You Gotta Believe

Written By Aaron Weintraub

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You Gotta Believe

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Great performers trust their skills and believe that things will go well. Muhammad Ali said, “I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was.” It is a valuable pursuit to figure out how to obtain and maintain a high confidence level before and during a game. Unfortunately, it is a common misconception that a person either has confidence or she does not. In fact, confidence is an attitude and attitudes are controllable. Great athletes imitate the thinking patterns of the other greatest athletes in the world.

Confidence comes from preparation, self-esteem, and one other significant factor. Most people think this other factor is past experiences. Actually, confidence comes from the way people think about the experiences they have had. This distinction is subtle, but huge because the past is not controllable, but the way athletes think about the past is completely controllable. Once it is time to perform, preparation and self-esteem are constants. However, an athlete's confidence in her ability to execute this next play is very much a variable. Preparation and self-esteem are worthy of discussion elsewhere. This article focuses on how to use self-talk to consciously increase confidence right now.

Many athletes have never thought about this subtle distinction that confidence fluctuates not based on experiences, but on the way they think about these experiences. Therefore, they typically emphasize their most recent experiences. This is a natural pattern of self-talk. When they do this, the belief that confidence comes from experiences becomes true. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy that is fine when recent experiences are good, but very damaging when recent experiences are bad.

A leader's job = Give her team her best effort.

Best effort requires a confident attitude.

Attitudes come from thoughts.


A big part of a leader's job is to think in patterns that maximize her own confidence.

Did Cat Osterman lose confidence after giving up a hit? Did Jessica Mendoza lose confidence if her first at-bat of a game was a strikeout? Do any of the greatest athletes in the world allow their confidence to suffer because of a single mistake or episode of bad luck? Of course not. They use the experience to learn, and then they flush the past from their minds. Since they were already good and now they learned more, their confidence rises, even after a mistake. If needed, they lean on thoughts about past peak performances to consciously build their confidence. With practice, an athlete can quickly image her P.P.P.P. (Personal Past Peak Performance) to bring that confidence to this moment.

Athletes' Affirmations:

I am a smart and strong player.

I will give my best effort and accept whatever happens.

I will play the game one pitch at a time.

My best effort is always good enough.

I am confident because I am prepared.

I am talented and excited to play today.

I will trust my teammates and my ability.

I am fast.

I am [insert desired trait].

I have a great screwball.

I have a great [insert skill].

I am in control before each pitch.

I am confident and decisive.

I use enthusiasm to do special things.

I hold myself and others in high regard.

I can handle any adversity that comes my way.

I act based on my plan, not in reaction to things outside of my control.

I always play aggressively and under control.

By my aggressive approach, I create magical moments.

I enjoy training.

I am a lean, mean machine.

I will relentlessly do my job for my team.

I will prepare so that I may move with poise and confidence.

I constantly strive for perfection.

I never expect perfection of myself or others

We will raise the bar and I will hold myself accountable.

Every day and in every way, I am getting better and better.

I love softball and the challenges it provides.

Since confidence is largely the direct result of particular thinking habits, making the commitment to consciously gain confidence by using effective patterns of self-talk is a top priority for leaders. These patterns allow athletes to hang on to and thus benefit from successful experiences and let go of, or de-emphasize, less successful experiences. This unbalanced relationship of emphasizing positives and de-emphasizing negatives is the secret to consciously increasing confidence. Negative thoughts are de-emphasized, or flushed, by focusing on something else, like the next pitch. If they are stuck in the brain because of negative emotions, they will get unstuck with forgiveness. Forgiveness is a critical skill for de-emphasizing thoughts that could seriously damage an athlete's confidence.

On the positive side, affirmations are simple, positive, self-directed thoughts such as, “I am a smart and strong hitter.” They are a form of mental practice that can be used away from the diamond, in practice, or during games. They are reminders of past successes, personal strengths, or positive expectations that an athlete gives herself to increase her confidence. They are used anytime an athlete says simple positive statements to herself often repetitively.

Affirmations may seem tautological and effusive, but if it improves performance, then it has value. They are like the statements a great coach would make to an athlete at just the time she needs to hear it to maximize her confidence. Since she is the most important coach she will ever have, and the most reliable, she can benefit by systematically using affirmations during her pre-performance routines. This is particularly valuable for the athletic personality which tends to get stuck thinking about negatives. Every athlete/scientist should put affirmations into her experimental design to see if they help.

aaron Weintraub Aaron Weintraub holds a B.A. from Emory University (1993) and a M.Ed. from the University of Virginia (2000). He served as an assistant baseball coach for 13 years before starting, a consulting business whose mission is to over-deliver value on goods and services designed to help you win the mental side of the game. He works with teams and individuals, adding clarity to help them get what they want for their sport. also runs camps and clinics and has an online store.Weintraub is the author of Coaches Guide to Winning the Mental Game (Coaches Choice, 2009) and An Elite Athlete’s Manual for Training Mental Skills (self-published, 2011). He lives in The Colony, TX with his wife, Nicole, and their four children.

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