The Best Ways to Build Confidence | Q&A with Coach Rebecca

Today’s Topic: The Best Ways to Build Confidence


About Me

I am coach Rebecca Smith with Complete Performance Coaching. I am the founder of this company, which provides both one-on-one and virtual support for young athletes who are looking to increase confidence, overcome fear, and unlock peak potential. We do this through both the team of coaches that help athletes all over the world through FaceTime and Skype, and through the Perform Happy community.

It’s this awesome group of amazing families and their young athletes, actually athletes of all ages who are working through self-paced study courses that are particularly tailored to each individual athlete’s needs as well as a weekly training and consistent support from the coaches through the forums.

That’s available to you whether or not you’re having the best season of your life or you’re stuck in a rut, we’ve got something for you. Go check it out at if you’re interested and I am going to answer a question today from one of the members of the community and here we go. This gymnast dad says,

Q: Our daughter has not been tumbling backward for a couple of months. Her coach seems to have given up on her and we asked him to spot her, but he won’t. On Sunday, we took her to a trampoline place with a tumble track. After a brief warm up, she went to tumble track and on first try she did a round-off back handspring back layout, progressed to a round-off back handspring full. Then she went to the gym yesterday and couldn’t go. Is this a trust issue with her coach? Many girls have left the gym. We feel he doesn’t care about some of the girls and would rather them sit and rot away until they quit. He’s told my daughter she practices like, an excel, not a J.O. girl. And, she’s wasting his and her teammate’s time. Initially, when we moved to the gym last year, we made him aware of her blocking issues and he worked with her then by actually spotting her and encouraging her. She was fine until she got hurt again in November an since then, the coach seems to have given up on her because of those blocks. She’s not even blocking on bars, which she has never done.



Okay, so for those of you who are not gymnasts, these are amazing skills for somebody who’s not tumbling backwards.

I’ve heard this plenty of times. I mean, it’s very common that athletes actually get their skills back in a totally different environment. I have heard the trampoline park story so many times, where kids are just playing around, they’re having fun, there’s no pressure, there’s no coach, there’s nobody watching.

They are by far the best tumbler in the whole place just because it’s full of eight year old kids who just like to jump around. It’s common because they’re just in a better mood. I guess it’s no surprising, but really, really contributes to confidence. It’s just feeling happy, feeling relaxed.

From Progress to Stress

There was another girl who reached out to me today in the forums in the community who was like, “I don’t want to set goals. I don’t want to go to practice. I don’t want to-” And this is a girl, who just last week was killing it in the gym. The last couple weeks she’s getting new skills, she’s doing awesome, she’s getting all this stuff, which has then turned now into this source of stress for her.

I’m going to talk through the main ways, the best ways to build confidence. From there, I’m also going to talk about how coaches play a part. Because coaches definitely play a big part, and parents too, in how you overcome fear and build confidence.

The Best Ways to Build Confidence

The reason that I have a question about fear and I go right to confidence is because they’re opposites. If your fear is high, your confidence is low. If your fear is low, your confidence is high. That’s typically how it tends to go. Tina’s saying, “Same for her daughter. She always goes for those skills when there’s no pressure.” When there’s no pressure, it’s like no-brainer, but that pressure monster just eats away at confidence. First way to build confidence is through successes.

We’ve had this daughter who we were talking about, she went to the trampoline park and was successful. Okay, so you would think, right, that that would be a huge confidence booster.

Well, we definitely want to break it down and I just had an athlete this week who was like, “I’m successful. Great, I don’t need my session this week.” And I’m like, “Okay, fine. That’s great. You’re doing … But, make sure you reflect. Make sure that you take the time to look at why. Why were you successful? Why did it work?” That’s almost as important as the success itself is the process of looking back and going, “Okay, it worked because I was having fun. I was thinking about this. I wasn’t thinking about this.” You want to go back and break it down. You guys hear me say it all the time, the three best questions to reflect on after any performance, even a performance at the trampoline park is: What went well? What didn’t go so well? What did I learn?

Walk Away with Three Lessons

That way, you’re in the habit of paying attention so when you have one of these random good days, you can start to track the patterns. Okay, so successes, I have a caveat, like yes successes build confidence, but only if they’re then not a source of pressure. Something that I talk about in the overcoming fear course is that the expectation of more success will actually undercut success sometimes. What I mean by that is if you’re afraid that doing well is going to up the expectations of your coaches, then it’s almost safer to not do well and stay put.

I’ve got a couple of examples actually in the overcoming fear course of kids who get stuck on easy skills because they know the second they get that, they’re moving into hard skills. The second that they get into it. There isn’t this feeling of safety in gymnastics, or in sports, or even in school necessarily. Especially among this age, you know, the 10 to 13 age, where they feel like they can stand up for themselves to adults. That is one of the hardest things is to be able to go, “You know, coach, I don’t feel so comfortable trying that.” They feel like, if I do this skill successfully, I’m going to be required to do this hard thing and I’m not going to be able to say no.

Your Brain Stays Stuck

You have to be able to go, “Alright, I’m allowed to be successful because if i get to a skill that feels too hard, I can say whatever I need to. I can speak my truth.” “Hey, coach, I think I need to stay on this one a little bit longer to build up my confidence because otherwise I’m going to be pushed to something scarier and bigger and scarier and bigger.” Then the brain’s like, “You know what? Forget it. Let’s just be stuck on handstands today. Let’s be stuck on something ridiculous and then the coach will get mad, and then you get kicked out, and then you’ll be safe.” Everybody wins, right? That’s what your brain wants is for you to be safe. If you get kicked out of gym and you make your coach mad, perfect. Then they’re not going to make you do the hard stuff.

But, if you can walk into a situation and go, “My goal is step one of five. If I’m capable of step three and my coach is wanting me to do step three, I’m going to reiterate that my goal today was one. That’s all I’m going to require my brain to do.” I know this is hard having been a coach. I would be like, “What do you mean? Go do it. What’s the problem.” It’s so hard for coaches to understand this. I’ll do team sessions on overcoming fear and the coaches at the end are like, “But what about when we’ve got to compete?” I’m like, “That’s nice, yeah. Of course, you guys all have a time frame, but our brains don’t care about competition season. Our brains care about keeping us safe.” Kids, you’ve got to be able to stand up for yourself, and speak up, and risk getting kicked out of gym for what they think is you being lazy or having an attitude when it’s not.

What’s in Your Control?

It’s you keeping yourself safe so that the next practice you can move forward. Believe me, I always talk about this three week process of when you start to overcome a fear and you start to speak up for the coaches, you’ll butt heads because they’re like, “What do you mean you’re not going to go? Why are you saying that? You don’t need a spot.” But, if the kid is standing firm and going, “This is what I need. This is my next step.” You will make progress and your coach will get over it. If they don’t, you know, find a new coach or see what you can do that’s within your control.

As soon as you start getting your skills, the coach is going to be like, “I knew I could help you get that skill back.” They’re going to take all the credit and everyone’s happy so it’s fine.

Just Stick it Out

It’s going to be a transition. Success builds confidence only when it’s on your terms. Yeah, you guys are in a lot of sports that have high expectations, and mean coaching, or at least very strict coaching, but you have to be the one who is ultimately in charge.

Coaches, Empower Your Athlete

Okay, the next one, and for coaches that are listening, see if you can empower the kid and say, “Hey, if you’re afraid to go to that next step, you don’t have to go until you feel ready.” Then also, it is the coach’s job to push you when you need that. That’s a fine line. A lot of the time you’re brain’s like, “I’m cool right here forever,” and you need your coach to go, “Alright, sister. You’re doing it. It’s time. I’m sorry, but it’s time.” That’s why having a really good open line of communication with your coach is so critical.

Utilizing Imagery

The second way to build confidence is imagery. This is something that, I mean, if you’re in a sport like gymnastics where it’s very specific, same skills, over and over, in the same order, it’s easy to see how this would build confidence because you’re imagining yourself doing it, this full sensory experience where you feel confident. You’re trusting yourself. You are flying through your bar routine. You’re doing everything in your mind. Your brain is actually making connections with your body in the same way as if you were really doing it so it speeds up the learning process.

How will you Go About It?

Imagery has a really great application to other sports too, that require a little bit more strategy. I work with a lot of pole vaulters and swimmers, and what I’ll have them do is actually kind of bullet point out what is your strategy. Okay, pole vaulter, what’s going to be your opening height?

Your next one? Next one, next one, next one? What pole are you going to use? How are you going to approach it? Come up with everything in advance you’re not going, “Oh, what should I do? My coach says this, but my gut says this. That girl’s doing that so I don’t know.” Then you’re in this place of doubt. Anyone who has a sport that requires kind of in the moment strategy, you want to know already and you want to have practiced it in your mind.

Struggling with Communicating with your Coach

For those of you who are struggling with communication with your coaches, run it through. When I talk to my coach, this is what I will say and this is what I will say back, and then I will say this back. That’s strategy in itself. Just knowing, if this happens, this is what I’ll do. Actually playing that tape out in your head of it going right, going wrong, what you’ll do, how you’ll respond. That can help you to build confidence because it takes the unknown out of it.

Also, for swimmers, I’ll have them, first lap, second lap, third lap. This is how many strokes, how many that were done under waters. This is how many dolphin kicks, blah, blah, blah. You’ll figure out all of the steps, all of the strategies, so that you’re not going, “That guys going faster than me. Speed up.” Because then you end up thrashing and blowing all of your training instead of going, “No matter what who’s next to me, no matter if I’m in the beginning or I’m losing miserably, I will do what I’ve trained my body to do.”

Resulting in Burn Outs

Then that guy over there might burn out, meanwhile, you are just executing your strategy, and you follow through, and you do well, and you get a personal best. Regardless of what anybody else is doing. Imagery is just such an amazing tool for building confidence. Play out the tough stuff and have a plan and see it happening, so then you’re not ever going to be blind sided. Number three self talk. That’s what are you saying to yourself? I’m going back to the trampoline park, what were you saying to yourself when you were tumbling? Like, “Hey, this would be fun. What if i try this? Oh my gosh. That was really cool. That actually felt pretty good. What if I tried this? Huh, okay. I think I could do a full.”

She was obviously having kind of a nice dialogue with herself. Then when she goes back into the gym, what is she saying to herself? “Okay, if I go for this, then I’m going to be expected to do this. I don’t think I’m ready for that. I can’t do that. That’s scary. What if I can’t go for it? Ugh.” It’s this whole negative thought process that starts to play out and the next thing you know, she’s completely talked herself out of it.

Not to mention, it’s a different surface and if you don’t feel like you totally trust your coach to protect you and to give you the ability to guide your own path through fear, then it’s going to be difficult to build confidence in that environment, but it is not impossible.

Abusive Coaching Styles

I’ve worked with kids who have very verbally abusive coaches and they’re so committed to the quality of training that they’re getting at that facility, which is your prerogative. If you’re the athlete and you’re like, “Yeah, they’re jerks, but they’re good coaches and I’m staying,” okay, we can work around it.

What is that, number four confidence building strategy, feedback from yourself. You have to become the good coach. Be the one who in your head, you’re going, “Nice one, girl. You got this. Hey, don’t worry about it. Let that go. That guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. You are working so hard. Keep it up. Good job.”

I’ve even had, in one of my weekly live trainings, people write a list of, if you could design the perfect coach who would push you the right amount, but not too much and who would give you exactly the motivation and the encouragement that you need without sugar coating stuff; design you coach and then write a list that this coach would say to you.

The Best Ways to Build ConfidenceDrowning Out the Negativity

Then that becomes your own list of things you need to be saying to yourself constantly to drown out the negativity coming from elsewhere. You shouldn’t have to be 12 years old encouraging and motivating yourself, but you know what? Filter out the things that are coming in from negative coaches that are not useful, that are not spreading possibility.

You can just go, “Okay, I’m not going to let that one in. I’m going to listen for the correction. I’m going to listen for the thing that’s going to help make me better, and then anything else I’m going to let go because that’s their stuff. That’s his stuff. That’s not my stuff.” The last one is feedback from knowledgeable people.

Feedback from Knowledgeable People

Obviously, if your mom didn’t do gymnastics and she’s like, “That looks so pretty.” You’re going to be like, “Mom, you don’t even know.” But, if a coach says, “That was a good one,” especially a coach who is tough to please and you trust immensely, if that coach gives you good feedback, boom, confidence, right?

At the same time, if knowledgeable people are giving you negative feedback, it will eat your confidence away like crazy, versus if someone doesn’t know what they’re talking about says something like, “I don’t think that was very good.” You’re like, “Grandma, you play tennis. Leave my gymnastics alone.”

When somebody that you look up to and respect, who knows what they’re talking about gives you negative feedback, it can definitely eat away at your confidence. That’s when we pull out the good coach. Because you’re knowledgeable too. You can go, “I am making progress here. I am counting this.” That goes back to the past successes. A lot of time, perfectionists don’t count their successes because they’re like, “Well, it wasn’t that good,” or, “It wasn’t close enough,” or, “That was just a drill.”

Notice Your Progress and Success

You really need to be going, “That was a good one. That was better. Good work. I’m getting better little by little by little.” The final one, which is kind of a fun one that might come up in the trampoline park is peer success. This one’s another one that coaches can screw up. It’s the concept of, “Okay, if you do it, I’ll do it.” I’ve heard lots of kids break through the block because their friends like, “Alright, we’ve been working on this.

We’ve been making progress. I’ll try it.” And then you’re like, “Okay, if you do it, I’ll do it.” Then they do, but if your coach is like, “Well, she’s doing it and she’s younger than you, or she’s your little sister.” Ugh, that’s my favorite. “Your little sister’s catching up.” That does not improve your confidence because all that does is create this comparison between, “I am bad and they are good.” “I am not okay and they are okay.”

Don’t Compare

We don’t need that. Comparison is like a full time job for adolescence. They are constantly judging themselves, and who’s prettier, and who’s smarter, and who’s better? Don’t give them any more fuel for that. Let them do it themselves. Coaches who think like, “Oh, well I’m going to motivate you because your younger teammate is catching up.” Don’t do that. Just don’t. Parents, even if you really like their teammate and their teammate did something good, don’t mention it. Don’t say, “Hey, she had a good practice today,” because your kid’s going to go, “I stink.” Just don’t. Don’t compare. Let them go, “She’s doing it. We’ve been working together. Okay, if she can do it, I can do it.”

That’s one that coaches and parents, you don’t want to use that one to motivate because most of the time it will backfire. For more tips, I have a freebie download that you guys can grab that’s the five things to never say to your kid after a competition. For parents who are listening who want more stuff, you can go here and you can grab that.

Especially with Siblings

Oh look, yeah. She’s got a little sister who’s getting better and she feels this pressure. Ugh. Don’t ever talk about her sister. I mean, obviously you’re going to have to, but that can be such a source of stress and pressure. Then, finally going back to this sweetie pie who reached out to me in the forums today who was saying, “I don’t want to go practice. I don’t want the pressure.”

The goal that I gave her for the week because she’s like, “I don’t want to set goals. I don’t want to … Ah, it’s too much.” My goal for her was self compassion. The way that you can do this if your confidence is down, and your coach is beating on you, and things are just not going well, and you’re having a crappy week then here’s one little tool to leave you with. It’s a three step thing to just check in with compassion for yourself because if nobody else is being nice to you, then dang it, be nice to yourself, okay? I know it’s hard.

Know That it’s Hard Work

Number one, acknowledge this is hard. “I’m having a hard time. My coach is stressing me out. I don’t like this feeling.” Just saying, like, “This stinks.” That’s part of it. Acknowledge that you are not the only one struggling. That is another beautiful benefit of the community is that you can see on the one side, you’ve got all these people are pulling it together and getting their skills and building confidence, and you’ve got the other people who are struggling. You are not alone. Just to remember, “I am not the only person in this world that is suffering in this moment,” can sometimes create a little bit of relief. Not that we are like, “Yay, other people are suffering,” it’s just a matter of, “I am not alone in this.”

Have Compassion for Yourself

The last thing to do is to talk to yourself like you would talk to your adorable little niece who you love to pieces who was sad. You’d say, “Oh, honey. It’s okay. Don’t worry,” and you’d give her a big hug. You wouldn’t be like, “Pull it together. You’re so lame.” You’d go, “Hey, this is rough. I’m so sorry.”

You’d give her a hug and you’d say, “It’s going to be okay.” That’s self compassion. Those are the ways to build confidence for you coaches. I hope that you can help turn the tide of a lot of the negative coaching out there. I know if you’re hanging out with us that you’re already a part of the solution. Anyone who has questions, you can email me at Join us in the Perform Happy Community by going to and we’ll see you back soon. Bye.

Grab a copy of my FREE Mental Toughness Checklist & get on the list for peak performance insider tips