Letters to the College Athlete: Where is your CONFIDENCE coming from?

As a college athlete, you have some degree of self-confidence.  That is, you trust that you have the abilities and qualities required to perform.  How much self-confidence you have determines how great you will become.  Therefore, it is important for you to find a way to build and maintain your self-confidence in order to be competitive in college and beyond.  But, first you have to make sure that your confidence stems from the right place.

“No you can’t play!  Girls don’t play basketball!”

When I wanted to play on my first basketball team in middle school, those were the words that echoed from my dad.  I do believe that he meant ‘his girl’ did not play basketball.  He forbade me from playing but I disobeyed and went to my first practice anyway.

My dad was over 6 feet tall, was a former professional boxer, and a strong disciplinarian.  Back then I got whippings (considered illegal today).  Needless to say, I was scared to death the whole practice.

I had no idea when he came to practice, but when I saw my dad, he was grinning from ear to ear.  Dad was proud of me!  So much so, that he grabbed me and carried me out of practice on his shoulders!

Wow, what a feeling!

I went from a nobody in school to being popular- and liked.  I loved the attention from school and my dad.

While I was playing, my confidence hinged on his every word, and every action he displayed.  If he didn’t like something I was doing, I stopped it.  If he liked something I was doing, I kept doing it.

I do not recall my dad ever missing one of my games.  He was there…

Until I went to college…….

When I entered college, I struggled.  Everyone was as good as or better than I was.  I tried really hard but I was still not as competitive as I needed to be.  My position on the team was often threatened, therefore, I was afraid.

My self-confidence sunk.  There was no one around for me to rely on to build it up.  So, unbeknownst to me, I found something else to replace it….. something worse.

I resorted to criticizing other’s playing ability.  Subconsciously, I was trying to shift the focus of my shortcomings away from me by revealing negative things about others.

In order to gain the respect and admiration of others, criticizing people became my substitute for self-confidence.  It did not work.

What was I to do?

The source of my confidence was not around.

How was I going to build self-confidence?

I eventually learned that the most powerful type of confidence booster is self-improvement.

For instance, in order for me to build my confidence as a basketball player, I had to improve my skills.  This meant spending extra time outside of normal practice hours, and the off-season, to learn what I needed to improve upon and do it.  Through this action I became more prepared for competition.

I also didn’t realize that by seeking ways, and following through, with doing right by my teammates would have built a strong sense within that I was good and worthwhile.  It would have built a positive reputation for me which would have made self-confidence much easier.

I encourage you to seek ways to improve yourself to increase your self-confidence.  Begin by recognizing any weaknesses you have as an athlete, and practice improving your skills and building your character and self-image through good treatment of others.

What are some ways you build your confidence?  Please let me know.

In Loving Memory of Rufus Handsome,  Jr.

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