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Mental preparation: 3 steps to quickly build your confidence on the field

September 16, 2020

Mental preparation: 3 steps to quickly build your confidence on the field

Just before an important game, do you ever feel stressed and afraid that you won't perform as well as you or others expected?

Do you ever doubt your abilities?

Here's an effective way to build confidence in any event, in training and in games.

Two types of reaction to performance

When you perform an action, whether it is a throw, a cut, a mark or a defensive cover, during or after this action you can react in two ways:

  1. You can make a judgment;
  2. or you can make a comment..

You make a judgment (also called a value judgment) when you express your opinion about your performance. You say your action is good, or bad, or better than any other. A judgment is subjective and focuses on the good or bad.  

For example, after a throw you might judge it not to be good. You could add to that by saying that your long hucks are bad today. You then express your opinion.

You make a comment (also called a factual judgment) when you observe what is happening, and then describe an objective reality that does not depend on anyone's opinion. A comment is objective and focuses on the true and the false.  

For example, after a throw you might think that the disc flew over the target and hit the ground outside the boundaries of the field. You then express facts.

When you analyze your performance, what type of reaction do you most often use? Do you tend to make judgments or comments?

"Confidence really comes from what we say to ourselves.”
Michael Gervais, Seattle Seahawks mental coach



Judgment and comment: impacts on your performance

A judgment, especially when it is negative, opens the door to emotions and can affect your confidence. When you say that your action is not good, you attribute a negative value to your action. You may feel frustrated or stressed and your confidence gradually decreases. Over time, your judgments are less and less about your performance and more about yourself, as an athlete and then as a human being.

My throw was not good...

My long passes are bad today...

I'm not good at throwing long passes...

I am a bad pitcher...

I lack talent...

I'll never get anywhere...

A comment is neutral. It opens the door to reflection and the search for solutions. When you put yourself in an observer position, it allows you to analyze more clearly what happened and develop an action plan to achieve a different result - if the result achieved is not the one expected. After making hypotheses and finding solutions, you feel more confident and look forward to repeating the experience to continue your exploration.

The disc passed over my target and went out outside the boundaries of the field.

Why was the disc high in the air and off-limits?

A crosswind lifted the disc and caused it to deviate from its trajectory.

When I throw again in this direction, I will tilt my disc further into the wind so that it makes an inside curve.

Why do you practice your sport?

Athletes who view their sport as a means of gaining respect, trust, recognition or admiration are more likely to make judgments about their performance and that of their teammates. Each action is perceived as an opportunity to make a difference, either in their own eyes or in the eyes of others.

If you often express yourself by making judgments, you may tend to feel the urgency to be perfect now. You want immediate results and actions that do not produce the expected result often affect your confidence. You quickly feel overwhelmed by stress, frustration, embarrassment or fear and it becomes difficult for you to discern what you can do to improve.

Athletes who view their sport as a continuous learning process and a path to greater mastery are more likely to comment in any situation, regardless of the issue. Each action and its result are perceived as opportunities for improvement.

If you often express yourself by making comments, you may tend to be rather patient and tolerant towards yourself and others. You are probably curious by nature and open to comments from others, and your confidence level is generally more stable in training and competition. You regularly ask yourself questions and are always looking for opportunities to improve.

Become a commentator on your performance

The role of a commentator is to observe and describe performance, without taking sides with an athlete or team. To practice non-judgment in front of your actions, and thus accelerate your progress and build your confidence on the field, an effective trick is to become a commentator on your own performance!

Here are 3 tips to get there:

  1. Become curious. When you perform an action, instead of deciding whether it is good or bad, focus on the FACTS. What did you see, hear and/or feel? What is the result obtained? Is it the one you expected? If the answer is no, what could you do differently? When you ask yourself these questions, pay attention to your emotions, breathe, and try to focus on solutions. The calmer you stay, the more you will be able to clarify your intentions. Your body will then synchronize more easily and quickly to give you what you want.

  2. Train your ability to feel your actions. At all times, pay attention to your body positioning, your muscles in action and your physical sensations. A sharper awareness of your body will help you analyze your actions and you will become more skilled at making adjustments.

  3. Expand your knowledge base. What are the different possible actions to lower the height of a throw? What are the different tricks that allow you to move quickly when handling? What are the physical skills required for a tight person-to-person defensive mark? The more you know about your sport, the easier it is to answer these questions. This way you find solutions faster, without having to constantly resort to your trainer.


Confidence: take the fast track

Since judgment involves both the positive and the negative, it leads to emotions, positive or negative. When you judge your actions, you focus on the immediate result and miss an opportunity to learn. Even a victory can teach us a lesson! The more you judge yourself (and the more you judge others), the more you slow down your progress.

When you comment, you observe your actions (and those of others) by involving your three main senses in sport: sight, hearing and physical sensations. Comments encourage you to develop your curiosity and observation skills. By focusing on the facts, you train your analytical skills and then stimulate your creativity in the active search for solutions. You then accelerate your progress, in addition to developing a solid confidence in your abilities!

For more tips, visit my blog and download my free ebooks:

Athletes: les 3 étapes pour entrer dans la zone

Coaches: the winning formula to inspire your athletes

Wishing you a strong start to your season!

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Bio: Sport is an extraordinary tool to develop your sporting and human potential. My name is Guylaine Girard and I have been involved in the sport of ultimate for 12 years. Head Coach of the Royal (AUDL) in 2016, I also coached many teams in the junior, open and women streams. For 25 years, I have been helping passionate and dedicated athletes and coaches develop their mental tenacity and leadership so that they can achieve their dreams. My real passion is to make people aware of what is blocking them in achieving their goals and then give them practical and effective tools to move forward.