Sports Psychology: The Secret to Lasting Confidence

by Patrick J. Cohn, Ph.D.

The truth is that many athletes are in search for the magical piece of equipment, clothing, or stage that will give them confidence and spark their performance. Just today, I was working with one of my personal mental coaching students. He is a good amateur golfer; I'll call him John. We were talking about the psychology of great putting.

He confessed to me about how many putters he had bought over his career. He loves to buy putters. Oddly enough, he thought that he would come across a perfect, magical putter that would somehow unlock his putting confidence. Until recently, John tore through 20 or more putters and was unable to unlock his putting talent. But we started to talk about the psychology of great putting.

He realized, after a recent successful putting round, that the "magic" was within himself and not a function of a magical piece of equipment. He understands now that confidence in oneself is massively more powerful than confidence in a magical piece of equipment. However, this example goes way beyond golf and applies to any sport.

Here are some examples:

  • Do you only have confidence when you play on a special field or court?
  • Can you only play well and have confidence when you have your lucky bat or shoes?
  • Does your confidence crumble when your favorite racquet pops a string?
  • Do you lose all confidence in your ability when your car is not perfectly dialed in for the track?
  • Or... do you have 16 sets of clubs that have not produced one magical round yet?

A word of caution: If you think that a magical piece of equipment allows you to have confidence in your game, you are misleading yourself.

But here's the real kicker: The magic is within you, not a piece of magical equipment. In a nutshell, it's not the lucky putter, bat, shoes, or special court that gives you confidence- - confidence must come from within you!

Let's face one important fact: The secret to confidence starts on the inside -- within you and not your equipment or conditions of the playing field. For the most power, it has to. Yes, confidence is based on your results, practice, your abilities, etc., but it's called SELF-confidence.

Self-Confidence is a belief in your own ability -- the specific talents you bring to your sport, large or small. Please don't put all your faith in that lucky bat, club, or shoes. What happens when the luck is all used up? Do you go searching for something else? The magic is within you, not your equipment.

The most confident athletes in sports do not just have tons of confidence. They have sturdy levels of confidence built on years of success, instead of fragile confidence based only on the last failed or successful performance. Anyone can feel confident for a few fleeting moments during practice, but enduring self-confidence is the mark of a champion.

Why do some athletes ride the confidence roller coaster while others ride the steady confidence gondola to the top of the mountain? One reason is that many athletes maintain an unhealthy belief that you are only as good (or as confident) as your last performance.

Self-confidence is simply a belief about one's ability that sometimes is overwhelmed by other beliefs such as doubts, indecision, and irrational thinking.

One of your confidence improvement goals is to brush aside mistakes, immediate results, or small errors that may influence your current state of confidence. Your confidence should be based on years of practice and play instead of the last shot, play, routine, or point.

Dr. Patrick Cohn is a master mental game coach who works with athletes, sports parents, and teams of all levels. For more information about Fear of Failure, call 888-742-7225.


Jeremie Rentas Barlow, M.S., can be reached at (502) 553-8299.