I always envied the players who seemed to have unlimited confidence. It didn’t matter if they air balled their previous shot or dribbled off their foot, they were gonna let it fly again the next time. I never had that feeling of supreme fearlessness.
Confidence has been one of the biggest obstacles that I've faced in my career. When I was younger, I struggled to play without second-guessing my mistakes. If I missed my first shot, I was hesitant to shoot again, even if I was wide open. My confidence was always low and I had no idea what to do about it.
My whole perspective on self-confidence changed after I went to Point Guard College (PGC).
One specific philosophy from the PGC camp really hit home. It said: "confidence comes from 2 things: your preparation and what you think about all day."
PGC owner and director Dena Evans does a great job of summing up this approach in the two videos below.
For me, preparation was never the issue. I always worked hard and was disciplined in my training. The more I thought about it, the more I found that my negativity was the biggest drain on my confidence.
At night, I would replay the games in my head, recounting all the little errors I made and mentally berating myself for making those mistakes. At the same time, I mostly ignored the things I had done well. With those types of thoughts, it's no surprise that my confidence suffered.
If you feel like you’re prepared but still lack confidence, here are a few tips that can help you out. These tips all fall under the category of “what you think about all day.”
1) Remind yourself of your hard work
It’s easy to forget how hard you’ve trained. If you’re like me and often discredit your own hard work, it’s time to stop.
It can be incredibly helpful to think of the many hours you’ve spent on the court or in the weight room and recognize that you have earned success. You’ve shot thousands of free throws and have earned the right to be confident when you step to the line.
2) Notice the things you do well
Many players fixate on the negatives rather than the positives (I certainly did). When all you think about is your turnovers, missed shots and poor defense, how are you going to feel confident in yourself or your game?
While it’s important to be somewhat critical, making a habit of noticing positive plays--no matter how small--can go a long way to boosting your confidence. PGC preaches: “be your biggest critic but also your number 1 fan.”
3) Focus on what you can control
It’s pointless to worry about things you can’t control (playing time, officiating, opponent etc.). Doing so is only going to take your focus away from things you actually can control (attitude, effort, approach etc.). What’s more, focusing on things you can’t control promotes a feeling of helplessness, which can detract from your performance.
4) Don’t compare yourself to others
This is one of the most frequent drains on confidence. You can always find someone more talented, athletic or skilled than you. If you fixate on how much worse you are than that person, how much negativity do you think that fosters? It certainly has an adverse impact on your self-perception.
Instead, compete with yourself by measuring your improvement. Think about how much better you are now than you were a month ago. Noticing this kind of improvement is a great way to recognize your own development and build self-confidence.
There’s rarely a quick fix for building confidence. It often takes a long time to break the cycle of self-disparagement. But by incorporating these four habits into what you think about yourself, you can make strides toward building your confidence.
For more on confidence, check out Dena Evans' personal story about overcoming a confidence crisis.