THE MENTAL GAME: CONFIDENCE IS YOUR ‘BULLET-PROOF VEST’ – Part 1

BY JOHN HAIME

In the first of our three-part series on building confidence, world-class mental performance coach John Haime explains why confidence is a player’s “bullet-proof vest.” The mindset that took all elite players to the top, he says, is within your reach with a few simple steps.

Polo and life are about patterns and cycles. Sometimes you “have it” and other times you don’t. No exceptions. So, a player must work on important areas like confidence: First, understand it and second, learn how to build it. The mental/emotional aspect of your polo performance is like your physical practice—prepare, do the work and it will pay off.

Working on your confidence is an investment in yourself as a player, but this skillset is more than that. Confidence is transferable to everything you do in life—business, career, relationships and any other “performance” activity you engage in. Consider it an investment in your future. Confidence may be the single greatest asset for you as a polo player.

At every high-level game we see wonderful displays of skill—players trying creative moves, taking calculated risks and expressing their playing abilities and those of their ponies. It’s part of what makes elite players so good—trying things that others may not think about. Being courageous in this way takes confidence, which is something many amateur players lack, but that doesn’t have to be the case. The good news is there’s plenty you can learn from these elite athletes to make yourself a better player.

A key area for any player—whatever their handicap—is confidence. Confidence is your bullet-proof vest. Elite players know it. If you want to be like them, you have to understand it and learn to develop it.

WHAT IS CONFIDENCE, ANYWAY?

Well . . . it really boils down to knowing. Knowing in your heart you can do it under the pressures of competition. You know the feeling: You’re playing well, your pony feels great and everything is going right for you. There is an easy belief in what you are doing, and you just know you can do it.

You undoubtedly also know the other feeling: You just don’t have it, your ponies don’t feel “on,” and nothing is going right. There’s lowered belief in what you are doing, and you’re not quite sure what’s wrong. That’s when you have to be able to trust and believe in your abilities and decisions, and express them in challenging circumstances.

“I’VE LOST MY CONFIDENCE”

When my phone rings, it’s often a player, coach or team manager on the other end, voice panicked, telling me a player has “lost his confidence.” The player may be struggling to perform when it counts, is anxious during matches and often not enjoying playing the game.

I always ask these players where they think their confidence has gone. Some may be up-and-coming players and some have risen near the top of the sport.  It’s funny that these players don’t really know where the belief has gone. Something small has triggered some initial doubts, and the spiral downwards begins from there.

This is where players get confused. Confidence requires some understanding—and some work.

NEXT IN PART 2: John Haime explains that confidence is proactive: It’s a choice you can make, not something you simply have or don’t have. Learn about the role of challenge in sustained success, and read Haime’s formula for achieving and maintaining it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Haime is President of New Edge Performance. A world-class Human Performance Coach for athletes, executives and artists, former professional athlete and current bestselling Author of You are a Contender! Build Emotional Muscles to Perform Better and Achieve More, John understands how athletes think and feel. He’s been there—under the most intense pressures of amateur and professional sports. He is trusted by a wide range of clients including some of the world’s leading professional and amateur athletes. John coaches professional equestrians and up-and-comers with a proven system generating measurable results for clients. He has certifications in psychology, neuroscience, emotional intelligence and coaching. www.johnhaime.com

Photography: Ramon Casares

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