Using the movie Inception to build confidence in your athletes


I went to see this movie a week or so ago because I’d heard so much about it and none of it was negative.  Every single review and every single person I talked to loved it.  So I was all prepared for it to be a letdown when I saw it, but the movie certainly lived up to the hype.  The basic story line is that Leonardo DiCaprio leads a group of folks who can break into people’s minds while they’re dreaming and steal whatever secrets they’d usually keep protected.  That’s cool enough right there, huh?  Then they’re challenged to not steal an idea, but plant an idea…the key is that the person has to believe that the idea is their very own.  Now don’t worry, I’m not giving anything away here…that sentence is the premise the entire movie kicks off from and then you’re on a wild ride from there.

And as is usually the case, I got to thinking about coaching and how “inception” is what we do!  Have you ever had your team run a clinic or camp and hear them coaching?  Don’t they usually parrot off things that you’ve said to them over and over again?  Like the same phrases and everything?  I’m sure they’d credit you (or previous coaches) with a lot of what they say, but there’s probably some things that they take as a given…things they think they believe about their sport that come directly from you.  You know what I mean, things like the “right” way to shoot a basketball or hold a bat or set a volleyball.

Then I took that idea of inception a little bit further and thought about how to plant the idea of belief and confidence in an athlete.  I’m sure all of us coaches talk about those intangibles and we may even have our athletes read books about the mental game or go see the sports psychologist…but that’s just getting us close, not all the way there.  Remember for inception to truly take place, the athlete has to believe that the idea is their own.  Their confidence can’t come from us coaches (though I’m sure they appreciate our confidence in them) and it can’t come from their performance (because that’s bound to let them down at some point), but an inner belief in themselves.  I don’t know if it’s possible, but I’m sure willing to try!

As coaches, we spend so much time being intentional about the physical aspect of our sports.  Whether it’s practice planning or skill development, we’ve figured out what to put in to our teams to get the desired outcome.  What if we were just as focused on building the intangible side of things?  What if we worked that stuff right into the core of our practices so that eventually our teams thought the idea was their own, but really we’d created a group of confident ballers with high self-esteem?

I’m going to keep thinking about this idea, but I’d love to hear your thoughts…how can us coaches be as intentional about the stuff we can’t see as the stuff that we can?