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  • Writer's pictureDr. Linda Cherry

Nerves & Athletic Performance

"People tend to become what they think of themselves"

William James, in the early nineteenth century, offered the first course in psychology in the United States and is often thought of as the father of psychology. He brings to sport psychology, in my mind, a very powerful quote:

"Athletes as individuals have the greatest influence on their own destiny. Exceptional athletes think about themselves in ways that foster success through self-belief, self-confidence and self-motivation."

Dr. Bob Rotella, sport psychologist, notes the similarity of “confidence” and “optimism” but separates them at a basic level:

Optimism: a general faith that things will turn out well if an individual applies


Confidence: More specifically, applies to a particular skill or set of skills.

Athletes choose to be confidant. Confidant can come without success. Very few athletes experience success at the outset of their athletic career. A significant portion of what we refer to as “confidence” resides in our subconscious parts of our brain. Our subconscious brain is what suckers into the pitfalls of savvy marketing schemes. Our subconscious brain monitors all of the thoughts passing through your mind about yourself and your world. If you’re conscious mind thinks, “I’m a solid quarterback and my teammates look up to me,” your subconscious mind is not the one who analyzes and criticizes this notion.

Thoughts associated with more powerful emotions are more memorable and therefore more influential than thoughts without emotion. The goal is to continually feed your subconscious mind powerful thoughts.

A champion’s mind grasps the importance of savoring a victory in the midst of a positive experience. It remembers to celebrate it. A champion’s mind also understands that she/he can’t let themselves get stuck in the negative. She/He sees there is no benefit from ingraining bad experiences by reliving them. She/He thinks and remembers ways that build self-confidence.

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