Confidence #2: Another way to build confidence

In part 1, we discussed building confidence by noting and tracking your successes. However, there are other ways to help increase your confidence for performance.

A second strategy to build confidence is to sit back and watch. Watch your teammates, watch your competition, watch videos on youtube or online, or ask your coach to videotape you during practice and then watch it afterwards. But when you’re watching, don’t just watch…watch intently. Here are some ways that you can watch “intently”:

  • Make sure to note the things that the person (or you) is doing well.
  • Notice the things that you are doing wrong, but focusing on the things that you’re doing well will really help to build confidence
  • Take notes to remind yourself for later of what you did well
  • Next time that you are practicing, try to remember the details of the video or image and try to imitate those good things. It may help to put yourself in their shoes or feel yourself doing what they are doing.

You may be asking yourself, how is watching myself or someone else play sport helping me to build confidence? And that is a great question!

Watching someone (or yourself) is helping in two ways:

  1. By watching someone else perform a skill/sport correctly, your body and mind are able to learn and understand what you should be doing.
  2. Once you see someone else perform (especially if they are of a similar size and skill level to you), you will be able to tell yourself that if they can do it, you should be able to do it too. And the more similar they are to you, the better this is for YOUR confidence.

A helpful hint – don’t watch alone. When watching, have a coach or teammate watch with you, so that they can give you feedback when you play or perform. Also, another set of eyes may help to pick up what the person in the video is doing well and what they are not doing well.

This strategy may take some time to get used to, but once you are able to use other people to help build your confidence, the benefits will be worth it.

Goal Setting #2: Getting More Specific

Sitting down to set goals can sometimes be overwhelming. The worksheet provided in the first goal setting post can help get you started thinking about your “big picture” goal, your short-term or weekly goals, and what you need to do to achieve each of your weekly goals. It is often easy to think of where you want to end up at the end of the season, but it can be difficult to set up a plan about how you want to get there. The “how will I get there” goals, or process goals, can be easier to set when broken down into clear and specific categories: skill specific, game or practice plan, physical and mindfulness goals.

• Skill specific goals are goals about particular skill improvement or maintenance.

— For example, following through on your golf swing.–

• Game or practice plan goals are a broader game or practice strategy.

— For example, making sure to stay close to your opponent when playing man-to-man defense.–

• Physical goals are fitness goals that will improve your overall performance.

— For example, increasing your amount of cardio training per week, to avoid fatigue on the soccer field.–

• Mindfulness goals are mental or emotional goals that will help facilitate performance on the field.

— For example, maintaining concentration for the entire competition and letting go of mistakes.–

Now that you have read the short explanations of each type of goal above, try to incorporate these into your goal worksheet to include process goals that fit into these categories. This will help you establish a clear plan for reaching your weekly and big picture goals.

Biofeedback in Sport

Biofeedback techniques offer an important additional tool to help the athlete reach peak performance.  Biofeedback is a process that enables an individual to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance.  Something as simple as placing your fingers on your neck to feel how fast your heart is beating would be a basic example of biofeedback.  A more effective method of biofeedback uses technology to create self-awareness and teach control of body states, such as breathing, heart rate, temperature and muscle tension, which we are typically unaware of in our daily lives.

Biofeedback strategies can be useful during interval training.  This type of workout involves alternating between short bursts of high intensity activity and periods of recovery.  Interval training allows the athlete to workout at higher levels for longer periods of time.  With biofeedback, an athlete can learn to better control their breathing and heart rate.  By being able to more easily increase their breathing and heart rate during the work phase and slow their breathing and heart rate during the rest phase the athlete gets more out of the workout.  Actively preparing your body for each specific part of the interval creates a more efficient workout which leads to faster performance gains.

In practice this could begin simply with greater self-awareness.  Next time you’re working out or playing your sport try to pay attention to the changes that take place in your breathing and heartbeat.  You can even try to take your pulse by placing two fingers on your neck or wrist at different points in the activity.  Once you become more aware of how your body is reacting during exercise or sport you can then start to learn how to regulate it.  This may begin as merely consciously slowing your breathing.

Remember to take a look at the Psychophysiology for Sport Lab page to learn more about biofeedback and to see some ongoing research topics.

Who Are You? Step1: Start Thinking

One of the most important elements of your mental approach to sport is the ability to assess and examine yourself and your performance. In the sport world developing awareness about yourself, your opponent, and your teammates, are all critical components to athletic excellence.  Great players often spend time learning about their responses to challenges, how they will approach competition, and the results they expect.

Accurate and honest knowledge about yourself and your athletic endeavors allows for physical and mental development, strategy creation, and overall sound preparation. Use the questions below to gain a better understanding of how you approach your sport.

1. Three things I enjoy about my sport are?

2. Two accomplishments I am most proud of as an athlete are?

3. My strengths as an athlete are?

4. My areas for Improvement as an athlete are?

5. My goals for the remainder of the season are?

Goal Setting #1: Getting Started

When thinking about athletic goals, it’s easy to come up with big picture ideas, like getting a college scholarship or winning a national championship. Goals like these are important motivators for many athletes and certainly should not be ignored, but they shouldn’t be your only focus. In order to ultimately reach these goals, it’s important to find ways to focus on what needs to be done along the way. Focusing on the process and not the outcome can help you determine when it’s appropriate to focus on an end goal and when it’s more important to focus on what can and should be done in the short-term.

During the season, it is important to set short-term goals to keep yourself on track. At the beginning of the week, try giving yourself one goal that you would like to accomplish. Then think about three things that you can do in practice that week to help you accomplish that goal. Setting these short-term goals can help you track your progress throughout the season, build confidence by seeing successes along the way and keep you motivated on a daily basis.

When thinking about your objectives for the day, the week or the season, it is important to keep in mind that goals should be specific, reasonably challenging, and measurable. And remember, goals are flexible – as you progress throughout the season, your goals should progress with you.

Here’s a short worksheet to get you started:

My big picture goal is:______________________________________

My goal for week #1 is:________________________________________________________

To accomplish this goal I will:




Reflection: How did I do on my week #1 goal?



My goal for week #2 is:_________________________________________________________

To accomplish this goal I will:




Reflection: How did I do on my week #2 goal?


Keep an eye out for more simple ways to goal set in the coming weeks…

Confidence #1: A simple start

Confidence is a term regularly used when describing athletes and high performance. Some people think that either you’re confident or you’re not. However, there are a bunch of ways for athletes to build confidence and improve performance that are simple and available to everyone. Today, we will provide you with a good first step to building your confidence.

The most basic way to build confidence is to know that you’ve performed successfully before, and can therefore do it again. Many athletes simply try to remember when they played well, yet when they are having trouble maintaining confidence, they cannot think of anything positive. So, the next time you do something really well, whether it’s a specific task (i.e. shooting a free throw) or a specific event (i.e. the game last night), write it down. Throw it in your locker or gym bag. Next time you want a confidence boost, read what’s on the card. Also, don’t be afraid to write a bunch of cards and create an arsenal of self-confidence boosting memories.

Keep an eye out for three more simple ways to build confidence in the coming weeks…

Welcome to BU Mental Conditioning

Over the next few months, our team of BU sport psychology graduate students will be introducing you to the field of sport psychology and mental conditioning, while giving you useful strategies to improve your performance.  For a quick introduction to mental conditioning, check out the frequently asked questions tab above.  Check back regularly for updates.