• Kristina Pfeffer, The Ballroom Coach

How to Improve Confidence in Sport


We all talk about confidence, both in life and in relation to sport. But what is confidence? We all know we need to be confident, but how do we do that? This article will answer those questions for you!

Confidence is the belief you have about your ability to execute a specific task successfully. Basically, believing that you can do, what you need to do, at that moment, and get the result you want, whether that is actual results, recognition from your teacher, the audience or self-satisfaction.

Confidence is critical to sport performance and also just to normal life. If you are confident it is more likely that you will focus on the tasks that you need to perform to win, whereas if you are not confident you will focus more on the things you are doing wrong, as well as focusing on the negative qualities instead of actually creating strategies to improve. If you are confident you are better equipped to deal with difficult situations in your career, for example a bad result, or loosing a dance partner, and you will recover from a negative situation faster.

Research shows that confidence is the most important factor for success. Which basically means that if you are confident, you are much more likely to be successful.

Confidence is dynamic, which means that it is always changing. This does not mean that we are not in control. It just means, that confidence can be different depending on the situation. You might say, “ I don’t feel confident today”. Confidence is not an emotion, that we are not able to control. Try to think of confidence as a thought. Instead of trying to feel confident, try to think confidently. When you change your mind everything else will change with it. As confidence is not just a feeling that we have no control over, but a thought, which we are in control of, that means that you are in control of your own confidence.

Confidence is also what we call multidimensional. Meaning that there are lots of different types of confidence. For example I might be confident about my technique but not confident about the way I look.

Several things can affect your confidence. Your confidence can be impacted both positively and negatively from what is happening in your life. Your achievements, for example your results, can affect how confident you are. How you think and feel about yourself also impacts your self-confidence. The actions of the people around you have a significant impact on your confidence as well. So, for example how your teachers talk and act around you, as well as how your parents and other dancers treat you.

Vicarious experiences can have a positive impact on your confidence. This simply means, that if you see someone else who is similar to you succeeding, then you will also believe that you are able to succeed. One example of this is, if you are very short, you might create an idea in your mind that you will never succeed because of your height, but if you see someone else who looks similar to you being successful then you will also start believing that it is possible for you- and your confidence will grow.

To improve confidence we need to focus on the sources of our confidence. In other words where our confidence comes from. Then we need to work on developing them and the overall confidence will then improve. You have to focus on all the sources and improving them and then overall confidence will improve in turn. Try and think about what you feel confident about and what you don’t feel confident about. For example let’s say you feel confident about your technique then ask yourself, “why?”

For example one type of confidence could be the confidence about your image. The sources of that confidence could be because you have great dresses, your teachers have given you positive feedback about your look; you have made great physical preparation etc. You can then go in and improve your sources of confidence (in particular if they are lacking) and then your overall confidence will also improve.

It is advisable to have a variety of types of confidence, as this will create a stronger overall confidence.

I wanted to create some simple tips to understand how to create confidence. Some of them are fairly easy to implement yourself and others you might need some help from a sport psychologist to understand better before you try to implement them into your every day trainings.

1. Focus on what you can Control

To improve your confidence you need to take ownership of your confidence and stop thinking that your confidence is out of your control. Work on your confidence as you would work on your technique, performance etc. Focus on things that are within your control for example being in great shape is within your control, whereas being too tall is not within your control.

2. Set Challenging but Realistic Goals

If your goals are not challenging enough they will not be motivating for you and you might loose your motivation. On the other hand, if they are too high then you will feel like you can never achieve them and it could be detrimental to your confidence. So set goals that are realistic for your level. If you are not sure having a teacher that knows you well might help to determine which goals are realistic for the level you have at the moment.

3. Rethink Failure.

If you don’t get the result you want at a competition, try and see it in a different way. Try to think of it as an opportunity to get better and improve instead of failure. Mistakes are a great opportunity for learning.

4.Focus on Strengths.

Ask your teacher and your partner for positive feedback. We always tend to focus on the things that we need to work on so we tend to forget all the things we do well. Try and ask your teachers and your partner what they like about your dancing.

5. Confident Body Language.

The way you move your body affects the way you feel so make sure you use your body in a way that promotes confidence. Move your body in a way that looks confident and then you will also start to feel confident. Always look up, have your shoulders back and project confidence.

6.Create a Pre-Performance Routine

Pre-performance routines are a specific sequence of actions and thoughts that can help you get into the right mindset. A pre-performance routine can help you prepare on the day of a competition, as well as in practice. Pre-performance routines have been proven to improve confidence as well as concentration and also decrease anxiety.

7.Positive self-talk.

A great way to improve your confidence is to use positive self-talk. Self-talk is the things that we say to ourselves inside our head. Sometimes we can say a lot of negative things before we have to perform, which does not make us dance our best. Changing the things we say to ourselves in our head can have a positive impact on our confidence. It is like having a positive voice in your head.

8. Imagery

Another method is imagery, which is a technique where you create a mental image of what you want to achieve. You imagine the whole scenario in your head, for example thinking the whole competition through in your head and imagining how you dance exactly how you would like to dance. You can imagine yourself walking onto the floor with confidence and looking and feeling your best.

Lastly, it is important to remember that confidence should be worked on all the time and not just before a competition. We should work on our mental skills, such as confidence, in an organised and consistent way, just like we work on our dance skills. If you are interested in reading more about the research behind this article please let me know and I will be happy to provide you with references and further reading.

If you have any questions please comment below

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