Coaches Corner: Creating Enduring Confidence Within Your Athletes

confident teamsource

“All teams are confident at the beginning of the season.”—Joel Walton

I’ve just finished up a weekend of recruiting and it’s always fun for me to watch teams in action. Whenever I’m on the road, I play a little game of guess-who’s-going-to-win-the-game. How do I decide? The team that reacts poorly to adversity is always my bet to end up on the losing side of the equation. Their lack of confidence comes across as poor body language, snipping at one another, or no communication at all.

When I spoke with Joel Walton, head men’s volleyball coach at Ball State University, I asked him about instilling confidence in his players. He said that confidence is something that good teams have…so maybe our confidence efforts should be corporate rather than individual.

Team confidence, according to Walton, is a function of the makeup of the team successes they’ve had and the length of time they’ve played together. We can’t do anything about the time our teams have been together, but we can work on those team successes in practice and get a bunch under their belt before games start.

What lack of confidence looks like:

  • Uptight. Tense, anxious, on edge, impatient, angry…those are all synonyms for “uptight”. And none of those sound like a player who will be able to perform a task well.
  • Verbal sparring between players. I’ve only experienced this a couple times in my time as a coach. Once my team reached that point, it was a “back to the drawing board” moment. My only caveat to this statement is sometimes things get heated in practice and we, as coaches, can manage the situation. If players snip at each other during a game, then you’re in trouble.
  • No communication. I don’t only mean talking, but motivating their teammates, making some sort of physical contact (high fives, fist bumps, etc.)…all of these things are missing on teams that lack confidence in their ability to execute.



I don’t know if there’s a solution to this (and I’m sure we’ve all been on the bench when things go sideways with our teams), but putting our teams in stressful situations in practice should help them learn how to deal with stress…and also how their teammates deal with it. I’m also a believer in pointing out poor behavior—whether it’s a sport or mental skill—right when it’s occurring.

More articles on confidence:
How To Cure A Slump Of Confidence
3 Keys To Unlock The Confidence That Will Lead To Your Success
How To Build Long-Lasting Confidence Within Your Team
3 Ways The Effective Leader Builds Confidence Within Each Team Member
Using The Movie Inception To Build Confidence In Your Athletes

More from the Joel Walton series:
Coaches Corner: Joel Walton
Coaches Corner: On Handling Pressure
Coaches Corner: The DNA Of Good Coaches
Coaches Corner: Managing Various Personality Types

Join me in a series of interviews with successful coaches.  I believe what we learn from our coaching peers can be applied to our teams, our recruiting efforts, and how we behave as professionals. These interviews will be less Q & A and much more philosophical in nature, keep coming back to see who I’m talking to and what they’ve got to say!