In the final segment of our series on confidence, world-class mental performance coach John Haime gives concrete methods to build—and maintain—your confidence on the field.

While there are a number of factors you can work on to build confidence, in working with the world’s leading performers for the past 15 years, three factors stand out to me from all others:

  1. Know who you are as a player. The most critical element in high performance is self-awareness. An athlete who clearly understands strengths, limitations, triggers, purpose, values, vision and how emotion impacts them moment to moment is always ahead in the game. Self-awareness is a key piece in confidence. Very simply, it’s easier to win believing in something you understand vs. something you don’t. Know yourself well in order to understand what you can and can’t do when it counts.
  • Preparation & testing. Elite players do the work and functionally train to “know” what they are doing when they are tested in a game and pressure elevates. Great players train each part of their performance and then test it on non-game days so they will be ready to take it onto the field. Preparation creates the truth that you know you can do it.
  • Your own voice. What you tell yourself is the final gatekeeper to whether you will “do it” or not. The most important voice in your life is talking to you 24/7. It questions you, protects you from threats and keeps you safe. It has the ability to create doubt and shake your confidence—but only if you let it. If you don’t have the foundation of steps 1 and 2, the voice may carry some weight and have a point when it suggests that “You may not be able to do this.” But if the truth is that you know yourself, have done the work, trained, prepared well and tested, you can challenge the voice and not accept the suggestions of doubt as the truth. Pushing back and challenging the voice is important.

Here are a few more steps that will help you build your confidence:

  1. Be proactive and allow all the great experiences you’ve had in your polo career to be the foundation of your confidence. Decide that temporary low points in your playing will pass quickly and will not have any impact on your “foundation.”
  • Listen to your coach—or get one. You need great coaching matched up to your values and needs. The greatest thing a coach can do for a player is believe in him and believe in his  abilities bolstering his own confidence. A great coach’s belief in you can matter.
  • Create a clear and defined goal plan. If you know where you are going and have the steps and actions in place to get there, there is a sense of security that you are on the right track. Knowing exactly where you are going and how you are going to get there builds confidence.
  • Focus on your good matches, not the bad ones. You’ll have good matches and not so good ones in a season. Evaluate why matches don’t go well after the match but focus on your great matches and build on the energy from those strong performances.
  • Focus on your development as a player and the process to reach the next level. Get a little better each day through disciplined work in practice. Focusing on a very solid process will inevitably lead to desired results.
  • Finally—have fun! Great players enjoy themselves on the field and love the sport. When you enjoy something, it creates positive feelings and performance elevates.

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 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.

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