Many athletes struggle with lack of confidence, especially in adverse situations. They lack the belief to use their overlearned skills, trust in their training, or just plain “go for it” and as a result become tight and hesitant in their performance. Coaches often struggle to help these athletes despite their expertise in teaching their sport. Unfortunately, coaches are not always equipped to deal with the psychological dynamics that create decrements in confidence, including perfectionistic thinking, self-presentation concerns, self-handicapping, and in general, harmful patterns of thinking. This article will describe the patterns of thinking that are troublesome for sustaining high confidence in pressure situations, and important principles and strategies for enhancing the confidence of athletes’ in and out of competition. Often, helping athletes deal with their lack of confidence comes down to focusing on controllable aspects of preparation and performance, developing new patterns of thinking, challenging old, negative habits, and accepting that doubts are normal for the high-achieving athlete. The objective will be to provide coach educators an opportunity to expand their own knowledge of coaching athletes to include confidence and composure.
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Dr. Larry Lauer is the Director of Coaching Education and Development in the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports (ISYS) at Michigan State University. Larry has a Ph D in exercise and sport science, sport psychology and is the consultant to USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. Larry is a coaching, athlete, and parent educator for USA Hockey and the United States Tennis Association. An AASP Certified Consultant and listed in the United States Olympic Committee Sport Psychology Registry, 2008-2012, Larry was named one of the 100 Most Influential Sport Educators in America by the Institute for International Sport.