"I Don't Have Any Confidence" .... Now What?

Every soccer player, at every level in the world, has had a crisis of confidence in their career.  More realistically, most players have periods of low confidence at multiple moments throughout their careers as youth, collegiate, professional, or international players.  This is a fact

For some reason, instead of accepting these challenges as inevitable learning opportunities in the development and growth process, many people look at a “confidence crisis” as a rare, unfortunate, and unfair event.  This mentality is counter-productive to development and makes it far more difficult to move beyond these moments to future success.  These people have a mistaken view of success (see below - credit to Demitri Martin):


To repeat – every soccer player, at every level in the world, has had a crisis of confidence.  So what separates the players that move through these moments, learn from them, get better, and perform despite pressure, from the players that are frozen in inaction, fear and doubt?  The answer is simple: their reaction.

I wrote an article published in Soccer Coaching International several years ago about managing psychological demands on players – with the goal of helping players and coaches understand how to react in these moments.  You can see the whole article here.  Below are some relevant excerpts:

  • the battle to establish and keep confidence is intensely personal; confidence cannot be gifted to a player by another person, it has to be earned through personal experience.  In other words, at its core, true confidence is only earned by personal accomplishment in overcoming difficulties and obstacles, and a personal history of overcoming difficulties will create a mentality of long-term confidence in any player”
  • players that are insulated from challenge, frustration and disappointment obtain a false belief in their own abilities – a false belief that grows stronger the longer the insulation lasts.  Because they are not challenged, and therefore easily find success, these players begin to over-estimate their own performance and artificially raise their own expectations of performance.  When they are suddenly put into a challenging environment for the first time, the collision between expectations and reality is painful; the player is not prepared for the challenge and the inevitable short-term failures that come with it.”
  • a player that has been carefully and frequently exposed to short-term challenges, and who has therefore, many times, faced frustration and disappointment associated with them and overcome them, will have developed a belief in their ability to “solve problems.”  When they face a reality that their current performance may not be good enough, they know what is required to eliminate the performance gap and how to deal with the surrounding emotion.  In short, the player will have confidence in their own problem-solving ability, and therefore in their own long-term success.”
  • “…at some point every player will make the statement “I just don’t have any confidence.”  This moment is usually created by a string of poor performances by the player, dissatisfaction with their role on the team, or some other disappointment… every developing player must understand the reality that short-term confidence is always going to come and go.”
  • “When players view the lack of confidence as a terrible personal tragedy, they are less motivated to get better, and often seek external reasons for their “unfortunate plight”.  However, when players see the battle for confidence as a permanent reality and challenge in development, the battle itself can become a motivator.  In this manner, the difficulty can actually be a positive.”

Dr. Jim Taylor (PhD Psychology at University of San Francisco) describes confidence as a skill that can be learned in an article in the Huffington Post:

  • “…you have the option to practice good or bad confidence skills. If you are very negative all of the time, you are practicing and ingraining those negative confidence skills, so when you compete, just like a bad technical habit, that negativity is what will come out and it will hurt your performance. In other words, you became highly skilled at something that actually hurts your sports performance … To change bad confidence skills, you must retrain the way you think. You have to practice good confidence skills regularly until the old negative habits have been broken and you have learned and ingrained the new positive skills of confidence.”

Dr. Taylor's recommendations on winning the “Confidence Challenge” (as he terms it) are remarkably simple to understand:

  • Develop the attitude that demanding situations are challenges to be sought out.
  • Believe that experiencing challenges is a necessary part of becoming the best athlete you can be.
  • Be well-prepared to meet the challenges.
  • Stay positive and motivated in the face of the difficulties.
  • Focus on what you need to do to overcome the challenges.
  • Accept that you may experience failure when faced with new challenges.
  • Most importantly, never, ever give up!

For another view of building confidence … look at this:


You are in control of your own confidence … by preparing, working hard, accepting the reality of challenge and mistake, finding moments of success in what you do, thinking and acting confidently, and then going through the same process over and over again!



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