3 Confidence Boosting Strategies for Young Athletes

Confident young women on a soccer team.

Legendary quarterback Joe Namath once said, “When you have confidence, you can have a lot of fun. And when you have fun, you can do amazing things”. As Namath recognized, feeling confident is a prerequisite for enjoying a game and for having success on the field. When you feel anxious or uncertain in your abilities, this mindset can ruin the experience of playing a sport.

Confidence is especially important for young athletes, since kids and teens are very susceptible to feeling self conscious. Fortunately, there are a number of techniques young players can employ to build confidence. To help the readers of our blog, Rocky Top Sports World has put together a guide to three of the best strategies for boosting confidence.

1. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

An essential part of playing any sport is taking chances and risks. When young athletes are afraid of failure, they often decide that the safest thing to do is nothing at all. Rather than face the prospect of missing a shot and humiliating themselves in front of their friends, they may tense up or make an ill advised pass just to get rid of the ball.

The key to overcoming this anxiety is to recognize that it’s OK to fail. Michael Jordan missed 50.3% of all the shots he took during his career. If the greatest basketball player of all time missed more shots than he made, young athletes shouldn’t feel bad about trying and failing! As the great Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”.

(See Also: 4 Important Lessons Positive Coaching Teaches Young Athletes)

2. Engage in Positive Self TalkA high school basketball game.

During sports games, most athletes are constantly talking to themselves about what is currently happening on the field and what they should do next. An athlete’s internal monologue can have a big impact on their performance. Young players who are lacking in self confidence will often engage in what psychologists call “negative self talk”. Examples of negative self talk include:

  • “How could I miss that shot? I’m so bad at this.”
  • “I’m playing terribly tonight. Everyone on the team must be mad at me.”
  • “I can’t do this. It’s just too hard. I should give up”.

As you can see, this self critical mental chatter can be incredibly damaging. Instead of engaging in negative self talk, athletes should try to foster positive self talk. Some examples of positive self talk include:

  • “Forget about that last shot. There’s still plenty of time left in the game.”
  • “I can do this. I’m getting better every day.”
  • “I’ve got this. I did this a million times in practice, and I can do it now.”

Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones can make a world of difference in a young athlete’s performance.

3. Build Confidence with Tasks You’re Good At

Of course, the best way to prepare for a game is by practicing. When young athletes lack confidence, however, they might feel overwhelmed by how much they have to learn. If a basketball player is bad at making free throws, practicing this skill in front of everyone could make him anxious and may overshadow the rest of the practice session.

One way to avoid this problem is by starting practice with easy tasks that everyone is good at. Successfully making a string of layups will build confidence in a player, so when it’s time to shoot some free throws, he won’t get as nervous. Warming up with simple tasks right before a game is also an excellent strategy for getting your team in a positive mindset.

A field with views of the mountains at Rocky Top Sports World.About Rocky Top Sports World

Rocky Top Sports World is one of the best youth sports tournament destinations in the country. Located minutes away from all of the attractions, restaurants, and shops in downtown Gatlinburg, TN, our 80 acre sports campus offers breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains. With seven fields, six basketball courts, 12 volleyball courts, and an onsite grill, our athletic complex has everything you need to host an incredible sports event. To learn about everything going on at Rocky Top Sports World, check out our Smoky Mountain Sports Events Calendar.