Believing in Your Abilities
[even in the worst of times]
SELF-CONFIDENCE Believing in Your Abilities [even in the worst of times] The whole thing is never to get negative about yourself. Sure, it’s possible that the other guy you’re playing is tough, and that he may have beaten you the last time you played, and okay, maybe you haven’t been playing all that well yourself. But the minute you start thinking about these things you’re dead. I go out to every match convinced that I’m going to win. That is all there is to it. Jimmy Connors, Former Professional Tennis Player I go into a race and I think of everything that I have done and what I’ve done to prepare for this race. I’ve worked hard for this . . . I think the people who do get to the top are the people who are really confident in what they did. World Championship Team Swimmer
What Is Self-Confidence?
If I were to ask you to picture in your mind a confident swimmer, how would you describe this person? Descriptions that are typically used include: head up, bounce to her step, shoulders back, speaks of being able to swim well, manages her nervousness, seems unfazed by competitors, etc. While these descriptions may be accurate, a characteristic of a confident athlete that you can’t see is BELIEF – an inner belief or conviction in one’s ability to swim well regardless of the external environment. Essentially, self-confidence is the belief in one’s ability to succeed. When your coach tells you the intervals to hold in a set, confidence is the belief that you can make the intervals. When you are at Nationals for the first time and step up on the block for your race, confidence is the belief in your ability to race up to your capabilities (as you have demonstrated throughout the season). Research on elite athletes across sports suggests that a high level of self-confidence, as well as the ability to maintain that high level over time, is a factor they have in common. The challenge is in figuring out how this skill/ characteristic can be developed in athletes. Contrary to what most people think, people who have high self-confidence sometimes doubt themselves or their abilities; elite athletes report feelings of apprehension and pressure prior to competition but still perform well. So being confident doesn’t mean the absence of negative thoughts or feelings. Rather, selfconfident athletes believe in their ability to perform well despite feelings such as apprehension or doubt. For example, when training has been going poorly or when competitive performances are below average, confident athletes still believe in their ability to perform well. Not an easy task! In this chapter, we’ll discuss strategies to help you become a more confident athlete.
The Value of Being a Confident Swimmer
As has been discussed, high self-confidence is a characteristic that we tend to see in elite level athletes. To convince you that working to develop and manage your self-confidence is important, we are going to describe positive characteristics that are associated with high confidence. To increase your self confidence try thinking and behaving this way. Hopefully you’ll begin to feel like you’re “sitting on top of the world”: Confident swimmers consistently work hard in practice. Confident swimmers know that much of their confidence is developed through experiencing success. They have learned to work on the controllable factors in practice that can be developed to help them enhance their abilities (and give them a feeling of success). They know that to be confident when they step up to race, they have to have put in the work. Confident swimmers focus on controllables. Instead of spending time worrying about what they cannot do or might not be able to do, or otherwise doubting themselves, confident swimmers are more able to focus on the task at hand. While the doubt and concern they experience is real, they know that...
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