Confidence is one of the most important traits that a basketball player can have at any age or skill level. Unfortunately, for some people, confidence can be difficult to come by if they aren’t in the right environment. When youth decide to start playing a sport it is important for parents and coaches to put the effort into helping them develop their confidence in order to help foster a love of the game.

Top ways to build confidence in youth basketball players

At Burlington Basketball, our focus is on the development of youth to be strong, resilient people. Basketball is a fun way to stay healthy and achieve that goal. Our development programs are supportive of children as they move their stages of youth and into leading community members!

There are numerous ways for parents and coaches to help build confidence in young athletes. Although skill development and on court learning is a significant part of helping a player to become confident in their game, there are a number of things off court that can make an impact as well. For players themselves, our favourite – and likely most important – is #9!

1. Create a supportive environment

When athletes are immersed in an environment that encourages skill development and supports them without question, they will find it much easier to have confidence in their game. Coaches should spend time focusing on the strength and development of each individual player rather than primarily focusing on winning.

2. Communication is essential

Basketball, like many sports, is a game that hinges on good communication. The ability for players to effectively communicate both with each other and with their coaches will make all the difference in their confidence level. If an athlete ever experiences fear, self-doubt, self-consciousness or any other negative emotion it’s important that they feel comfortable expressing their concerns so that they can learn how to work through them.

3. Teach them that mistakes are expected

Nothing that anyone does in life is successful 100% of the time and basketball is no different. Teaching athletes that even professionals miss shots quite often can help them recognize that fear failure isn’t something that should hold them back or get in the way of they developing confidence (read more in #9!).

4. Make it fun

When kids are having fun, they are more likely to let go of their insecurities and immerse in the experience. When self consciousness and insecurity aren’t getting in the way there is more opportunity for their ingrained skills to come out. Fun drills are an incredibly effective teaching tool, so are important to incorporate into a coaching plan.

5. Focus on team building

When players are given the opportunity to strengthen their relationships off the court, they are more likely to work well together on the court. Having faith in their teammates and the relationships they’ve formed with them will help athletes feel more confident in their skills and ability to execute plays. Coaches can plan regular team building events like going bowling, having team picnics and playing laser tag to help foster relationships off the court.

6. Don’t set expectations too high

When athletes sense that the expectations placed on them are high, the pressure they may feel can have the opposite effect than intended. When expectations are high and they don’t fully meet them, the confidence of a young athlete can take a hit. Ensuring that parents and coaches temper their expectations to a level that the athlete is capable of can help them maintain and improve their confidence.

7. Teach the importance of repetition

One of the surest ways to feel confident in any part of the game is to repeatedly practice the skill. If a player’s pain point is making baskets or completing passes, setting the goal to complete the skill a certain number of times each day can help turn that skill into muscle memory, and build their confidence around it.

8. Praise their effort and encourage them to be proud

When athletes struggle to feel confidence in their skills, hearing that their coach and parents have confidence in them can help the process. Young athletes that are struggling to feel good about their game will take cues from those surrounding them. The encouragement to be proud of any accomplishments they’ve made can also help build an athlete’s confidence.

9. Focus on the Positives: Positive “Self Talk” & “Self Compassion”

While all athletes are sure to make mistakes and fail at times, these missed moments can easily be turned into learning experiences if coaches focus on the positives rather than the mistake itself. When players are taught to recognize the aspects that they did right alongside those that can be improved upon, without pushing them to feel badly about the moment, they will become more confident in their ability to nail it the next time.

In addition to this, teaching the athlete to use positive language towards their missed moments can drive home the idea that they can persevere and improve. Positive self-talk delves into the psyche of athletes and their ability to guide their way out of negativity or depressive feelings about their performance. It also aides in anxiety reduction.

Further, self-compassion means athletes allow themselves to be human. In basketball, players must recognize that injuries happen and “off days” are normal.  They should realize “most shots won’t go in”.  Even the greatest of all time miss half their shots. Allowing humaneness in yourself, and hearing corresponding messaging from coaches and parents can be extremely supportive in the development of youth athletes – and more importantly – in nurturing strong, resilient children!

Building confidence can create a strong athlete

When young athletes are working on developing their skills and becoming strong on the court, it can be difficult to help them build confidence. However, great coaches will recognize that confidence is one of the most important traits that any athlete can possess and do everything they can to help build it.