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Arsenal and France NT striker Olivier Giroud was booed off the pitch, not by Arsenal fans (which has happened in the past too) but by French football supporters; his fellow countrymen. Unfortunately, many of those fans, French and Arsenal, took that opportunity to shout abuse at Giroud via social media. Giroud isn’t the first, and unfortunately won’t be the last player who had to deal with this, but it did inspire me to write this.

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Now, this is not going to be a rant about how idiotic football fans can be and why one shouldn’t abuse athletes and simultaneously expect them to perform well (give it a few months and I’m sure I’ll upload a rant on that exact topic though). Instead of ranting, I’m going to try and explain a concept to all of you, it’s quite a simple concept, yet often misunderstood. Let’s talk about confidence.

What is confidence?

People talk about it all the time, “feeling confident”, this is not exactly true though. Confidence is not, and will never be, an emotion. Confidence is a belief, which makes it a thought. Confidence is not something you’re born with, confidence is something that requires time, focus and training, much like an athlete’s technical abilities. The dictionary definition of confidence is “a firm belief in one’s powers, abilities, or capacities.”

Confidence is important because you will not perform to the best of your abilities unless you believe in your own abilities. Confidence is unstable and can change based on a wide variety of factors. When this happens, athletes may feel like they’ve lost their confidence, because they lost control, this is only true if they believe they’ve lost it. Years and years of thorough research in the field of sports psychology teaches us that confidence is the single most important (mental) factor in sports, confidence is the key psychological factor between a successful or unsuccessful performance.

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Confident athletes are able to perform at the highest level week after week. They are positive, motivated, focussed and emotionally in control. They will remain confident even if they didn’t perform to the best of their abilities. They have faith in their own abilities. Then there is arrogance, arrogant players expect success simply because they believe they feel that they deserve it. Arrogant athletes can face too much pressure from themselves, which can lead to a fear of failure, causing them to underperform.

Losing Confidence

All athletes, including the confident and arrogant ones, can lose their confidence when something challenges their belief in their ability. Failure is the biggest challenge athletes face. Failure will make athletes lose faith, it will disrupt their confidence and, with that, their performance. Which leads to a vicious circle most athletes struggle to get out of.

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After failing to perform, athletes will start questioning their own belief and abilities, turning into their own worst enemy. Then, before the next performance, they’ll feel nervous and scared. This will damage their confidence more, because they will start feeling physically unwell and no one has ever had a great performance when feeling unwell. It also creates a string of negative emotions, which damages their confidence more, and will also ensure a poor performance.

Besides hurting their confidence, negativity and not feeling well can also ruin an athlete’s focus. Low self-esteem, hardly any confidence and a lack of focus leads to a lack of motivation, because they won’t be able to enjoy themselves and that will hurt their performance even more.

(Re)gaining confidence

In short, confidence is a belief and a skill that can be trained. All athletes will go through periods where they lack confidence, some will regain their confidence quickly, others will need help to become more positive and in time regain their confidence. (Re)gaining confidence is something that any athlete needs to mostly by himself, they need to (re)gain their motivation, their focus and, eventually, their confidence will follow.

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However, as I mentioned before, there are many factors that can influence a players confidence, one of those factors is the amount/lack of support from their fans. Much like being booed off absolutely shatters an athlete’s confidence, the undivided support from fans will help (re)gain that confidence they so desperately need in order to perform and satisfy the fans.

I won’t bother going into more detail about confidence in sports now, I do sincerely hope those who read it will choose to support the athletes they want to perform well, instead of continuously hating on them. Positivity will get you further in life, I promise.

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-Eva

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