Keeping Confidence Up In Sport During Big Changes

Keeping Confidence Up in Sport During Big Changes

Hi everybody.  I’m coach Rebecca Smith, and for today’s Q&A we have a question from Lisa about gym closures and keeping confidence up in sport. Her poor daughter is getting her gym shut down again. I know she’s not the only out there this is happening to, so today I’m going to talk about how to keep your confidence up in sport when big changes happen.

Lisa says,

Q: My daughter is struggling with having the confidence to do some of her back tumbling at home again.  She feels pretty confident at the gym, but then she struggles trusting herself at home, and then she gets frustrated with herself.

It’s so hard this year to be holding it together, then back in practice and then back home.  Up front, I want to acknowledge:

Big changes affect confidence.

It’s something that is normal. Our brains don’t like change because change is risky to systems.  Our body is a system and if anything changes, then it goes, “Oh, danger, danger.”  That’s the first thing to know.  If you are feeling stressed or you’re seeing your confidence drop – that’s normal.

Different Types of Big Changes Can Prevent You From Keeping Confidence Up In Sport

There are a lot of different types of big changes that make it difficult to keep confidence up in sport, especially with tumbling or scary skills or skills that athletes get mental blocks on.  Coach changes can be one and gym changes can be one.  If you are going home for a month and can’t train at the gym, then you’re getting a coach change (because now it’s mom) and a gym changed (because now you’re in your living room).  Then your brain also has the unknown of, “Am I going to get back in?  What’s it going to be like?  Am I going to lose my skills like last time?”

Don’t worry! It’s Normal.

There’s a lot of negativity.  There’s a lot of upheaval.  So, first things first – acknowledge that this is normal and it’s totally okay to be a little freaked out.  It’s not fun, but it’s very much normal and there’s nothing wrong with you if you’re experiencing that.

How Your Brain Responds to Changes in Sport

What’s happening is your brain is going, “Danger!  Danger!  Danger!”  It’s on high alert.  When this happens, we make the bad habit of saying, “Get it together.  Figure it out.”  Speaking for myself, when things change in my life, I feel the need to fix it right away.  But, what we want to start doing as the knee-jerk reaction in these situations is to say, “What does my brain need?”

We know that your body can tumble in most situations where there’s a mental block.  The body is not the problem.  It’s the brain that is putting on the brakes and being over-protective, stopping you from getting into a situation that feels risky or dangerous.  So what you have to do is actually pause and go, “Hey brain, how are you doing?  We’re back at home.  What do you need here?  We’re freezing up on this skill I “should” be able to do since I was doing this in the gym and it was fine.  So what’s happening here?”

Be Kind to Yourself & Your Brain

Instead of saying, “Brain, you’re so dumb.  I’m so mad at you,” you want to say, “What’s up brain?  Let’s work on this.”  Eliminate the idea of, “Well, I should be able to do X, Y, and Z.”  Today is a different day and it is what it is, so let’s just start with what you can do. That’s my favorite thing to do.

Before we dive into actually building that confidence up in sport, I want to also mention…

We don’t want to compare apples to oranges.

Often, I hear people say things like

  • Well, she can do it perfectly on the tumble track, but then not on the floor. 
  • She can do it on a mat, but not without the mat. 
  • She can do it with one coach, but not this other coach. 
  • She can do it in the gym, but not at home. 
  • She can do it at home, but not in the gym. 
  • She can do it in practice, but not at meets. 
  • She can only do it at meets, not at practice.

This is also very normal because your brain has certain ideas of what’s safe and what’s not.  Sometimes, one coach makes you nervous and your confidence is a notch lower naturally.  You have to accept that your starting point is going to be a little different on Wednesdays with that coach than it is on Mondays with the coach you love, who’s super patient, and has known you since you were an infant.

It’s normal to have it be different.  There’s nothing wrong with you if you can do it here, but not there.

I’m going to circle back to the PerformHappy program.  These are the three phases we use: Awareness, confidence, and trust. 

1. Awareness

Anytime you feel like you’re hitting a wall, the first thing you have to do is get some awareness.  What is Point A?  A lot of the time we stay focused on point B.  “If I need to be over here, I should be over there.  I want to get over here,” but you have to first figure out where are you?  What can you do?  Instead of focusing on “I’m not there,” which is true, but not helpful.  Focus on, “I am here.”  So what can you do?  What does work?  What does feel safe?


Then, you also want to check into what doesn’t feel safe right now.  What isn’t working right now in this exact scenario on this exact day?  Once you’ve looked at what’s working and what’s not working, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?”  Because every single time you hit a wall, that is an opportunity to get to know your brain better and to open up the path for your confidence to be available to you in more situations.

Dismantling Tricky Situations

Every time you have a tricky situation and you dismantle it and get your confidence back, it’s one more shutdown you survived, it’s one more wall that you hit that you climbed over, and you start to really believe in yourself the more that you get through these hurdles.  So instead of being like, “Oh no, it’s another hurdle.  This is so terrible,” it will be like, “Okay, time to learn something.  What works?  What doesn’t work?  What can I learn?”

What does your brain need?

Back to the question, “What does my brain need?”  Does it need mom to put her hand there?  I know some of the girls in the PerformHappy group put a piece of tape on their back.  They call it their “tape spot” because sometimes all you need is a coach to really put one finger against your back, and then you can go.  Well, when you don’t have a coach, so put duct tape so it feels like you have a spot and you’re going to go.  Figure out what works and where you are and what you can do. T hat’s the awareness piece.

2. Confidence

Now let’s go into the confidence piece.  For any of you who are PerformHappy members, I’m going to recommend you do the Confidence Jumpstart Challenge again.  It’s the very first challenge in our nine weekly challenge series.  Do it again.  That’s the beauty of these challenges – you can do them over and over because they’re going to continue to build your momentum.  What that means is that you start a new confidence piggybank and that’s going to help give you a structure to feel like, “All right, here’s where I’m starting.  I’m going to start adding in confidence to my piggy bank.”

Finding Your Magic Number

And then, if you were with us for the Mental Block Breakthrough series, then you also know about finding your magic number, your number seven progression.  If you’re a member, you know, all about number seven, I talk about all the time.  For mom, find the progression that she can do confidently today that’s a stretch, but not going to slam her into a wall.  It’s going to stretch her comfort zone, but it’s going to build her confidence because it’s also achievable.

Be Kind to Your Brain

Then she’s going to work on that same challenge of learning to be kinder to her brain, because if she’s getting frustrated, she’s probably not being super nice to her brain.  Sometimes you need to give your brain a little name so you can say, “Aw, (insert name here). Did you have a rough day?  Don’t worry about it.  What do you need?”  Being a little kinder to her brain, and start playing the confidence game.

Start a New Confidence Ladder

Now, we all build these confidence ladders, which is start where you are, end up where you want to go, and build your path taking baby steps up.  What you want to do is start a brand new one.  Don’t do the same ladder you had in the gym because it’s not the same scenario.  Start with what you can do, build up to what you want to be able to do in about eight weeks, and then just take your little baby stair steps up from there.  Start fresh so that you can feel like every single step is progress rather than constantly comparing yourself to where you were before.

For now, you’re going to work on your at-home ladder and just keep on focusing on any progress from Point A today forward, instead of our nasty little habit of always comparing ourselves to our best day and our best teammates.  Just don’t do that.  Start where you are and get a little better.

3. Self-Trust

Mom mentioned that her daughter is having trouble trusting herself.  Well-

Trust is a muscle that you build.  It’s not a light switch that you flip.

Just like confidence, just like awareness, it’s something that you build with constant effort and work.  Think about somebody you trust the very most in life.  For me, it’s my husband.  I trust him more than I’ve ever trusted anybody in my whole life.  Think about who that is for you.  How did you build that?  Did you trust immediately?  Did I meet my husband on the street in San Francisco and go, “I will tell you my life story”?  No, I did not do that.  I might’ve wanted to because he was really cute, but what did I do instead?  I got to know him.

Just like we have our confidence piggybank, it’s the same thing with trust.  You can think of it as a trust marble jar.  I met my husband, felt good vibes, one marble in.  He was so nice – one marble.  Oh, and he’s a good listener! One marble.  I started building it up.  All of those things just kept building and building until I felt like I could tell him my life story.

When you’re learning to trust yourself, you have to build it slowly over time.

You have to really put in the effort to do those little actions that prove that you are safe and trustworthy.  That’s how you keep confidence up in sport.

You’re building your brain’s little marble jar of trust so that your brain goes, “Okay.  I think she really does have my best interests in mind.  I’m going to take a leap of faith.”

I know it’s a little ridiculous to think about, but sometimes you need to just completely separate yourself from your brain.  Your brain becomes this cute, wonderful little buddy in your head who needs a little extra support sometimes.  That can help you to be a little kinder to it.

So, if you can keep following the three phases – awareness, confidence trust – you will come back from lockdown stronger than ever and keep your confidence up in sport.  Really, all of those challenges were recorded in lockdown the first time in March, so anybody who’s struggling, get in there and work through those challenges.  It’s going to give you exactly what you need to come out stronger.


Keeping Up Confidence in Sport with Big Changes with Coach Rebecca Smith

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