Dealing with Doubt | Article by Coach Diana

Today’s Topic: Dealing with Doubt

Hockey-great Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”  A simple, yet profound statement. 

So, what determines whether you go for the shot, the play, or the skill?  ConfidenceWhat makes you ready for competition?  Preparation and confidence. 

Losing Confidence

Unfortunately missing a skill, play, or movement in practice, failing to execute in competition, negative feedback from a coach, playing in pain, injury, fearing failure, or getting cut or replaced in a line-up can threaten confidence and take away courage.


Doubt creeps in and leads to hesitancy and second-guessing yourself.  Now your timing is a little off and your mindset is way off!

Playing or competing in pain or before an injury is completely healed can also lower your confidence.  This happens because you know in your head you’re not 100 percent and although adrenaline and sheer will may allow you to push through the pain, you aren’t sure if you can perform at 100 percent.

When doubt creeps in, you stop playing to win and start playing “not to lose.”  A slight difference in mindset, but one that makes a huge difference in focus and outcome. If you play “not to lose,” you play safer.  You no longer take the gutsy shot, throw the hard skills that you can do, or run your most aggressive race.  Suddenly you are reacting instead of boldly acting.  Win or lose, you don’t play or perform with confidence.  And eventually, that will affect your performance.

Finding Your Confidence

So, how do you find your confidence again?

First, understand that confidence is something we choose to invest in and build through intention and hard work. 

Your confidence will always be tested no matter what level you attain, but here are six ways to help gain back your confidence:

1. Focus on the positives.  Remember what you do well (plays, skills, past competitions). Write them down & post them in your house so you see them every single day.

2. Learn from your failures without letting them weigh you down.  Learn to let go.  It’s important to acknowledge what went wrong or what hindered your performance, but then you need to be done thinking about it.  What you focus on ultimately drives where your performance goes.  Looking at past failures prevents success in the future.

3. Visualize past and future successes.  With visualizing, it is important to make the images as vivid as possible and use as many senses as possible.  What did you feel during that race, play or skill?  How does the balance beam feel under your hands or feet?  When you do a really good double axel, what does it feel like?  What does your swing feel like with the grip on the bat or racquet when you have a successful hit?  How much arc and spin is needed to sink the basket ?  If you smell the chlorine every time you get on a starting block or climb to the top of the springboard, you need to also smell the chlorine in your visualization.  Do you hear a crowd –  is it muffled or silent?

Another key to visualizations is controlling your images.  This takes practice.  Eventually, with consistent practice, you will be able to manipulate your visualizations to do exactly what you want every time.

4. Prepare, always.  You must put forth the effort, the grind the sweat and the tears so when competition comes you know you gave it your all- you put it all out on the field, court, gym, or dance floor.

5. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.  You need to get out of your comfort zone – try new skills, plays, or even techniques.  Prepare in sub-optimal conditions – swimming in a cold swimming pool, running in the heat of the day, or doing a beam routine without a warm-up!

6. Believe in yourself- even when nobody else does.  Using positive self-talk can help reinforce this.  Phrases such as, “I’ve got this” or “I’m ready” go a long way to boosting confidence.  On the days you’re struggling, go back and review what you wrote down in number one!

And, always remember, “Courage does not always roar.  Sometimes, it is a quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”-M.A. Radmacher

Is your gymnast struggling with mental blocks or fear?  Check out my FREE resource for parents.