Many times it is not a physical limitation that keeps our athletes from achieving peak performance in their chosen activities, whether it be pain free activities of daily living or racing the 5000m at the Olympic games. Often, the real culprit is self-doubt and uncertainty.
While there is not much we can do to alter uncertainty, we certainly can help our athletes overcome self-doubt.
Too often coaches try to control their athletes to make themselves feel like the expert, however, the consummate coach helps his athletes gain a track record of success derived from the athlete’s own efforts, and uses it to build confidence.
There are many ways to foster self-believe and confidence in athletes ranging from positive affirmations to praise, but the single biggest confidence booster is having the athlete realize how fit he is at the moment. Nothing will boost an athlete’s confidence like a personal best. If he is in form to do so, obviously, just putting him into a situation where he can unleash a strong race effort is enough.
Sometimes, however, the athlete isn’t quite prepared (mentally) to run as well as he can, so the coach needs to address this. One of my favorite ways to do so is to run interval sessions on a course that is marked short or to start the clock a bit late on each interval and call times that are a few seconds faster than reality during track sessions.
Obviously this can have it’s caveats and should be used only when you see that the athlete needs a mental boost and not a physical one, as nothing can be more disappointing than a record breaking session only to race poorly later in the week.
Remember, our job as coaches is much more significant than just writing a training program. Our job is to enrich and empower those with whom we come into contact.