This article originally published on Water Polo Planet
The most important quality of a high performing athlete is confidence. It’s easy to see when a player is not playing confidently during a game. It’s even easier to learn about their confidence out of the water when asking them about their play. Coaches will attribute poor play to a lack of confidence. Parents will encourage their athletes to play with more confidence. The athlete will often wonder how to do it.
The truth is that confidence comes in a variety of forms. It’s usually related to more specific attributes that are unique to their beliefs about themselves, their play, or knowledge of their skills. For athletes trying to find or redefine their confidence, it’s helpful to learn a little more about what does and doesn’t work. Below are 5 myths about confidence in the sport.
Myth #1 Either you have it or you don’t.
Confidence is not something you are born with. It is something that can develop over time and through experience. Some people are more confident in themselves in a general sense. That general confidence does not transfer automatically into their sport. Additionally, you may be confident in your ability as a water polo athlete but not in a specific water polo skill. Confidence fluctuates in the pool and that is ok.
Myth #2 Only positive feedback builds your confidence.
It is true that a supportive social environment helps an athlete’s confidence. However, you may not always hear positive feedback of your play and your effort. Your coach or teammates may share their frustration and disappointment. The truth is that you, as an individual human being, can choose the meaning you wish to make out of the feedback you receive. The meaning you make of the feedback will determine how you use it. You can use it in a way to build your knowledge of the sport and your confidence in yourself as a water polo athlete.
Myth #3 Success always builds confidence.
Winning does not always help you build your confidence. It depends more on the value you place on the competition. If you score 7 goals in a game against an easier opponent, you may not see it as a great accomplishment. Success when facing a larger challenge does help but again challenges are based on the eye of the beholder.
Myth #4 Confidence equals outspoken arrogance.
Athletes can demonstrate a level of calm and quiet confidence too! What you see on the outside does not always equal what a person is experiencing on the inside in terms of confidence. Confident athletes let the quality of their play speak for itself. Their personality type then dictates how they interact as a person with others. You don’t need to show others how confident you are. Just act on it!
Myth #5 Mistakes inevitably destroy confidence.
Water polo Is a game of where mistakes happen both large and small. There isn’t a match where mistakes aren’t made in the form of missed shots, goals scored or ejections drawn. The confident athlete sees each play as unique and has a method to forget the last play until the time is right to reflect. Additionally, reflecting on mistakes can become empowering because you are learning how to improve. You learn what doesn’t work in the situation. You adopt a growth mindset because your mistakes aren’t permanent.
Hopefully, exploring these belief myths about confidence has expanded your awareness of how your thoughts impact your play. When you decide to intentionally think a certain way, you take more control over what your body does. Break down thinking habits that undermine your confidence and choose to believe in yourself and your ability.