3 Proven Methods to Guard Against Over-Confidence

With NCAA March Madness upon us, the heavy favorites will be on guard against having over-confidence. Self confidence can be defined as an athlete’s belief that he or she can perform difficult tasks under certain conditions.  Overconfidence develops when they misjudge those conditions.  They tend to pay less attention to detail, ignore critical information and lack focus both before and during the competition.  These combined factors set the stage for losing to an over-matched opponent.

Over confidence appears in three ways.  First, athletes look past supposedly lesser opponents.  A less than serious approach in practice is a recipe for disaster.  Sometimes preparing for a team that looks like an easy win can be more difficult than getting ready for a big time opponent.  It’s natural to let down when the opponent is smaller, slower, weaker, less skilled or simply comes in with a losing record.

Second, over confidence plays itself out during games in unique ways.  The athlete or team that underestimates an opponent and gets behind in a contest may have a difficult time coming back.  This is especially true in sports when scoring is low – like soccer or hockey.  They might hit the panic button late and lose a close contest.

Third, when a lesser opponent keeps the score close, they gain confidence that they can win.  It’s true that over confidence breeds carelessness.  It also can quickly lead to a reversal in attitude in which the favorite quickly loses momentum.  The opponent gains confidence that they can pull off the upset.

Recommendation: Ultimately, over confidence is the result of athletes not being accountable for their own short comings.  Those that have exaggerated opinions of themselves look for alternate explanations when things don’t work out.  They blame coaches, teammates, officials, weather conditions or whatever excuse they can come up with for under performing.

Here are four things to keep in mind: 1) Prepare the same way regardless of the opponent, play in the moment, and accept responsibility for their actions on the field.  Athletes must deal with the situation they have in front of them at that moment.  2) As a coach, make sure your athletes aren’t starting to believe the headlines in the news about how good they are.  If a team looks poorly in film study, remind them how embarrassing it will be to lose to them and that the over matched opponent will come in with nothing to lose and will be playing hard, regardless of their skill level or experience.  Ultimately, take nothing for granted.  3) Constantly remind them that past performances are no guarantee for future success. In sport, you have to prove yourself over and over again.

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Excerpted from the former Georgia Tech Sports Medicine newsletter