How to Improve Confidence in Sports
In our Volleyball Power Hitting Clinics, probably a third of the parents come to our clinics looking to help their athletes improve their confidence in volleyball hitting or spiking!
In this article, I’ll provide the steps to help build confidence in any sport skill, but this article will certainly be biased towards volleyball hitting or spiking power.
5 Major Steps to Improving Confidence
We will go through each of them individually,
Step #1 - Knowledge
The first step is knowledge. You have to know and trust that what you are learning & training is going to actually help you perform your sport skills better!
There’s nothing worse than an athlete who comes to our clinic or a lesson and doesn't have any idea what they need to do the hit ball harder.
To improve sports skills, our belief is to first teach & train the mechanics of the sport at hand.
For example, if a volleyball player is wanting to hit the ball harder, we first teach Volleyball Power Hitting Mechanics.
Using our teaching methods & equipment athletes immediately feel how to turn their body in highly specialized ways, which for many of the athletes we see improves their arm & ball speed by 6-10 MPH.
Giving them some technique that they can FEEL and measure (with a radar gun) validates that we can help them short-term and more importantly that we can give them the knowledge of what they need to train and how they need to train it for them to improve their hitting power & speed.
We use our Confidence Rating Sheet to gauge where the athlete is at before we ever start teaching or training them so we can show progress in their confidence.
The athlete fills this sheet out before and after a clinic as it gives us a clear indication of how “they” rate their confidence. For volleyball, the average hitter we see typically rates their “Power Hitting” confidence at the start of our 8 hour clinics around the “Poor” level. On average, most will rate their confidence as “Good” when they leave the clinic.
Speed Learning - Athletes Learn By Seeing the Movements
Most athletes learn fastest & best when they can SEE what it is your teaching them to do. When you are teaching an athlete to move, it’s fastest & best to let them see the movements you want them to learn.
We run clinics and lessons by showing athletes videos of world-class athletes performing their body movements. For example, in volleyball power hitting clinics we first show athletes & parents the best and healthiest way to move the body to hit harder and avoid injuries by showing them slow motion videos of world-class athletes hitting or spiking balls using the same body movement mechanics.
Step #2 - Instruction & Feedback
Once the athlete knows “what” to do the next step is knowing how to do it and getting feedback to ensure they’re doing it correctly.
What to Do
Athletes need quality instruction from a coach or someone who understands the correct mechanics of the sport. If a volleyball athlete is trying to hit a ball with more power & speed, the instructor needs to understand the mechanics of the sport and how to teach them in a way the athlete understands and can start to learn and perform them quickly.
Unfortunately, many coaches, trainers, strength & fitness trainers and others don’t know Power HItting Mechanics so they can’t teach them and often just end up teaching general strength exercises (bench press, squats, lunges…) in lieu of the movement mechanics of the sport at hand.
The movement mechanics of hitting or spiking a volleyball with greater power & speed are different from the movement mechanics of doing general strength exercises.
The first objective is finding an instructor and ensuring that they actually know what the sports movement mechanics are…If the instructor or coach understands the mechanics of the sports skill, the next question is do they have highly specialized drills or exercises that quickly & effectively improve the specific sports mechanics.
The drills & exercises need to look very similar to the actual sports movement if you expect to get fast maximum carry-over into the sport skill.
Finally, the coach needs to be attentive to the athlete’s movements and know how to cue them or correct them if the movements aren’t correct. This requires an understanding once again of the sport skills mechanics and then focus on giving the athlete immediate feedback so they can perform the correct movements with minimal errors.
These days there are a plethora of trainers, coaches and parents who don’t understand the sports mechanics and don't want to learn them. They are stuck in their thinking that general exercises will improve the sports mechanics just by making the muscles of the body stronger, with no understanding or instruction to the athlete for how to perform the sports movement mechanics correctly.
Step #3 - Repetition
Once the athlete knows what to do and has someone they trust who can teach & train them the correct movements, now it becomes a “training” issue. The athlete needs practice or perform enough repetitions of the correct sports movements for the movements to become automated. Many of you know this or think of this as “muscle memory”.
Training Intent & Focus
While this a subject of an upcoming separate article, for now understand that many athletes (and often their coaches) perform hundreds or thousands of mindless exercises, without any focus on what they are doing or the quality of their movements. (Quality of movement means to be attentive to the precise movements of the sport the athlete is training to ensure maximal carry-over into the actual sports skills on the court).
The more the athlete & coach are focused on performing the precise movement mechanics of the sport, the faster & better the athlete will learn the movements. However, if they don’t focus on how they are performing their training movements it will slow their progres down!
Understand that it does take thousands if not hundreds of thousands of repetitions for movements to become ingrained into muscle memory and happen automatically in a game WITHOUT conscious thought.
Have great intent & focus in how you practice your repetitions and you’ll learn faster and reduce the number of repetitions by thousands…
Step #4 - Competency
If the athlete has performed the same precise, correct movements with enough repetitions (practiced it over-and-over) the body will start to perform these movements in actual games or matches, automatically.
This is when it really starts to be fun for the athlete as it’s not a conscious thing any more…they don’t need to try to think themselves through the swing.
It’s a little like being on auto-pilot. The athlete has practiced the movement so many times that they now just kind of do it!
Step #5 - Confidence
The final RESULT of steps 1-4 is Confidence.
Do all the previous steps correctly and your athlete will have substantially greater confidence. They will be able to confidently hit with greater power (or whatever skill they’ve been working on).
Reverse Engineer It!
Here’s a faster way to think about it or communicate it, in reverse order:
Confidence comes from Competence which comes from Repetition which comes from Instruction & Feedback which comes from Knowledge.
Leave a comment