“I know I can do a good job, I just wish I had more confidence in myself.”
“The male coaches I work with just seem to have this belief that they can do things. I don’t have that and it’s frustrating as I feel like it’s holding me back.”
“I need to build up my confidence so that I can do a better job for my players – they need to have belief and confidence in me, so I need to have it in myself.”
These are just some of the things female coaches have said to us. Did any of these resonate?
It’s always important to be aware of gender stereotyping, but confidence does seem to be an area where female coaches could do with a bit of catching up! At Sport and Beyond we sympathise and get frustrated in equal measure; sympathise because we understand the reasons behind the lack of confidence, but we get frustrated that the female coaches (and women in other spheres) don’t feel the confidence they deserve to.
Let’s take a look at some of the things that we know help to build that all important confidence, and then acknowledge some of the barriers.
“Before you can be someone, you need to know who you are.”
I can’t stress how important this is. Whilst my first qualification was as a tennis coach, I then went on to work as a corporate lawyer for 13 years. The legal fraternity is not perhaps renowned for being the most self-aware set of people. However, doing a work-focused behavioural profile, which then triggered me to spend some proper time to understand my strengths and the way I operate at work, was a revelation. My areas of best contribution are working with and through people, and achieving results. I am not particularly motivated by for example rules and procedures, or the need to feel secure. Understanding this gave me a much better picture of ‘who I am’ at work, what my strengths are, and where I should be focusing my energies. Whilst still in law, this meant a focus on client relationships. As a tennis coach, the process helped me to understand that my real strengths lie in motivating and enthusing pupils, and driving them to achieve in the lesson. However, issues such as patience and thoroughness perhaps needed a little work!
This is why the first step of all that we do at Sport and Beyond is a behavioural profile (we use the Thomas International suite of profiles as they are robust, accessible and extremely reliable). It drives the first of our three key aims: UNDERSTAND.
So how does this then drive an increase in confidence, and what other follow on steps can help?
Leveraging your strengths
Once you understand your strengths, leveraging them and building on them will enable you to perform at a higher level, and so build your confidence. The belief in spending learning and development time on building on your strengths, rather than focusing too much on your weaknesses, is gaining greater currency within business. Of course it has been a central tenet within sport for a long time. At Sport and Beyond we particularly love the story of Daley Thompson, the renowned decathlete. Determined to win a second gold medal in the 1984 LA Olympics, and chased hard by Jurgen Hingsen, he knew that there was only one event, the 1500, that he was vulnerable in. So he went to see a world-renowned coach, and asked him about improving his performance in this weak event. The coach thought about this offer and told him that he wasn’t prepared to help him improve at the 1500m. What he would do was help Thompson become so strong in the other 9 events that the 1500 would become irrelevant. The strategy paid off. In LA Thompson entered the final event, the 1500, knowing that as long as he finished, he had already won gold.
What and Why
Often we lack confidence and are nervous about something but we are not sure why. It might be a presentation we have to give. Or it might be nerves before a big Cup final for your team. Sure, it’s a big Cup final, but have you analysed why you are actually nervous?
The What and Why process helps many our clients. We get you to consider what you are nervous about, and why. So yes, it might be nerves before the Cup final, but what in particular are you worried about? Is it that your team might lose? Or is it that they won’t play to their potential? Or something else? Once you’ve drilled down, we then help with how to deal with the concern, and build confidence around it.
“Just because it’s common sense doesn’t mean that it’s common practice.”
Sometimes the simple things are worth repeating, over and over again. Whatever you are doing in life, the more prepared you are, the more confident you can feel going into it. This doesn’t mean that you have to have all the answers (which is impossible) but it does mean that you have planned and prepared for the task in hand.
“You draw from your experiences. You draw from your failures. And every day is a learning day.”
Those of you reading this with many years of coaching under your belt can smile at this point. One of the great things about getting older is the experience that you have gained. However, there is a proviso to this. You have to use that experience wisely, and make sure that you continually learn from it. Don’t rest on your laurels. The quote above is from Victoria Pendleton, the Olympic gold-medal winning cyclist who gave herself a year to convert to being a jump jockey, speaking the week before her (successful) big race.
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Having that growth mindset, a willingness to challenge yourself and accept that you might fail, is a whole topic in itself, but is key to building up confidence.
THREATS TO CONFIDENCE
So what can knock our confidence? What can challenge our ability to feel confident in who we are and what we do? It’s important to consider what these areas might be, so that you can deal with them and drive forward. For each and every person it differs but common themes include:
- Levels of self-esteem;
- Others around you;
- Lack of experience;
- Too high expectations;
- Lack of a strategy; and
- Focusing too much on what has gone wrong.
Acknowledging what it is that’s holding back your confidence, gives you the power to then address it.
I will give the final word to Eleanor Roosevelt as this sums up something that we also see time and again with women – when under pressure, the goods are produced.
“A woman is like a tea bag: you never know how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”
To find out more, please do get in touch. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bio: Catherine Baker is the founder of Sport & Beyond. Catherine’s first job was as a tennis coach, supplementing her law studies. She trained and qualified as a solicitor at Linklaters (an international law firm) and spent 13 years as a corporate lawyer. We have forgiven her for this. She then moved across into training and education, and on to facilitation and a focus on helping organisations get the best out of their people. Catherine has recently been appointed as an Independent Director of Parkour UK.
All of Catherine’s experience in the working environment, in addition to her family life (she has three boys) has taught her one simple rule: understanding and self-awareness is key. Once you have this, you can achieve more than you thought possible.
Catherine is motivated by helping others, in tangible and measurable ways. She believes that what we do at Sport and Beyond is simple, effective, even straightforward, but with the potential to make a huge difference to people’s professional lives.