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Why do athletes lose confidence in competition? |03 October 2019

Coaches and managers, do your athletes struggle with losing confidence mysteriously when they go into competition?

If your athletes fit this profile, poor confidence might be the issue. How can you identify poor confidence in your athletes?

Poor confidence is when athletes' confidence rapidly shifts from day to day or even moment-to-moment depending on how athletes perform.

Do you have athletes who develop confidence during practice, but then lose confidence when they step into competition? How can confidence disappear so quickly for seasoned athletes under pressure in big moments?

Here's what one Seychellois athlete said about what happens to her in competition:

"My whole life I've been regarded as having an excellent physical game, but in the big moments, I come up short mentally. I struggle with confidence in big tournaments. But more often than not I see myself succumb to the pressure of big moments."

As a coach, you want to understand why high confidence evaporates from practice to competition and what changes.

It's not really clear until you look closely at your athlete’s overall mental game – the complete picture.

You'll find many reasons that athletes who work hard in practice, lose confidence when they step into competition...

These athletes might:

Doubt their ability or training/practice;

Are intimidated by competition;

Have a past history of choking in big events;

Have a fear of failure and worry about outcome;

Worry too much about disappointing others;

Attempt to perform perfectly in competition;

Turn pregame jitters into anxiety.

I find the real culprit for athletes who underperform in competition is fear of failure.

Thus, you want to assess your athletes’ complete mental game. What are the top confidence killers that undermine your athletes' confidence? And what is the underlying source of fear?

 Tips to help athletes develop more stable confidence:

1. Instill a long-term mindset about confidence. How many years of experience do your athletes have? That's how long they have been working on confidence. Make sure they know this.

2. Fear of failure is the biggest issue for athletes who lose confidence in competition. When they are tense and afraid to perform, athletes' performance suffers, and this hurts confidence. Find out what the biggest fear your athletes have about competition and address this.

3. Help athletes focus on their talents instead of the strengths of the competition. When athletes put others on a pedestal – thinking others are better – they risk feeling less confident. Help your athletes focus on their own talents and strengths as an athlete.

4. Assess if your athletes are trying harder or being more perfect during competition. Both mindsets lead you to more tension, being overly serious, and lack of trust in well-learned skills.

When you can help your athletes understand the ways they under perform in competition, you are able to remove the barriers to developing stable self-confidence.


Start feeling and thinking in a confident way

Understand where your confidence comes from. Once your sources of confidence are understood, then you can begin to take more ownership over your overall confidence.


CATCH YOURSELF DOING THINGS RIGHT – Starting today keep a victory log or a recording of little things you did that day which are small victories. If you pushed yourself beyond training limit, then record that.

If you jump a little higher, trained harder, record those. By getting into a habit of hunting for little daily victories and writing them down, you will gradually build self-confidence. Keep the victory log handy and review it daily, especially when you’re down.


Your level of confidence is very important if you want to be successful.


Maurice Denys (Mr)                                                                                                               

Certified Mental Coach (CMC)

S.N.H.S.Dip (Sports Psychology)                                                   

S.N.H.S.Dip (Life coaching)


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