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One of the most expressed topics for every athlete, coach, practitioner and even spectators of any sport, is the concept of confidence. Confidence is self-belief. A subjective idea that we can successfully achieve whatever it is we want to achieve. Particularly in sports, we are talking about a situation-specific confidence in which someone believes they will execute a successful performance.

Now…where does this self-belief come from? How we can develop it and maintain it? It’s one of the most important tasks of every coach or instructor beyond teaching a specific set of technical skills. Even though confidence is a subjective idea, it is the product of concrete experiences of success that builds the expectation for future achievements. But, experiences of success cannot build confidence on its own without the right attribution of where that success came from. If an athlete experiences success but attributes their achievement to something external to their luck, mistake of their opponent, or a favorable referee decision, the athlete won’t be able to build confidence based on that experience.

In that regard, confidence is the product of previous successful experiences, an expectation of future success in familiar or unfamiliar situations and the ability to attribute the right amount of responsibility to our success and failures. If we are able to distinguish these different dimensions, we would be able as athletes or coaches to use the right strategies to build confidence in the areas that we need.  

For example, as coaches, we can lay out the training of our athletes with tasks that match their skills and give them the opportunity to achieve concrete success. As athletes, we can monitor our expectations of success and be able to modify our goals in ways that are daring enough to keep our motivation but also that match our skills without creating high levels of anxiety. Additionally, as coaches, we can monitor the way our athletes explain their failure or success and see if whether or not that is conducive to building their confidence.

Even though confidence is a subjective idea, it can be developed, trained and maintained like any other physical skill in order to improve not just the performance of the athlete but their experience in the sport.