The Confidence Conundrum: Why talented athletes struggle with confidence

Cassidy Preston

Dr. Cassidy Preston is the founder of Consistent Elite Performance and a full-time high-performance coach helping elite athletes, teams, and businesses increase their performance and well-being. A former OHL & pro hockey player, Cassidy combines his personal experiences with the current research in sport and performance psychology to create relatable and practical strategies for his clients to apply.

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It can result in playing too safe, hesitation, and significantly underperforming.
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Despite putting in the hard work and having the talent, it’s common for athletes to get stuck in The Confidence Conundrum.

There are three main explanations:

  1. Major Adversity
    A talented player will often lose their confidence when they face significant adversity. It could be they don’t how to take criticism from a coach or their parent, a new role with less playing time, a performance slump, or a major setback (I.e., getting cut, sent down, or injured). They have probably experienced lots of success throughout their athletic career, but like every athlete, they will eventually face major adversity and if they don’t have the right mindset this adversity will derail their confidence!
  2. The Yo-Yo Effect
    Most athletes tie their self-confidence to getting approval from others and achieving results. The problem with this is as their performance goes up and down, so does their confidence – just like a yo-yo. Plus their self-image is dependent on how others view them instead of their actual abilities.
  3. Own Worst Critic
    It’s important for players to be hard on themselves, it is necessary for growth and it is key to getting to higher levels. The problem arises when they are TOO hard on themselves and they become their own worst critic. The key to consistent confidence is having an accurate self-image.

The bottom line is if your players’ mind is full of self-doubt and they are playing afraid to make mistakes, then they are in The Confidence Conundrum.

As a result, they play too safe, hesitate, and significantly underperform.

The good news is your players don’t have to stay stuck in The Confidence Conundrum.

Take Camaryn Baber for example. He is a really good hockey player, but he wasn’t getting much playing time in the OHL – he was on a great team and the coach had him on the fourth line.

He was in a Classic Confidence Conundrum Trifecta – frustrated with his situation (major adversity), his confidence was down (yo-yo effect), and he was beating himself up over his mistakes and lack of performance (own worst critic).

But after working on his mindset he was able to break out of the conundrum:

“I am so much more confident. I hold the puck more. I do what I can in the shifts I get, and I am more positive about hockey overall. I want to go to the rink and get better even more now.”

He was back to playing like himself and finished the season with 19 points in his last 26 games. Which is a 386% improvement in points per game!

If your players have fallen into The Confidence Conundrum and are not getting the most out of their abilities, then you and your team will definitely benefit from the Mental Toughness Playbook for Coaches.

Get started by clicking HERE.

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