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Building Confidence: Perception of skill

"The game was decided in the details"! We hear this often in post-match interviews conducted by top athletes from the different sports.

However, the big question is, what are these details they refer to?

We don´t need studies or books to understand that when refering to these details they talk about two major factors that play an important role when the stakes are high in a match:

1- Confidence

2- Luck

Since luck is not something we have the ability to develop (but it is directly associated with the amount of effort you put into something) we are going to focus on the first one, the confidence.

How to build confidence?

First and foremost lets get one thing out of the way, confidence is a mental skill and therefore is possible to work on! We shall attempt to make some relevant questions on this issue and see if the answers help us to reach some conclusions at the end.

1- Foundations of confidence?

Maybe the best way to see what is beneath this mental skill is to define “The champions mindset“ since they are the reference when it comes to the possession of this mental skill.

Lacking a better one, after a long reflexion about this issue this was the definition we arrived to for the “champions mindset“:

An intrinsically motivated person constantly seeking to surpass obstacles based on their perception of value.

Accepting this definition, then comes another big question:

How can we influence their perception of value as coaches?

First we need to understand that the perception of value that the player has of his own skills is not going to change because of external feedback, positive or negative... However, there is a way to influence this using two variables.

1- Player skill Set perceived by the coach - here is where truly knowing the player you are working with really pays off, and our mission is to help closing the gap between their perception of value and their true level of skill

2- Task/obstacle presented - selecting a task that requires from the player to battle against his perception of value vs true value is the only way we can influence their confidence in their set of skills and ultimately in their game.

Follows an example of how to adjust this two variables in a way that enables us to be active part of the building confidence process by influencing their perception of value:

  • When the player has clear perception of value below their true skill level

  • Task presented should be adjusted in a way that challenges the player to perform slightly above their perception of value but never under it (otherwise we risk the player not seeing us as a valid source of information when it comes to judging his skill level)

  • No matter what, or how long, you must be on their side until the task purposed is finished. Only then we are walking towards a transformation of perception of value and therefore their confidence level

Final Note:

This is one of the reasons why so many top athletes say that success/confidence comes from everyday work! Perception of value and confidence cant be changed in a day but they can be worked and enhanced with this constant battle between the level of difficulty from the task vs perception of value from the athlete.

As coaches we should take an active part in this long term process by influencing the environment using the variables we can control rather than an approach of “confidence comes with results and there is nothing I can do“

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