Skiing with confidence

Confidence!
It’s what makes the difference.

How would it be, for you, if you had more of it just when you needed it?

Your level of self confidence  is not dictated by outside circumstances. You are not an “empty vessel” subject only to external influences. If you don’t have as much self confidence as you would like to have, you have it within your power to have more.

There are several powerful and simple techniques which top sportsmen and women use, as a matter of course, to help them maintain a high level of self confidence in the face of challenges, and set backs.

If, on occasion, your performance is less than you would have wished, (who’s isn’t?) then at least one of the possible contributory factors to that may have been a lack of a high level of self confidence.  Is it really possible to help yourself to have more?

Henry Ford is quoted as having said – “Whether you believe you can or you can’t; you’re right”. There is no doubt whatsoever that a higher level of belief in your own self efficacy results in more frequent higher level performance.

Talking yourself down.

I spend a great deal of time in the Alps, listening to my pupils saying things to themselves which, were I to say it to them, would probably earn me “a thick ear”.  And quite right too.

There seems to be a tendency, at least in the west, for the way be bring ourselves up to lead us to talk very negatively both to, and about ourselves.  It probably stems from having been told we must never “put ourselves forward”, or “get above ourselves”, and other such rubbishy Victorian clap-trap.

If you make the choice not to do this, (and you can – it’s a free choice) you will begin to think better of yourself, and your skiing will improve, more quickly.  You will also be happier in yourself.

Sports psychologists Professor Stephen Bull, and Drs John Albinson and Chris Shambrook have established that a lack of self-confidence is the most common area in need of improvement in athletes of all ability levels.  So, if this is a problem for you – you’re in excellent and elite company!

In their book, The Mental Game Plan they say – “ . .  A key determinant in both developing and maintaining confidence is what athletes say to themselves”   Through self-talk (or internal dialogue) you can either enhance or diminish your confidence, and therefore your performance – the two are inextricably linked.  The choice is yours; you may choose to enhance your performance, or not.  The decision will affect your feelings of well-being too.

When performers have a mental self-image with positive characteristics, positive perceptions and positive traits, they are confident, and as a direct result perform better.  When these things are negative, they lack confidence and performance drops, directly.

To take a particular skiing-related example which may resonate with you – how come we can readily execute good technique on blue runs, but we ‘fall apart’ on steeper stuff though quite often the snow will be of better quality?  It’s because we lack the confidence that we are going to be successful in our endeavour.  It is greatly concerned with expectations.

The good news is that neither positive nor negative factors are imposed upon you from outside; you can make them positive if you choose to.

Self Affirmation

Since it is established that self-talk works (if only because we know that negative self talk damages you and your performance) it is clear that if we can in some way direct that self-talk so that confidence is enhanced, then that would be a worthwhile thing to do.

The extremely good news is that you can do exactly that.  Of course this is not magic and is not a substitute for training, knowledge, good tactics etc., and practice; but in the absence of effective self-affirmative self-confidence all those things will be less effective and more problematical.  If you’re going to put a lot of effort into those aspects of your sport, it seems silly to undermine that effort by not addressing the key issue of self confidence building.

Over 90% of the time, our actions are governed by our subconscious minds, not our conscious minds.  If you become good at self-affirmation, it is proven that you will imbue your subconscious with perceptions of self-efficacy: your performance is likely to improve.  The techniques involved are not rocket science, they are both simple and powerful, and you can readily learn to become adept with them; what you need to do is to do them, and practice them.

Not all of these techniques work for all performers, but all performers will benefit from one or more of them. The thing to do is to give all of them a good try, and pick the one(s) that work best for you. The above mentioned psychologists have established that the most effective techniques for most people, are :

Positive Affirmations
Positive Achievement Reminders
Self-statement change
The Performance Review
Take Control

These tools work!  If you’ve been watching our athletes, or any of the performers at the Commonwealth Games, you’ve been watching people who use them!  I cover these matters both in advance of, and during my courses, and intend to release further blog posts on them too as time passes.

In addition there are two or three things you can do to shape your confidence. For example you can positively work to keep your self aware that your skis have no idea whether they are on a blue or a black, on piste or off it – they will behave exactly the same way if only you give them the same instructions through the movements you make while in motion.

Make a positive decision not to allow yourself to be at the mercy of your environment. If you can can execute the requisite technique, robustly, on a “blue”, then you can execute that technique. Full stop. You have the skill to do it. You do not suddenly lose skill.  What you lose is confidence in the likelihood of a successful outcome.  So, focus your mind on the movements you will need, in order to bring about the ski response you want: make it happen, don’t wait for it to happen.  If you can do it, you can do it.

Each of the above-listed techniques is available on other sheets from Bobski, and I am  indebted to Professor Bull, and Drs. Shambrook and Albinson for their permission to reproduce the worksheets which they have developed alongside world-class athletes of many different sports.

The choice is yours; you may choose to retain negative attitudes and expectations, or you may choose to work on your self and give yourself a real chance of a better performance, a better skiing experience, and who knows, perhaps a better life.

If you’d like to know more, keep following my Facebook and Blog pages, and if you’d like something more specific to you, just email me – the address is bobski@bobski.com

© Bob Valentine Trueman

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