Confidence or Courage – what does an athlete need


John Parker, author of the ‘Advice Series’ for Coaches, Athletes and Sporting Parents writes

In a difficult situation as an athlete or as a coach, is it confidence or courage that we really require?

The problem with confidence is that you gain it after you need it.

How do you succeed the first time if you only get confidence after you have experienced success?

Confidence is having the courage or being brave enough to believe that you can do whatever it is you have prepared for and never lacking the focus to keep believing.

With the introduction of the term courage comes the attitude required to succeed, as we must be aggressive in a controlled way if we are going to be the best that we can be.

You may be thinking this only applies to people playing sport however I do not believe that.

I believe this approach to be applicable in any aspect of our lives including work, family, volunteer roles etc.

When do athletes need courage or confidence?

There are a number of situations where players find themselves thinking ‘how am I going to cope with this”.

We have to be courageous and say to ourselves we have done all the preparation, the ball is the same size, the field is the same size, we have done similar things before even if only in practice and there is no real reason why we can’t do this now.

We all can be brave and show courage and convince ourselves.

We have often looked at young people who go out and perform like a “seasoned pro” and wonder at their maturity only to notice that often as they get more experienced and start to understand what is involved and therefore how many things can go wrong that their performance falls away.

This however should not be surprising as youth, in its own mind, is indestructible and fears little.

It is only as society imparts its own burdens (most misplaced and totally unnecessary) on young people and in so doing their performances become bound with thoughts of failure and responsibility – why we allow that to happen I do not know.

Instead what we should be encouraging young people to do is to continue to be courageous and forget about the issues that bind people as they get older.

If we have done the preparation through years of practicing the skills required both mental and physical to achieve our dreams and we are well versed in the tactics and strategies required, we can succeed if we have the courage to get out there and perform.

If one knows they have the skills (as they have been clearly identified and practiced as well as possible) and the tactics and strategies are understood and accepted then it is easier to be courageous and tell oneself that the task at hand can be done, must be done, even if the odd failure will occur.

Sporting failures – do we need courage or confidence?

After failure is when courage is really required as confidence disappears.

The best are the most courageous; we think they are the most confident.

You have to have courage to continue to succeed – that is the attitude one needs to be the very best they can be.

The best performers never seem to lose self-belief if they fail they just stand up again and try again and again. They have courage.

Be brave, tell yourself you can do it as you have got all the skills required, and have done the work required and have done similar thing before.

Confidence is much mis-understood concept as the way we use the word we only have a right to it if we succeed.

Courage comes from deep inside you – courage has the right implications of aggression yet focus, implies thought and attitude – courage is desire and passion – courage is your choice – have you got courage?

Courage will serve you well – much better than confidence.

This is Athlete Communication number 10 in the Advice Series written by John Parker.  Thought-provoking articles to help you improve as an athlete, a coach and a sporting parent.


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