How to Create Confidence on Game Day / by James Leath

Faith and fear have one thing in common: they both believe in a future that has not yet happened.

With faith, we have confidence in our ability and/or our preparation. Having faith in our future gives us energy and creates excitement for what is coming.

With fear, there is an absence of confidence, which is the result of a lack of preparation, or a belief that our preparation was not enough.

Choose faith. Choose to prepare yourself and believe in your training. It has been said many times and I believe it to be true, “Champions do not rise to the level of competition, instead they drop to their level of training.”

Here is one of my favorite poems, Thinking, by Walter D. Wintle, a poet who lived in the late 19th and early 20th century.

“If you think you are beaten, you are, If you think you dare not, you don’t. If you like to win, but you think you can’t, It is almost certain you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost. For out in the world we find- Success begins with a fellow’s will. It’s all in the state of MIND.

If you think you’re outclassed, you are, You’ve got to think high to rise, You’ve got to be sure of yourself before You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battles, don’t always go To the stronger or faster man But soon or later the man who wins Is the man WHO THINKS HE CAN!”

Believe in yourself. Faith in yourself and your abilities releases you from energy wasted thinking about the “what ifs” and negative outcomes. Tim Galloway, author of The Inner Game of Tennis, challenges the reader to perform without judgment. In other words, when you are deep in practice of your chosen sport and you make a mistake, Galloway encourages you to leave all judgment out of the result and instead, observe what your body was doing to attain the result you got.

Also, I have found that reminding yourself of your “little wins” in improvement at practice can increase your confidence during a competition. It is much easier to have faith in your ability when you can recall successful performances of the past.

One way you can increase your confidence on game day is to create what I call a Confidence Journal. I use a small notebook that can easily fit into my workout bag. After every workout I write down three positive things I accomplished during that session and one or two things to work on for my next session. My most recent sport of choice is bodybuilding. It is a unique sport where strength and physique are equally important. My Confidence Journal houses my strength marks and the small victories I experience during my training that lead up to that moment on stage.

Here is an example pulled straight out of my Confidence Journal from last week:

+1 Completed all lifts in less than 60 minutes. 

+2 Improved by one rep on last set of squat.

+3 Increased sprint speed to 8.5 from 8.4 for all 30 sprints. 

-1 Drink more water prior to workout to increase energy.

Note: Did not feel like working out today. Energy was a little low starting off. It may be because I didn’t eat enough at dinner last night or maybe I wasn’t hydrated enough. Check nutrition plan. 

These don’t mean anything to you out of context because they are meant for just me. I don’t share my journal with anyone. It is a tool I use to remind myself of the work I put in. Just writing these down in this note puts a smile on my face because I know the hard work I put in that day to be able to write those three things down. My "game day” consists of stripping down to my briefs and standing in front of a bunch of people whom I have literally paid to judge me. The morning of competition I need all the confidence I can muster!

Choose faith. Be intentional in your growth as an athlete and record your progress. Confidence is earned. Confidence is attitude. Confidence is an action. Confidence is a belief in your preparation and your ability to access that preparation during competition. Create a confidence journal and remind yourself of this very important fact:

You are enough. 

Note: I first learned the commonality of fear and faith years ago during a speech by my friend and mentor Jon Gordon. I was blessed to hear it again last night as I sat next to his incredible family at Mosaic Church in West Hollywood. Here is a link to his books, all of which I have read multiple times.