September 7


Boost Your Athlete’s Confidence: What to Say When Feeling Down?

By Joshua Turner

September 7, 2023

As an athlete, confidence is key to your success. It is what drives you to push yourself beyond your limits. However, there are times when you may struggle with a lack of confidence, which can be detrimental to your performance. Knowing how to address this issue and regain your confidence is important, whether it’s because of a bad game, injury, or personal issues.

Understanding the importance of confidence is the first step in overcoming a lack of it. Confidence can affect your mental and emotional well-being, as well as your physical performance.

It can also impact your ability to set and achieve goals and can even affect your relationships with coaches, teammates, and family members. By recognizing the essence of confidence, you can begin to take steps to build it back up.

Key Takeaways

  • Confidence is crucial for athletes to perform at their best.
  • A lack of confidence can have negative effects on mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
  • Athletes who lack self-confidence often struggle with their performance and experience negative emotions.
  • Confident athletes tend to perform better and enjoy the sport more.
  • Practice, experience, repetition, technique, and skill are all critical factors in building confidence in sports. By focusing on these areas, athletes can improve their performance and build the confidence needed to succeed on the field or court.
  • Effective communication and social support are key to helping athletes struggling with a lack of confidence.
  • Encourage them to express their feelings, provide constructive feedback, surround them with positive and supportive people, and remind them that asking for help is okay.

Understanding the Importance of Confidence

Confidence is a critical factor in athletic performance. Athletes who lack self-confidence often struggle with their performance, leading to poor results and frustration. Confidence is the belief in oneself and one’s abilities, and it’s essential for success in sports.

When athletes lack confidence, they tend to focus on their weaknesses and mistakes instead of their strengths and successes. This negative mindset can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the athlete performs poorly because they believe they will fail. In contrast, confident athletes focus on their strengths, leading to better performance and results.

Confidence is also essential for an athlete’s mental and emotional well-being. Athletes who lack self-confidence often feel anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed, which can negatively impact their performance and overall health. On the contrary, confident athletes tend to feel more relaxed, focused, and motivated, which leads to better performance and enjoyment of the sport.

Confidence is crucial to athletic overall well-being. As coaches, it’s essential to help athletes build their confidence by focusing on their strengths and successes and providing positive feedback and support.

Identifying the Causes of Lack of Confidence

When an athlete struggles with a lack of confidence, it’s essential to identify the root causes. Doubt, fear, and failure can all contribute to a loss of confidence, as can pressure and fear of failure. Anxiety, self-doubt, criticism, comparisons, negative thinking, poor performance, setbacks, and injury can also play a role.

Negative Thinking


Negative thinking is one of the most common causes of a lack of confidence. Athletes who engage in negative self-talk may struggle to believe in their abilities, even when they have the skills and experience necessary to succeed. Comparing oneself to others can also be damaging, as can focusing too much on past failures.


Pressure is another significant factor that can contribute to a lack of confidence. Athletes who feel pressure to perform may struggle with anxiety and self-doubt, particularly if they have experienced setbacks or injuries in the past. Criticism from coaches, teammates, or fans can also be demoralizing, particularly if it’s not constructive or helpful.

It’s essential to consider the athlete’s overall mental and emotional well-being. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues can all impact confidence and performance. In some cases, athletes may benefit from therapy or counseling to address underlying issues and build resilience.

The Role of Coaches and Parents

Coaches and parents play a crucial role in helping athletes overcome their lack of confidence. Coaches should create a supportive and positive environment that encourages athletes to take risks and learn from their mistakes. They should also provide constructive feedback and praise effort, not only results.

Parents can also help by being positive and supportive without putting too much pressure on their children. They should focus on their child’s effort and progress rather than the outcome. Parents need to listen to their child’s concerns and help them develop coping strategies for dealing with setbacks.

Coaching programs and personal coaching can also be beneficial for athletes struggling with confidence. These programs can provide individualized support and help athletes develop mental toughness and resilience. However, choosing a program or coach that focuses on positive reinforcement and building confidence is important rather than pushing athletes to perform better.

Coaches and parents should work together to create a supportive and positive environment that encourages athletes to develop their skills and confidence. By focusing on effort and progress rather than results, athletes can learn to overcome their lack of confidence and reach their full potential.

Techniques to Boost Confidence

Boosting an athlete’s confidence can be challenging but not impossible. Here are some techniques that can help an athlete struggling with a lack of confidence:

  • Positive self-talk: Encourage the athlete to use positive self-talk before, during, and after the game. This can help them focus on their strengths and abilities rather than their weaknesses and mistakes.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: Consider referring the athlete to a mental health professional who can provide cognitive-behavioral therapy. This type of therapy can help the athlete identify and change negative thought patterns that contribute to their lack of confidence.
  • Mental strategies: Help the athlete develop mental strategies to manage their anxiety and stress. This can include visualization, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Control what you can: Encourage the athlete to focus on what they can control rather than what they can’t. This can help them feel more empowered and confident.
  • Set achievable goals: Help the athlete set achievable goals that are within their control. This can help them build confidence as they achieve each goal.

Using these techniques, an athlete can develop a more positive mindset and boost their confidence on and off the field.

Setting Realistic Goals and Expectations

One of the most influential things you can do to help an athlete struggling with a lack of confidence is to help them set realistic goals and expectations. It’s essential to realize that every athlete has a unique set of abilities and limitations, and it’s essential to set challenging and achievable goals.

When setting goals, focus on the process rather than the outcome. Instead of setting a goal to win a competition, focus on setting goals related to the athlete’s performance and preparation. This can help the athlete stay focused on the task at hand and avoid becoming overwhelmed by unrealistic expectations.

It’s also crucial to help the athlete prepare for the task at hand. This might involve breaking down the task into smaller, more manageable steps or helping the athlete develop a pre-competition routine that helps them stay focused and calm.

It’s essential to help the athlete focus on the task. This might involve helping them develop mental strategies to stay focused and avoid distractions or encouraging them to stay present in the moment rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. By setting realistic goals and expectations and helping the athlete stay focused and prepared, you can help them build confidence and achieve success.

The Power of Practice and Repetition

One of the most effective ways to build confidence in sports is through practice and repetition. The more an athlete practices a skill, the more comfortable and confident they become in executing it during a game or competition.

Experience is also a critical factor in building confidence. The more an athlete competes, the more they become accustomed to the pressures and challenges of their sport. This experience translates into increased confidence and a better understanding of how to perform under pressure.

Technique and skill are also crucial factors in building confidence. When an athlete has a solid understanding of the fundamentals of their sport, they are better equipped to execute their skills with confidence. This is why coaches often emphasize the importance of mastering the basics before moving on to more advanced techniques.

Repetition is key to building muscle memory and improving sports performance. By repeating a skill over and over again, an athlete’s body becomes accustomed to the movement, making it easier to execute during a game. This repetition also helps build confidence, as the athlete knows they have worked to master the skill.

Dealing With Mistakes and Failure

Mistakes and failure are a natural part of any athlete’s journey. Recognizing that even the best athletes make mistakes and experience failure is essential. Encourage them to view these experiences as opportunities to learn and grow.

One way to help athletes deal with mistakes and failures is to focus on the process rather than the outcome. This means emphasizing the effort and hard work that went into the performance rather than the result itself. This can help athletes feel more in control of their performance and less focused on external factors.


It’s also important to help athletes develop a growth mindset. This means teaching them to view challenges and setbacks as opportunities for growth and improvement rather than as evidence of their limitations. Encourage them to embrace challenges and to see failure as a stepping stone to success.

Remind athletes that mistakes and failures are a natural part of the learning process. Encourage them to keep a positive attitude and to stay focused on their goals. They can overcome any obstacle and achieve their dreams with hard work and perseverance.

Mental Toughness and Resilience

Athletes who struggle with a lack of confidence often need to work on their mental toughness and resilience. Mental toughness refers to the ability to stay focused, motivated, and confident in the face of adversity. On the contrary, resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks and failures.

To develop mental toughness and resilience, athletes should:

  • Practice positive self-talk and visualization techniques to build confidence and focus.
  • Set realistic goals and break them down into smaller, achievable steps.
  • Learn to manage stress and anxiety through techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness.
  • Develop a growth mindset and embrace challenges as opportunities for learning and growth.

Mental toughness and resilience are essential for athletes to perform at their best on and off the field. By developing these skills, athletes can overcome obstacles and achieve their goals, no matter how difficult they may seem.

Sports Psychology and Mental Health Support

Athletes struggling with a lack of confidence can benefit from sports psychology and mental health support. Sports psychologists are trained to help athletes manage their mental health and improve their performance. They can work with athletes to develop coping strategies, set achievable goals, and improve their confidence.

A therapist can also be a valuable resource for athletes struggling with confidence issues. They can help athletes identify the root cause of their lack of confidence and develop a plan to address it. Therapy can also help athletes manage stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues that can impact their confidence.

Mental health is as important as physical health for athletes. It’s essential to take care of both to perform at their best. By working with a sports psychologist or therapist, athletes can improve their mental health and build the confidence they need to succeed in their sport.

Communication and Social Support

One of the best ways to help an athlete struggling with a lack of confidence is to communicate with them regularly. Encourage them to express their feelings and thoughts about their performance. Listen actively and empathetically to what they have to say and avoid criticizing them. Instead, provide constructive feedback and offer solutions to help them improve.

Social support is another crucial aspect of building an athlete’s confidence. Surrounding them with positive and supportive people can help them feel more confident and motivated. Encourage them to join a supportive team or community where they can share their experiences and learn from others.

Everyone experiences setbacks and struggles at some point. Help the athlete understand that they are not alone in their struggle and that asking for help is okay. Encourage them to seek support from coaches, teammates, or mental health professionals if needed.


Enjoyment and Motivation in Sports

When an athlete is struggling with confidence, it’s important to remind them why they started playing sports in the first place. Encouraging them to focus on the fun and enjoyment of the game can help reignite their motivation.

One way to do this is to remind them of their favorite moments on the field or court. Encourage them to think back to a time when they felt truly happy and fulfilled while playing. This can help them remember why they fell in love with the sport and reignite their passion for it.

Another way to increase enjoyment and motivation is to set small, achievable goals. This can help build confidence and provide a sense of accomplishment. Encourage the athlete to focus on the process and celebrate small victories along the way.

Remembering the athlete that happiness and enjoyment should be the ultimate goal, not merely winning, is critical. Encourage them to focus on the journey rather than the destination. This can help alleviate pressure and allow them to play more freely and confidently.

Case Studies of Successful Athletes

Successful athletes have a common trait – they believe in themselves. For instance, Simone Biles, an American gymnast, has won 25 world championship medals and is a 4-time Olympic gold medalist. Simone has been open about her struggles with confidence, but she has learned to focus on her strengths and embrace her imperfections. She also surrounds herself with a supportive team that motivates her to keep pushing herself.

Another example is Michael Jordan, a retired American basketball player. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Michael was cut from his high school basketball team, but he used that experience as motivation to work harder and improve his skills. He also had a strong work ethic and a competitive mindset that helped him succeed.

Serena Williams, an American tennis player, is another example of a successful athlete who struggled with confidence. She has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, and 14 Grand Slam doubles titles. Serena has faced criticism and racism throughout her career, but she has used those experiences to fuel her determination to succeed. She also credits her success to her mental strength and her ability to stay focused on her goals.

Successful athletes have a strong sense of self-belief and the ability to overcome obstacles. They also have a supportive team and a willingness to work hard and improve their skills. By focusing on their strengths and embracing their imperfections, these athletes have achieved world champion status and continue to inspire others to do the same.

Specific Sports and Confidence

When it comes to soccer, athletes have to focus on their strengths and what they do well on the field. Encourage them to acknowledge their accomplishments and not dwell on their mistakes. In equestrian sports, remind the athlete of the bond they have with their horse and to trust their training. It’s also crucial to keep in mind that even seasoned cyclists have off days.

For lacrosse players, encourage them to visualize themselves making successful plays and consistently practice their skills. In hockey, remind the athlete to stay focused on the present moment and not get caught up in the pressure of the game. Encourage them to communicate with their teammates and to trust in their abilities.

For youth sports and kids, it’s crucial to emphasize the importance of having fun and learning from mistakes. Encourage them to try new things and not be afraid of failure. Remind them that making mistakes is a natural part of learning and growth.

It’s important to tailor your approach to the specific sport and athlete. By focusing on their strengths, encouraging them to trust in their abilities, and emphasizing the importance of learning and growth, you can help boost their confidence and help them perform at their best.


It is significant to understand that lack of confidence is a common issue among athletes, and it can be addressed with the right approach. Boosting an athlete’s self-efficacy, self-esteem, and self-worth can improve their overall attitude and beliefs about themselves and their abilities.

Inspiration can also play a significant role in helping athletes overcome their lack of confidence. Encourage them to find role models who have faced similar struggles and have come out on top. Remind them that setbacks are a natural part of the journey and that they can bounce back stronger.

Ultimately, the key to helping athletes struggling with a lack of confidence is to provide them with unwavering support and encouragement. Help them focus on their strengths and accomplishments, and remind them that they can achieve their goals with hard work and dedication. With the right mindset and support, any athlete can overcome their lack of confidence and achieve success.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How can you help an athlete focus on their strengths?

One effective way to help an athlete focus on their strengths is to encourage them to keep a journal where they write down their successes and what they did well in each game or practice. You can also remind them of their strengths and encourage them to visualize themselves using these strengths during competition.

Q. What are some effective ways to motivate an athlete?

One way to motivate an athlete is to set achievable goals with them and then celebrate when they reach those goals. You can also provide positive feedback and encouragement and remind them of their progress and accomplishments. It can also be helpful to remind them of their love for the sport and why they started playing in the first place.

Q. What kind of positive reinforcement can you offer to an athlete?

Positive reinforcement can come in many forms, such as verbal praise, high-fives, or small rewards like a favorite snack or a fun activity outside practice. It’s important to tailor the positive reinforcement to the individual athlete and what motivates them the most.

Q. How can you help an athlete overcome their fear of failure?

One way to help an athlete overcome their fear of failure is to reframe their thinking about failure. Encourage them to see failure as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than as a reflection of their worth or ability. You can also help them set realistic goals and focus on the process rather than the outcome.

Q. What are some ways to build an athlete’s self-confidence?

Building an athlete’s self-confidence can involve a combination of strategies, such as setting achievable goals, providing positive feedback, and helping them focus on their strengths. You can also encourage them to practice positive self-talk and visualization and provide opportunities for them to take on leadership roles within the team.

Q. How can you help an athlete set achievable goals?

To help an athlete set achievable goals, start by discussing their long-term goals and then break them down into smaller, more manageable ones. Make sure the goals are specific, measurable, and realistic. It’s also important to provide support and feedback along the way to help the athlete stay on track.

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