I'm sure you know this feeling:
It's game day. The gym is filled with the crowd watching you, after all, it's the championship game you prepared for the whole year. Your parents and friends are there, the scouts are watching and trying to decide whether you're worth playing at a higher level. Your teammates and coaches are relying on you.
The game is tough and you are playing worse than you usually do. You just missed 4 consecutive shoots in the row, and 3 of them were airballs. The opponents are laughing and trying to get into your head by talking trash.
Slowly, doubt starts to creep into your mind...
It's the end of the fourth quarter, a new possession, your team just got a steal and now it's transition basketball – your chance to take the lead and get ahead.
The defense catches up and denies the layup. You're standing open in the corner, so your teammate passes you the ball.
You catch it... The crowd is screaming. Your opponent turns around and starts to run at you. You think of the 4 shots you just missed, hesitate to shoot the 3, and begin to look for a pass, even though you're open...
Stop. Cut right there. This is how you lose a game.
Think about it, when do we really need to be confident? When everything is going your way and you feel like you just can't lose or when things start falling apart? Sure, both situations require you to not let fear take over, but it's much harder to remain confident in the second one.
True confidence is never doubting yourself, even when nothing goes your way. That open 3-point shot from the corner you decided not to take, might've been the start of your hot streak of making the next five.
If you want to reach your goals in basketball or any other area of your life, if you want to achieve something extraordinary, you don't have the luxury of letting doubt paralyze you. It's non-negotiable – every successful basketball player you admire is confident. You simply don't have a choice.
Therefore, if you don't know how to play with confidence, you better figure it out quickly. And that's why we're here.
Let's dive into it!
Confidence Is A Skill
The first thing I want you to understand about being confident is that it's a skill. It's not really a pre-determined character trait that you just either have or you don't. Everyone has it, at least to some degree, so it's on us to get better at it.
Sure, some people are more confident than others naturally, but even if you consider yourself lacking confidence, you can get better at it.
Therefore, I want you to get rid of that inner belief that you are not confident by default. This "Oh, I'm not a confident player" type of mindset just limits you from getting where you want to go.
I'll dig deeper into that later in this article, but for now, I want you to open your mind to the idea that you too, can exercise confidence when it truly matters.
The Choice to Be Confident
Now let's dive into the situation itself. What happens with our bodies when we face a challenge or are in a high-pressure situation is a mechanism called the "fight-or-flight response".
It's one of the oldest psychological protective mechanisms that not only humans but also most other animals have.
When we face a challenging or dangerous situation we have two choices that our body gives us:
- Fight it – when we are convinced that we are stronger than what we are faced with, or
- Flight – when we are convinced that we are weaker than what we are faced with and have only a small chance of winning.
Now, this is a survival instinct that reacts to all sorts of danger. For our ancestors, these dangers were mostly life-threatening, which is usually not the case in the world we live in right now. Most of the challenges we face in our day and age, we can actually overcome, whether you believe it or not, we just usually choose not to.
Therefore, next time you face a high-pressure situation, I want you to actively choose to stay confident. Choose to persevere, regardless of all the fear and emotion, you might experience at the moment.
It won't make these emotions go away completely, confidence simply doesn't work like that. Believe me, the best players in the world feel the same nerves before a game, just like you do. The difference is that they know that they can handle every situation they are faced with.
They choose to face it instead of running away from it.
The Mental Proof
Another aspect that contributes to us believing in ourselves to overcome a certain challenge, is the mental proof that we actually can overcome it.
There's a reason why we are usually more confident when doing things we're good at. It's that introvert in your class that is usually quiet but all of a sudden can hold an hour-long presentation about something they're interested in.
The truth is, our mind is not stupid. It's the flip side of the coin of what we talked about in the previous segment. We can't just say "I'm confident, I'll make it no matter what" if we don't have any reason whatsoever to believe in this.
We need literal proof that we can do it. There's a quote by Tim Grover which says "Confidence is the ultimate drug. And winning is the dealer." and this absolutely applies here.
The more you win, the more confident you become in your ability to win again.
You might be thinking right now "But I haven't won anything yet. How can I be confident then?". This is where the work comes into place.
You see, winning is not only about the trophies and titles. You might have won a tournament yesterday, but today is another day, so you have to go win again.
Winning is doing the right thing, it's committing to the work and sacrifices it takes, every single day, over and over and over again.
The goal is to be so prepared that in the end, you can say "I did everything I could. Now I'm ready".
We are not the result of our emotions. Our emotions are the result of our actions.
Here's an interesting fact – we not only express our emotions through body language, we can actually use it to change our current mental state.
The way you carry yourself has a bigger influence on your mood than most people imagine.
Think about it, how does your body language look when you feel nervous or not confident in your ability?
You start avoiding eye contact, maybe hang your head, bite your nails, rub your hands... That's usually a natural reaction of our body to a certain situation. It's simply our nervous system telling our brain that it's not comfortable in the current situation and wants to change (fight or flight).
Now, because our brain associates our body language with a particular mental state, we can actually turn this around. Instead of your natural reaction to a challenge, try to stand up high, look forward and raise your chin. It feels unnatural at first, simply because the pattern of our body and mental state don't match yet.
However, if you can manage to "hold" that for 10-20 seconds, you'll already start to feel an inner sense of relief.
You can try it right now. Simply visualize a high-pressure situation, with all of your natural behavior patterns. Usually, you would feel the pressure almost right away, even though you're just imagining the situation. Now, imagine how you are replacing your nervous body language with the one of a confident person.
See the difference?
This is one of the most important things when it comes to believing in your ability to deliver. The way you talk to yourself, the manifestations and beliefs you have, all of that plays a big role in whether you'll be able to perform at your highest level or not.
Remember the example at the beginning of this article, when a player decided to not take a good shot, just because they missed a few?
This often happens to many of us and I'm sure you can relate. We are simply afraid of missing the next shot again, afraid of disappointing our teammates and coming off as a bad player.
For example, let's take the belief "I'm not a confident player". What do you think, does this belief serve you in any way? Probably not, right? Just because you aren't as confident in some situations, doesn't make you a written-in-stone not confident player.
Yes, you might tend to be less confident in high-pressure situations, you might tend to play worse when others are watching you. But, it's not a non-negotiable and you do have the power to change it.
You might've missed the last couple of shots but you're going to make the next eight because you're a shooter and you worked your ass off to get where you are. And, even if you miss again, this just heightens the chances of you making the next.
Or here's another one – do you know that player that always complains before a game? "Ohh, the opponent is so strong", "Ohh, we'll probably lose", "Ohh, there's no way we can win that game"...
Players like this will not only undermine themselves and also other players on their team if there's not a good leader around them to step in.
If you are that player (or even when you only think like that instead of saying it out loud), I want you to stop.
Yes, the team you playing might be strong, while yours is struggling to keep things together, but this shouldn't be your main focus. Your main focus should be on what you can do to win, regardless of how hard it might be.
And don't get it wrong, the other team is thinking about facing you as well, you just don't see it. Now, they might also be over-confident and cocky, but that's something you can use to your advantage!
- True confidence is not letting go when things start falling apart.
- Confidence is a skill, not a talent. You can learn it!
- Actively choose to be confident!
- In order to be confident you need to do the work before! Our brain needs proof that we can overcome whatever we're faced with!
- Use the body language of a confident person to turn things around.
- Pay attention to your internal dialog and what you say out loud!
If you have any questions, are looking to give us advice, or just want to talk hoops, don't hesitate to reach out!
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Until next time!