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Athletes with low self-confidence have many similar performance killing characteristics. Want to know if you have any you could be eliminating? Read below where 10 common signs are revealed and find out how you can recognize them. Being aware of what you are doing is the first step to improving your performance. Use the tips in this post to start increasing your confidence.

1. Unable to Bounce Back from Mistakes:

Athletes with low confidence can get stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts and behavior after mistakes. This means multiple mistakes can happen when it really only needed to be one. You may notice during games that you are still focusing on a mistake many minutes after it happened. Or you may notice your thoughts being negative towards yourself, or focused on the mistake and what happened.

The most confident athletes can recover from a mistake within a few seconds and do not let it affect their mood or their play.

2. Can’t Control Negative Emotions:

Out of control emotions are a sign of negative thoughts and this may show through your body language or you may notice it in your mind and how you can’t focus on what you are doing.

Negative emotions and their levels depend on the individual but may include anger, anxiety, fear or sadness. Confident athletes can stay composed with a positive attitude in any situation.

3. Performing Poorly Under Pressure:

Failing in pressure situations is a big sign of low confidence. During these times there cannot be any doubt about your ability. Low confidence is underestimating your ability to deal with situations and, you will notice your performance level will be much lower than you know you are capable of.

4. Lack of Focus on Important Information:

You will find yourself distracted by unimportant things such as the crowd, your parents, or events not under your control such as bad calls, the score, the other team or the weather. If you are at your optimum confidence level you will only focus on yourself and what you need to do. You will not need the environment to be distraction free and you will not need perfect conditions for you to feel confident.

5. Worrying About the Future and Fearing Failure:

If your confidence is low you have fears that you will not be able to perform at a level necessary to do well or to overcome obstacles. During games your thoughts about the future will prevent you from focusing on what you are doing in the moment, or before games they may prevent you from preparing correctly.

You may feel overly anxious or overcome with fear about what will happen. Confident athletes have belief and the knowledge that whatever happens in the future even if unexpected, they will overcome them and perform at their best.

6. Lack of Motivation and Enjoyment:

You will begin to notice that you dread going to practice or games because it means there will be stress or anxiety about your ability, and there will always be situations that you feel you can’t deal with. You may start to find reasons or excuses not to compete or train.

Participation in sport at any level is supposed to be enjoyable and if you are at your optimum confidence level you will be able to both perform well and enjoy it!

7. Bad Leadership:

If you are a team captain or have a leadership role you may notice low confidence showing in your interaction with teammates. To be an effective leader you have to have unshakable confidence in not only your skills but in your team’s skills. You have to be able to show belief that your team can play well even in difficult situations.

Signs that you are lacking in this area may be inability to direct or motivate teammates, going silent if you are not playing well or not being able to call players out or correct them. Confident athletes are strong leaders who are not worried about what people think of them and can be a role model for the rest of the team.

8. Performing Better in Practice than in Games:

This is an easy sign to recognize that shows low self-confidence. Do you often have great practices or warm ups and are unable to repeat this during competition? Do you leave the field feeling like you could have done more?

If you have an optimum level of confidence you will feel satisfied at the end that you have performed at your best. You can increase your confidence further during practice knowing that all the hard work you are putting in will show at game time.

9. Lack of Trust in Yourself:

Low confidence can mean that you don’t trust you skills or that you lack belief in the preparation you do during practice. During games this may translate to playing it safe or avoiding risks. The athletes who have optimum confidence are able to take risks and play to win. They do not fear failure and have confidence in their preparation.

10. Performance Slumps:

As already discussed in previous posts confidence level is very closely related to performance level. If you find yourself in a slump for a few games or a few weeks you may need to look at where your confidence was when you were last performing well compared to where it is now.

A string of bad performances can result in lower and lower levels of confidence which in turn affects performance and you get stuck in a negative cycle. This is why it is important to learn the skills needed to build confidence that is not based on how you perform.

What to do if you recognize these signs in yourself or in your athlete?

Self awareness is the first step. Acknowledge that all of these signs can be changed and that you are in control of them. You can learn to use the strategies needed to overcome these obstacles.

At different times almost all athletes will experience some of these signs. They are not the end of the world, but by recognizing these signs and making changes you can further optimize your performance and gain an edge over competitors that are not working on these areas.

They also don’t have to happen all the time for you to benefit from the skills I will teach you. Anyone can benefit from these skills even if you don’t view any of the above signs as a “problem.” Do not think that you need to have a problem in order to benefit from sport psychology and mental skills training.

What is the first step to change low self-confidence?

Start by recognizing which of the 10 common signs above you can see in yourself. Make it a goal when you are playing next to notice when you are doing any of these things. As soon as you notice you need to tell yourself to stop and refocus. You want to refocus on your strengths and how to play well.

Mental Muscle Exercise:

A great exercise to do is develop a strengths list. Write down at least 10 strengths you have that help you play well in your sport. These can be physical such as I can move fast, I am powerful or I can jump high. They can be technical for example, I can hit the ball where I want on the court, I have a strong backhand or I am great at shooting threes. They can also be mental such as I can handle pressure situations, I am able to ignore distractions or I can bounce back quickly from mistakes.

Try to include at least a few from each category. When I do this with my athletes I have them write it down on an index card and carry it around with them. This way whenever they have doubts about themselves they can be reminded of all the things they do well.

If you stay focused on your strengths, you will feel more in control and more confident. Plus you will play better!

If you would like to learn more tips and exercises you can follow to become a more confident athlete sign up for my free newsletter below. You will receive a free e-book that includes the top 10 mental mistakes athletes make plus the tips and exercises top athletes use.

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Zoe Littlewood, M.A. -
Sport Psychology Consultant & Mental Skills Coach

Zoe specializes in working with individuals, teams, parents and coaches to produce performance enhancement, mental toughness and a winning mindset.

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