch their way through the farm system. For him, it just kind of came naturally. He had some major league call-ups that season. Playing against the guys he only ever dreamed about meeting. He still never wanted to be “that guy.”
But still, he prepared. Often working on the physical to an extent that he grew tired and fatigued. He realized quickly if he was going to stay at that level, he would need to find his mental strengths and put just as much time into preparing those.
We made a list. A long one. Something I love to do with the athletes I work with. But this time, I made sure he didn’t just list physical strengths. I wanted him to find all that he does well. Mentally, he found that he prepares better than he ever did before. Because of that, he was more confident than ever. I remember sitting on the phone as he talked about that. I just quietly nodded my head. That was the day I understood that Tom Seaver quote I had scribbled at the top of a notebook from 2002 when I got certified in sports hypnosis and mind/body connection. It hit me. I got it.
I remember being in high school, a good student, but often would procrastinate studying for tests. I remember what it felt like to walk into a test I wasn’t really prepared for. I wasn’t at all confident except in the fact that I probably wouldn’t get an A. Yet my confidence would soar when I knew I was completely ready.
Preparation could truly be the key to confidence.
In the off-season, it’s easy to lift and run more, to get stronger and faster and think you are doing everything you can. Yes. Do this…. But to mentally prepare is just as important.
Focus on the things that make you feel prepared. Confidence always follows quickly behind.