Self-confidence is really important for success, but not easy to capture or develop. We want our teams to play with confidence, but I’m not sure we spend enough time on confidence when we coach. Nor do we give our players a game plan for individual confidence.

As an individual how do you work on being more confident?

Practice the simple. Master simple tasks. Get the basics down before you move on to attacking major weaknesses. Get the footwork down before working on combination moves. Focus on making shots close to the hoop. Get really comfortable with what is easy, but also important, before you challenge yourself. If you are 60% free throw shooter you shouldn’t be trying to develop your range out to the NBA line.

Surround yourself with people who believe in you. A lot of self-confidence comes from who we associate ourselves with. Spend time with people who really believe in you, and therefore will repeatedly give you confidence. They’ll also be patient with you as you are getting better. It’s hard to build confidence in yourself if people around you are pointing out how bad you are at certain tasks. Look around you and make sure the people you are with are confident in you.

Evaluate yourself realistically. This can be really hard, but it’s crucial to so many aspects that affect your success. Be honest with yourself about what you are good at and what you need help with. Ask someone you are very close with for their opinion (a task that takes confidence in and of itself). Start with a great feel for who you are and come to terms with your weaknesses. Accept them and then you’ll be able to attack them.

Get up early. I really believe the earlier you get used to getting up early in the day, the better you will feel about yourself. You can get a lot accomplished early in the morning before the phone starts ringing or email starts coming in. You can also spend some time alone, thinking about what you want to get accomplished, and organizing your day. When I get up a little later I always feel like I’m chasing the rest of the day from behind.

Establish a relationship with failure. The most successful teams and people I have been around have a good relationship with failure. Understand it is a part of the deal, and don’t let it get to you. Sure, you will be disappointed with the wrong results, but those results can’t significantly change your approach. If you are giving everything you have, handling failure is just as much a part of the process as enjoying success. Don’t accept it, just understand it’s going to happen. Learn what you can and move on.

Study your craft. Figure out the best way in your line of work to learn and stay ahead of the curve. For me it’s watching a lot of film and attending different practices when I can. I like to see how other people are doing it and learn a different approach or maybe a different way to communicate. I like to study how other people are doing it. Observing how others approach things in your field will show you that there isn’t a magic formula to success and help your confidence grow.

Do what you are good at a lot. Pete Carrill used to tell his Princeton players to “figure out what you are good at, and then do it a lot.” It’s great to work on your weaknesses when you have time to practice, but not when it’s time to produce. Just because you’ve been working on expanding your range doesn’t mean you should come out firing NBA 3’s when you are left open.

When I coached Ryan Gomes at Providence College and he was preparing for the NBA draft, he was really focused on improving his perimeter play to show NBA teams he could play in the league. It was certainly smart and he worked hard to improve his skill, but I remember saying to him before the draft “Just remember, you are an undersized power forward, that is where you are most productive. And that’s what will keep you in the league for a long time.” He was a natural low post scorer and a great rebounder, and that was his meal ticket, even though he was only 6-7.

Spend time doing the things you are really good at. It is what makes yo productive, and repeated productivity will give you confidence.

Sometimes you just have to shut it down. Some days it just isn’t working. It happens for teams and individuals. Some of the best teams I’ve ever coached have had practice days where nothing went right and we looked like we just met in the hallway. Sometimes great players have awful days and just can’t find their way out of it, no matter how hard they try. Banging your head against the wall on these days isn’t worth it. Sure, you need to try and fight through a bad day and overcome it, and get something productive out of it. But when you can’t, and you are getting really frustrated, sometimes it’s best to just shot it down. Too much time and effort on a bad day can just be counter-productive. When you feel like you are getting to that point, shut it down.

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