New school year, new season and a whole slew of new opportunities are just around the corner. As these important events approach, there’s one thing to remember: You can do this.
Entering new situations can be scary, and for good reason. It takes us out of our comfort zone and puts us in unfamiliar territory. However, by applying even a small dose of confidence, you can lessen the pressure on your shoulders.
“(Not having confidence) is not going to completely wreck any chance of you making the team,” said Justin Johnson, USA Hockey’s Minnesota District Associate Goalie Coach-in-Chief, “but it’s certainly not going to put you in the most optimal position to make the team.”
As a former University of Minnesota goaltender, Johnson knows firsthand the importance of confidence. He admits that without it, it’s tough to put your best foot forward.
“(Confidence) allows us as individuals to take that leap and try new things,” said Johnson, who graduated with a degree in psychology from the U of M. “It forces us to challenge ourselves to try difficult things. If we’re confident, we have that belief that we can accomplish things whether we have in the past or we haven’t.”
Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset
Dr. Carol Dweck, a psychologist who specializes in the importance of confidence, theorized that there are two ways people approach tryouts:
Players who think black and white have what is referred to as a fixed mindset. There is no room for growth, and the answer is very straightforward, good or bad. Those who fall into the second scenario have a growth mindset. No matter what happens, good or bad, they know there is still room for improvement and learning. It’s this type of mindset that players should have.
“When you look at a fixed mindset and think everything is finalized, you rack up a series of non-positive outcomes and your confidence level tends to stay low,” explained Johnson. “With a growth mindset, things are never stagnant. You’re always moving in a direction of improvement.”
If your mindset is fixed, you aren’t growing as a player. Instead, you’re convincing yourself that you’re either not good enough or getting by just fine. Take a step back and approach each tryout, test and daily challenge as a way to grow.
Work on Your Skills
When you took your first steps onto the ice, you weren’t skating circles around anyone right away. But the more you practiced, the more comfortable and confident you became. That same idea can be transferred to other hockey skills.
“Working on your skills is one of the biggest areas that an 8- to 20-year-old can execute,” said Johnson. “It’s really a very simple concept. The more you practice your skills, the more confidence you’re going to have.”
If you’re worried about your backhand, head out to the driveway and put a couple pucks on net with buddies. Not sure you’re set for seventh-grade math? Ask your teacher for practice sheets. As the age-old saying goes: “Practice makes perfect.”
Don’t Get Overconfident
The line between confident and cocky tends to get blurred. But believe it or not, the difference is bigger than you think.
“You can not be cocky and confident at the same time,” explains Johnson. “Cockiness comes from a place of insecurity whereas confidence comes from being self-assured.”
Confidence itself comes from a belief that you can do something based on your own abilities. Cockiness is being brashly self-assured to overcompensate for lack of abilities. But beware of overconfidence.
“When you’re overconfident, you’re not keeping your thoughts and perspective closely tied to reality,” said Johnson. “You need to have a realistic expectation based on yourself.”
“You can do it” is a parent’s favorite thing to shout from the sidelines. Even if you had a bad tryout or struggled through a tough game, your parents and coaches will stand behind you and reinforce a level of confidence.
“Parents and coaches should remind their kids that they are on a trajectory right now,” Johnson said. “Identify and remind players that not making the team isn’t the end but instead it’s a chance for players to test their skills with this group or to grow now with this team.”
Parents will always be the first ones to pick you up when you fall. Listen to their words of encouragement.
Believe in Yourself
You are your own biggest supporter. Trust in yourself that you are ready to take that next big step in practice, at the game or in the classroom.
“Those who use a quality line of thinking tend to build confidence,” said Johnson. “Those who are more negative or doubtful tend not to build confidence – regardless of how hard they work on their skill set.”
Remember that confidence is key, and if you shake out the nerves and assure yourself you can do it, the rest will follow.