If you believe you can or you believe you can’t, you’re actually right!
This thing we call confidence is often difficult for a parent to see in a child or for a teacher to see in a student. We can even have a hard time seeing it within ourselves. But it is not difficult to observe in sports, so I would like to use a sports analogy to explain the concept.
Have you ever seen a baseball player come to the plate and get a hit? That hit can give the player so much confidence that he or she will come back later in the game and get another hit. If there is enough confidence exuded, those hits can become a streak and the player can move into what is called the zone. Players report that the ball even looms larger. A football player who kicks a field goal through the goalposts has a greater chance of kicking the next one through the goalposts. The first field goal enabled the brain of the kicker to exude confidence. When the confidence of teams or players changes in a game, it is referred to as a momentum shift and often results in a change in the score. I am currently watching the French Open where Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams are displaying so much confidence that they may be headed for the final.
Here’s one story to illustrate the effects of confidence. When the U.S. Women’s Soccer team was playing in the 2015 World Cup and beat Germany in a semifinal game, I turned to my husband, Tyrone, and I stated, “We’ve got the Gold Medal!” He reminded me that the game we just played was not the Gold Medal game. I knew it wasn’t, but I also knew that a win against a challenging team like Germany would give the women the confidence they needed to go into the gold medal game with Japan and be successful. After all, Germany was considered a more difficult team to beat than Japan. Well, I was proven right! It was amazing how quickly the first goals were scored by the US and in no time at all, we were four goals ahead of Japan. I turned to Ty and confidently exclaimed, “I told you so!”
The opposite is also true. When an athlete loses confidence, so goes their performance. A baseball player who makes one error will often make another. A football player who misses one field goal will often miss the next as well. Tiger Woods, who at one time was the considered the best golfer in the world, now finds it difficult to be competitive in a tournament.
You see, when the brain is feeling confident and positive, the body appears to excel! On the other hand, when the brain is under high stress or threat (as a poor performance will engender), the body moves into fight or flight mode and may not perform well.
As you watch any sporting competition (baseball, basketball, football, soccer, tennis, etc.), listen to how often the announcers use the word confidence to describe an athletes’ performance or the lack of it. I promise you that the terminology will be there.
Look for ways to increase your confidence or your belief in your ability to do well, and you will in turn, increase your performance!