Confidence (part 1).


The team was going through a poor period of form; two points out of a possible fifteen had seen them slip alarmingly down the League table and too close to the relegation battle for comfort.   The home supporters were starting to become frustrated and hostile.   In the previous home game the players had been booed off the field; reducing confidence within the team to a low ebb.

Although he was not the kind of person to panic, the manager was concerned with the situation, prompting him to asked Old Bob what he thought about the current situation within the team.   Bob agreed that confidence was lacking and that was mainly due to the poor results and the increasing pressure from the fans.

The manager, Gregg Turner, arranged a team meeting for the players and asked Old Bob to be present he also felt that the players would be more open, and more likely to speak their minds if he wasn’t present.   A majority of the squad had progressed through the Rovers development programmes and, therefore, knew Old Bob through his contact with them at youth level, this made them comfortable with him sitting in on the team meeting.   For his part, Old Bob had led therapy discussion groups on many occasions during his years in counselling, so he was at ease facilitating the meeting.   


The team captain, Jimmy Robertson, was the first to speak, “confident is on the top of my list of how I want to feel when I go out to play, but at the moment my confidence is low and it’s affecting my form pretty badly,” his honesty and openness setting the tone for the meeting.

Midfielder Rex Marshall jumped in quickly with his comment, “I once read a survey of top performers from several sports and they said that the ingredient that they most desire to better their performance is confidence”.   He went on, “the article said that confidence was the largest factor that separated highly successful players from less successful ones”.

Paul Stoddard chipped in, “That may be the case but where do you get confidence from, you can’t go out and train confidence in the same way that you can practice your passing and shooting”.

“Well I feel confident when I’m doing something that I’m good at,” interjected Freddy Riggs,   “I reckon that you have to get out on the training pitch and practice your skills over and over again, that’s what gives you confidence”.

“I agree with that,” responded Jimmy, “If you feel that your touch on the ball is good and your passing is accurate, then you feel confident to receive the ball.”

“I think it is up to the manager and coaches to give us confidence, when they stuff around with the team selections and deliver boring training sessions I start to lose confidence in them,” retorted Blair Sissons, one of the teams strikers, “when I was in the youth team at Nottingham we had a coach who planned every session, every activity was done with a ball and he made training enjoyable and productive.    I learned heaps from this guy and because of his preparation he made us feel confident before each game”.

Centre back Dave Hutchinson was a thoughtful player and wanted to define exactly what was meant by the word confidence.

“What is confidence?   Can we package it?   Can we train it? he asked,  “I think it has to do with self-belief, the belief that you can successfully perform well.   It’s to expect success”.

“Yes” agreed Fred Thompson: “I’ve noticed that self-confident players trust their own abilities, they don’t care too much about what others think about them because they are confident in their own ability, but having said that, I don’t think that you can be confident every time you play”.

“Why not,” cut in Sam Richards, who up to now, had kept out of the conversation.  

“Well, for a start”, retorted Fred, “the last manager I played for at Huddersfield often played me out of position, and I didn’t feel that I could play my best.   That definitely affected my confidence and in the end I was dropped out of the team”. 

He carried on, “I think managers and coaches should really know and understand the best position, and role, which each individual is suited to and give them specific details of their role in the team.   If I know exactly what is expected of me before a game then I can feel confident that I can achieve what I’m expected to do”.

Old Bob had been listening intently to the proceeding dialogue before interrupting with a comment, “that’s easy to say,” he interjected, “but this is a team game and sometimes players need to be juggled around, particularly in cases of injuries.”   He continued, “I agree that a player feels more confident in a particular position or role which suits him best, but we are in a results game and sometimes the manager has to manipulate the team around in order to get the best combination on any given day.”

There was a general nodding of heads in agreement with Bob’s point, before Brian Kelsey took a different approach to the subject of confidence.   Brian had studied child development at the local technical college, during his days as an apprentice professional.   “Confidence is something that you grow up with,” he began.   “A lot depends on how your parents have treated you when you were young”.   

“What’s that got to do with it?” asked Gordon Lowe, impatiently.  

“Well,” Brian continued, all attention now focused on this social scientific approach to the subject of confidence, “If parents are too critical, too demanding, over protective and discouraging this can have a negative effect on the child’s confidence and self-worth,” he stated defiantly.

“Go on”, chorused the others, as their minds started to switch back to their own childhood upbringing.

“If the parents are accepting, encourage a more positive approach to life, encourage the child to be self-reliant and show that they are wanted, then, it stands to reason that the child develops the confidence to express themselves in various areas of their life.”

There was a few moments silence whilst the players tried to digest this unexpected and academic approach to the subject.

Old Bob was about comment when, wing back, Johnny Little broke into the conversation for the first time.  

“We seem to be talking around the subject instead of getting to the nitty gritty of how to build confidence.   I feel most confident about myself when I am really fit, when I know I can last the ninety minutes and outlast my opponent.   Recently I have had too many niggling injuries and I know that this has affected my confidence.”  

There was general agreement about this, as most of the players had played when they were less than one hundred per cent, at some time in their careers.

“The main thing is to get a winning run it acts like a spiral, the more successful you are the more confident you get,” said Gordon     

There was another brief silence whilst Gordon’s words digested.   Alex Freeman, the goalkeeper, was the first to speak up, “that’s fine, but we have lost five games on the trot, how do we get out of this spiral?”

Sam returned to the conversation, “I think that we can start by not looking for faults and blaming each other, or the coach for that matter.   There is too much negativity in the team, let’s start to reinforce the things that we are good at”.

“First of all I think we should take stock of the situation as it stands and ask the question, are we good enough to compete well at this standard of football?”  

It was soon agreed that most of the players had experienced success at this level and, therefore, the current lack of confidence wasn’t due to the team being out of its depth in the Premier Division.

“If we are going to get out of this hole then we should start to create a plan of how to do it, something which we all believe in.   Once we have done that we should try and complete one step after another and this will build up our confidence that we can succeed”.

“I’m not sure how that works,” said Fred.  

“I think that they call it process goals,” Jimmy continued, “things such as not conceding an early goal, getting close to an opponent within two seconds of losing possession, attempting five shots on goal in the first half.   It’s up to each individual to set their own targets in a game; if we start to accomplish our goals, no matter how small, this bound to increase our confidence, which in turn will lead to more success.”

Ron Boulder had listened to the conversation and contributed for the first time.

“I think that you can gain confidence by thinking and acting confidently, the more that you think and act in a confident manner, the more likely you will feel confident.”

“How do you act confidently?” asked Jimmy.  

“Well if you go a goal down in a game don’t let it show in your body language.   Keep your head up, shoulders back, give your opponent the impression that you cannot be phased out, keep them guessing,”

Ron carried on, “I think we have been too cagey and nervous in our approach to the game.  Let’s take a few risks and not worry about the result.   Let the results take care of themselves, try and remain calm and relaxed when we are under pressure, this may help us to focus on the job rather than getting involved in all the emotional stuff.”

“Sounds like good sense to me,” commented Paul.

“When I was going through a bad time at Bourneton I was recommended to a counsellor.   He talked to me about my game and other areas of my life which might be affecting my game.” 

Darren Reid was contributing for the first time in the discussion.  “He showed me a technique which helped to bring back my confidence”.  

“What did he do?” queried Blair.  

“I cannot remember exactly, but he got me to relax and visualise incidents of my life in football when I felt really confident about myself.   After I had recreated, in my mind, a time when I felt really confident, for example, after I had played exceptionally well, he then ‘anchored’ that feeling by touching me on the back of my hand.   It worked really well for me.   Every time I felt nervous and lacking in confidence I touched the place at the back of my hand and the good memories would come flooding back.  It made me feel heaps better because I was able to remind myself, almost at the touch of a button, that I was still a good player and that I had achieved a lot in the game and basically nothing had changed.  Darren added, “You don’t become a bad player overnight.”

“That sounds like a good way of recovering your own resources, it’s almost the same as watching videos of past successful games or looking at positive write-ups you have kept in a scrap book,” contributed Sam.

“Yes, I think that’s what they call it, ‘recovering resources’, something to do with NLP, you can look it up on the internet,” said Darren.

One of the most experienced players, Dave Hutchinson, explained that at certain times during his career he had issues with confidence.   “For me it is important to have a good first touch of the ball and this sets me up to perform well.   When I lose confidence I become too self-critical and try too hard, which in turn makes me make more mistakes than ever.”

“So how do you overcome that?” asked James, the youngest player in the squad.

“I go back to basics and play the game as simply and uncomplicated as possible,” replied Dave.   “How do you do that?” James questioned the experienced professional.

“Instead of trying to play too many complicated and over-creative passes, which may be cut out and result in getting the crowd on my back, I make simple and straightforward passes which steady me down and help to retain possession for the team.   I also like to get in a good telling tackle on my opponent, that definitely gives me confidence.”

Old Bob had remained silent whilst all this discussion had taken place and he attempted to bring together all the points which had been discussed.    

”When abilities are equal the winners are usually the players who believe in themselves.   Confident players play to win, they are not afraid to take chances.   Confident players have a ‘never give up attitude’ to their game……………