Give Specific, Positive Feedback: Coaches can help the confidence process by giving players specific, positive feedback.
A volleyball coach is all too familiar with the dread that can affect a player in serve receive during a tight match. Coaches see it on the athlete’s face and the athlete certainly feels it. The face seems to be saying, “Please, don’t serve it to me. I can’t pass it.”
Now picture a serve receive drill during practice in which everyone gets to serve and to pass. How often do you see that look of dread? Hardly ever. In both instances, though, the task and skill are the exact same – serve receive. So why does this become more challenging in games?
This is the difference between an anxious player and a confident player. Anxiety happens when our thoughts drift from positive and realistic to negative and imaginary. Simply, we start to convince ourselves that we do not have the skills to complete the task at hand.
Go back to the thoughts of the anxious players in serve receive during a tight match, “I can’t pass it.” Their confidence is so low, they are convinced their passing skill suddenly has been taken from them, even though it is the same skill they have demonstrated hundreds of times in practice! And as coaches and players know, this anxious mindset is not restricted to serve receive; it also occurs, for instance, when serving during close matches, and in general for athletes struggling overall to perform well; what is commonly known as a “slump.”
Is it possible, then, for an athlete to feel confident in these instances as well? Of course it is.
When an athlete’s perceived skill level matches the perceived challenge at hand, then the athlete is confident. For instance, in the first example, confident athletes would see a serve receive pass as a simple task, and view their serve receive skill as high. They know the serve can be passed.
How does an athlete get to this confident state? By changing his or her mindset.
Here are 3 ways to instill confidence in your athletes: